Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1991

Abstract

Nearly everyone knows about the transformation of the American family that has taken place over the last couple of decades. The changes, from the latter half of the 1970s into the present, comprise one of the great events of our age. Articles on one aspect or another of the phenomenon frequent the popular press, and a special edition of Newsweek was recently devoted to the topic.' The traditional "Leave It To Beaver" family no longer prevails in American society. To be sure, families consisting of a wage-earning husband, a homemaking and child-rearing wife, and their two joint children still exist. But because divorce rates are high 2 and remarriage abounds,3 many married couples have or will end life having children from prior marriages on one or both sides. Families are routinely headed by two adults working outside the home, or by a single parent. Unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples, sometimes with children, are also unmistakable parts of the American family scene. And, if you think we live in a multiple- marriage society now, just wait! Marriage may get even more "multiple" with the increasing prevalence in the population of those marriages that are more likely to end in divorce than others-marriages in which one or both partners were divorced before4 and marriages of couples who cohabited prior to marriage.5 Inevitably, this transformation has exerted new tensions on traditional wealth-succession laws, as well as on overlapping fields such as family, social security, and pension law.


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