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According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, the word "family" is defined as follows: A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of parents and their offspring. In addition, the dictionary concludes that a family can be easily defined as a group of people sharing common ancestry. Are these definitins inclusive enough to accomodate the modern lifestyles and familial situations that we find commonplace today? Experts say no. From the divorce rate, alternative family scenarios to full-time working parents, the family structure is being disassembled at an unbelievable rate, with inconceiveable repercussions.

According to the most recent study regarding the divorce rate, Americans are currently above the 60th percentile. Perhaps we should not be alarmed by such polls. After all, with the assistnace of modern medicine, Americans are living longer today than ever before. Perchance, the outrageous estimate of divorces in America are simply skewed by the fact that we are living longer, traveling more, and experiencing life to a greater extent than our ancestors. Do these drastic lifestyle changes make traditional marriages and family structures archaic and unrealistic? Posing this question cuts to the heart of defining not only our familial structure, but the impact that this new family of the millenium will inevitably have on future generations, and society as a whole.

Signs of the familial break-down are clear today. Such words as school violence, drug abuse, eating disorders and legal emancipation are commonplace when viewing news reports regarding today's youth. Though this new generation of disenchanted teens baffles many, the fact is the down-fall of the American family is highly responsible. Today, not only is "Father Knows Best" an archaic likeness of the family, but such programs as "Married With Children" do not accurately express today's typical family. After all, Al and Peg Bundy are still married! Remarriage is often an inevitable result of divorce, and many children endure this significant lifestyle change more than once, at a time when children are both impressionable and in need of stability. The life lessons learned are clear: Nothing in life truly withstands the test of time. And, love is rarely unconditional.

Today's high school students not only learn about alternative familial lifestyles that include divorce and step parents, but they are becoming accustomed to the notion of being reared by homosexual and bisexual parents and partners of parents. Though this scenario is not specifically addressed in the dictionary definition of family, it must be recognized as a new type of family structure. Unfortunately, it is impossible to guage the exact repercussions this situation may hold for the children, in years to come. Parents of alternative lifestyles state the more people who surround the child with love, the better. Experts agree, however, the fact that the family structure has succeeded for thousands of years prior to these recent developments, cannot be ignored. In fact, the belief that "it takes a village" to properly rear a child is a paradox of American society. For generations Americans have greatly relied on the concept of rearing a child in a traditional family setting with two parents (of the opposite sex) and possible siblings. Though extended family has certainly played a significant role in development of American children, the idea that they be raised by surrogate mothers from the community has only recently taken shape in our culture.

Finally, living in a society which nearly demands a two-party income to survive, much less succeed, the family of the millenium must come to terms with the concept of conceiving children who will inevitable be "latch-key-kids". Limited interaction with parental figures during the course of the day is likely to continually cause children to look to other outlets for encouragement, support and validation. Today, children spend on average four hours per weekday with a parent. Between school, extra-curricular activities, fun-camps and the like, children today literally spend a fraction of the time with their parents than children raised just ten years prior.

In conclusion, the ever changing face of the family is not expected to stop changing. Therefore, the best defence in gaining control in the tail-spin of today's family structure is to resume some basic, fundamental familial traditions, in an untraditional setting. Experts encourage family outings, dinner-dates and communication sessions as a few methods of connecting with the family of the millenium.