Religious conservatives have long decried the collapse of the nuclear family, and it’s difficult to deny the shifts we’ve seen. The number of stay-at-home dads in America has more than doubled over the last decade and a half. Working mothers are now the primary income earners in 15% of married households with children. The most recent census figures show that, for the first time, Americans living in a nuclear family has dipped below 25%.
Contrast these trends with America in the 1950s when society accepted that a model family consisted of a breadwinning father, a submissive housewife, and a couple of respectful, biological children.
What has caused such sharp changes? According to Jonathan Fitzgerald, author of Not Your Mother’s Morals, one of the most influential forces has been television.
“Sometimes pop culture is a reflection of where we are and other times it is a shaping force,” he says. “In the case of television, we often don’t know that our morals and values are being shaped until after it happens.”
In the 1950s, television largely mirrored the prevalent concept of the American family. Popular shows like “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” depicted the family as a heterosexual, patriarchal, churchgoing unit with chaste children. But in the 1960s, family depictions began to change. And so did America’s thinking.
Here are ten television shows that forced America to reimagine what a family could, and perhaps should, look like: