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Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences
The article is dedicated to two studies: content analysis of printed media (one regional and two metropolitan papers), aimed at identifying the current image of the modern family; and a nation-wide survey of Russians, with questions about the respondents’ “ideal” and actual family. An analysis of these studies’ results shows that the ideal perception of family does not match the actual reality by far; in turn, real families are fairly similar in terms of structure and role allocation to those described by the media. The most widespread family types may be described as follows: nuclear families (married couples), families with few (one or two) children, families with unstable or conflicted relations, and two-generation families (parents and children). As for traditional family perceptions, most Russians believe that a traditional family is one where both parents stay together, are officially married, and have several children; where the family elders (members of the older generation) are treated with respect, with their opinions being taken into consideration; and where either the husband is the main bread-winner and the wife is the home-maker, or both spouses share the duties of providing for the family and taking care of the children. Actual Russian families, however, are far from matching this “ideal”, “desired” model. The precise nature of the differences is determined by the region, age, and location (urban/rural). Even the very notion of a traditional family is supplied with different meaning by various social groups: some define a traditional family as something that reflects patriarchal values; others, as something typical, familiar, and widespread; and some respondents say that a traditional family is a family that follows certain traditions (national, cultural, religious, dynastic, etc.). The survey shows that the most universal consensus (i.e. the least amount of disagreements among the respondents) about which features of a family are socially acceptable is reached when selecting the following options: two-parent family, official marriage, respect towards the elders, one or two children, nuclear family. When talking about what is socially unacceptable, respondents tend to mention infidelity and same-sex marriage. However, the attitude towards such phenomena as common-law marriage, large families with a lot of relatives and several generations, families with many children, religious marriage, and marriage “till death do us part”, is far less categorical.
family, nation-wide survey, content analysis of printed media, family structure, gender roles, familial practices.