People, Family Life
marriage partners, nuclear family, self-fulfillment, clans, family forms
There has never been a typical or single traditional family form in the United States. In the early 21st century, the ideal family is a vehicle for self-fulfillment and emotional satisfaction. The family in early America had different functions as producers of food, clothing, and shelter. There has always been a gap between the ideal family and the more complicated reality of family relationships. While Americans value their families and resent outside interference, they have also been willing to intervene in the family lives of those who seem outside the American ideal.
Native Americans had a variety of family organizations, including the nuclear family (two adults and their children), extended households with near relatives, clans, and other forms of kinship. Family organizations might be matrilineal, where ancestry is traced through the motherís line, or patrilineal, where ancestry is traced through the fatherís line. In general, Native Americans had a great deal of freedom in sexuality, in choosing marriage partners, and in remaining married. After conversion to Christianity, some of the variety in family forms decreased. In the early 20th century, the United States government broke up many Native American families and sent the children to boarding schools to become Americanized, a policy that was disastrous for those involved and was largely abandoned by the middle of the 20th century.
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