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Jewish World Review April 24, 2001 / 2 Iyar, 5761

Thomas Hargrove

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Two parent families rise, but with a twist

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- More than 10 million American children live in families that include at least one person to whom they are not biologically related, the Census Bureau found in a new study.

And while single-parent families no longer are a growing trend, families overall are becoming more diverse.

"At one time there was a tremendous growth in the number of children living with single parents, but that growth has been leveling off during the 1990s," said census analyst Jason Fields. "But a lot of different things are happening. We are seeing the numbers of blended families increase as well as the numbers of traditional two-parent families."

The study, not part of the 2000 census, estimated that in 1996 there were 71.5 million children under age 18 in the United States. More than 50.7 million children lived in two-parent households, but only 39.7 million of those were in what the Census Bureau defines as "a traditional nuclear family" that includes both biological parents and full brothers and sisters.

The study was based on two surveys conducted in 1991 and 1996 that determined the biological relationship of all members of the family. The decennial census counts the number of parents and children at home, but does not directly ask if everyone at home is a blood relation.

At first glance, analysis of the studies indicates a return of traditional family structure. Only 51 percent of children in 1991 lived in a two-parent household and that rose to 56 percent of all children in 1996.

But the diversity of the growing percentage of two-parent families is enormous.

More than 3.7 million children live with their mother and a stepfather while more than 1 million live with their father and a stepmother. More than 1.2 million live in two-parent households created through adoption and there are many possible combinations for these. For example, there were 23,000 children living with an adoptive mother and a stepfather from a later marriage.

"Blended families are also formed when a remarried parent has a child with his or her new spouse, thus producing a new brother or sister who is a half-sibling to a child from a previous union," Fields said.

Children must be increasingly flexible in their understanding of what it is to have a brother or a sister. In 1996 there were 7.8 million children who lived with at least one half-sibling, which represents at least 11 percent of all of America's youth.

Fields said the Census Bureau is about to start a third survey this year to determine more accurately whether single parenting is on the decline. The comparison of data between the 1991 and 1996 studies seems to indicate that Americans are trying harder to maintain household environments for children who have both a mother figure and a father figure, something most child care experts recommend.

"Hopefully, for the kids sake, we will see more of the traditional two-parent family households when the 2001 survey is completed," Fields More than 10 million American children live in families that include at least one person to whom they are not biologically related, the Census Bureau found in a new study.

And while single-parent families no longer are a growing trend, families overall are becoming more diverse.

"At one time there was a tremendous growth in the number of children living with single parents, but that growth has been leveling off during the 1990s," said census analyst Jason Fields. "But a lot of different things are happening. We are seeing the numbers of blended families increase as well as the numbers of traditional two-parent families."

The study, not part of the 2000 census, estimated that in 1996 there were 71.5 million children under age 18 in the United States. More than 50.7 million children lived in two-parent households, but only 39.7 million of those were in what the Census Bureau defines as "a traditional nuclear family" that includes both biological parents and full brothers and sisters.

The study was based on two surveys conducted in 1991 and 1996 that determined the biological relationship of all members of the family. The decennial census counts the number of parents and children at home, but does not directly ask if everyone at home is a blood relation.

At first glance, analysis of the studies indicates a return of traditional family structure. Only 51 percent of children in 1991 lived in a two-parent household and that rose to 56 percent of all children in 1996.

But the diversity of the growing percentage of two-parent families is enormous.

More than 3.7 million children live with their mother and a stepfather while more than 1 million live with their father and a stepmother. More than 1.2 million live in two-parent households created through adoption and there are many possible combinations for these. For example, there were 23,000 children living with an adoptive mother and a stepfather from a later marriage.

"Blended families are also formed when a remarried parent has a child with his or her new spouse, thus producing a new brother or sister who is a half-sibling to a child from a previous union," Fields said.

Children must be increasingly flexible in their understanding of what it is to have a brother or a sister. In 1996 there were 7.8 million children who lived with at least one half-sibling, which represents at least 11 percent of all of America's youth.

Fields said the Census Bureau is about to start a third survey this year to determine more accurately whether single parenting is on the decline. The comparison of data between the 1991 and 1996 studies seems to indicate that Americans are trying harder to maintain household environments for children who have both a mother figure and a father figure, something most child care experts recommend.

"Hopefully, for the kids sake, we will see more of the traditional two-parent family households when the 2001 survey is completed," Fields said.

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