In 1960, 65 percent of young children were growing up in a family arrangement in with a mother at home and breadwinner father.
Only 22 percent of children grow up with that arrangement today. And today's most common family model — that of the dual-earner married couple — makes up 34 percent of children's experiences.
American children are growing up in widely varied homes, headed by single mothers, co-habiting parents, single fathers or grandparents.
Study author Philip Cohen, a demographer at the University of Maryland, tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson that even those categories are marked by great change: children now with a single parent may have been in a joint household, they may have a parent with another family, step-siblings from one or both parents, even their grandparents might be divorced and remarried to other people.
"Diversity is the new normal," Cohen said.
As a result, Cohen says policy makers cannot build laws on the assumption that families are built on stable, married couples.
"However we are going to go about helping families deal with their problems of insecurity and instability, we have to take an approach that does not assume — or try to construct — a monolithic family structure," Cohen said.
- Philip Cohen, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and author of, "The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change." He tweets @familyunequal.
This segment aired on September 9, 2014.