The traditional definition of the nuclear family is experiencing a dynamic shift. In fact, fewer than a quarter of households in the US can be considered “nuclear.” For the first time, there are more people living alone than there are nuclear families and the number of unmarried couples has more than doubled over the last decade. Other salient data includes: the growth of women in the work force, longer lifespans, postponement of child-birth and marriage, and the overall mobility of American culture. Today, 85% of dads say that when it comes to household chores and childcare, either they do the majority or it is an even split. 39% of people age 18-49 believe that by 2050, there will be as many stay-at-home dads as there are stay-at-home moms.
It is certainly possible to see these numbers and declare them as a distressing divergence from the traditional norm. However, these shifts do not necessarily indicate a fragility in the family structure. Rather, they point to a fascinating flexibility within our social culture that affects the ways in which society interacts with one another and with brands.
Perhaps the most significant impact that this evolution will have is in regards to the new generations. That is, a generation after the millennials that will grow up in a society bathed in digitization. Among the most prevalent characteristics of this generation will be the emphasis on experiential undertakings, a digital double vision, and an alteration in the typical milestones of life.
Additionally, kids of this new generation are the first to be born in a world where everything physical has its digital counterpart. Rather than separate the two as perhaps previous generations have, the new generation will see them as one. They will be able to see a digital layer in everything they encounter. The result is a sort of digital photographic memory. As hyper-documentation becomes increasingly omnipresent in society, these children will have a digital recollection of their first steps, first day at school, every birthday, graduation, etc. This generation will have the privilege of remembering their lives more fully; but this is also a curse. While previous generations could revisit milestones through glamorous headshots and favorite photographs, these children will be able to remember the most awkward and horrifying moments more clearly than ever before. They will also become more reliant on visual representations to help them reminisce. In other words, they will find it difficult to remember moments that are not documented.
Generation X witnessed millennials, the most educated and accomplished generation, open the most college rejection letters of all time, and subsequently graduate into a recession, leaving many unemployed and drowning in debt. The result has been an ideological shift from “getting in” (to a top university) to “getting it” (deep knowledge). The new generation will be encouraged to hone in on specialized skills to set themselves apart from the crowd and expose themselves to worldly experiences. We will see an increasing number of students take gap years before attending college.
The new generation will also live longer. According to a study by National Geographic, one-third of kids born today will live to be 100 years old. This means that the typical stages of life will shift. The traditional “go to college, get a job” formula will become less universal. We can see this shift already. 22 was once the golden age where students typically graduated college and thus, flew out of the nest. Today, many students are moving back into their parents house post-graduation. Longer lives may exacerbate this trend. If people are living longer, when will average retirement begin? Will more couples be having children well into their 40s? What constitutes a mid-life crises? When does adolescence end? These are the questions that will define the new generation’s increasing longevity.
As a result of the changing role of the traditional homemaker mom and breadwinner dad, the new generation will experience a sort of gender neutrality where the world is measured in less shades of pink and blue. Recently, a 13-year-old boy’s petition resulted in Hasbro releasing a black and silver Easy-Bake Oven after over 50 years of the symbolic pink and purple aesthetic. The new generation will grow up in a society where cooking and baking is not just for the girls.
Overall, This generational shift demonstrates that the nuclear family is not the only kind of family or even the only healthy kind of family. This is an age where no type of family can be clearly defined as “all-American” because, simply put, the very meaning of all-American will exemplify change and a versatile framework rather than the stereotypical, static model.