The Nuclear Family Is Not The Only Way. Are Single-Family Homes Becoming Obsolete?

The end of the white picket fence dream might mean the beginning of something new.

By James L. Knobloch October 13, 2016
Photo courtesy of

[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”N” font=”Bowlby One SC” color_class=”otw-black-text” background_color_class=”otw-no-background” size=”large” border_color_class=”otw-no-border-color”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]uclear family (noun) – a family group that consists only of father, mother, and children. All you need to add is the white picket fence, a minivan in the driveway and loveably clumsy golden retriever named “Buddy” and you’ve got yourself the perfectly typical, all-American family.

Except that old standard of the “all-American family” is behind the times, and in desperate need of an update. Half of all adults in the U.S. are single. The number of households where the father figure is the sole provider has decreased by more than half since the mid ‘70s. Single parent families are on the rise, and today, one in four children in the U.S. are born to cohabitating (unmarried) parents.

Related: Sleeping With The Fishes: An Underwater Bedroom With See-Through Walls

So why is it, then, that the term “single-family home” is still so prevalently used? As more and more families break the mold, so too should home design and real estate.

For starters, gone are the days when the family “bread winner” can easily afford to provide a home for their family on a single adult’s income. Not to mention, in this day and age it’s increasingly difficult for two adults to work full time, keep the marital spark alive, raise a family and look after a home (let alone have any time to take care of oneself). Because of this, it is more and more common for the lines between immediate family, extended family and community to become increasingly blurred and fluid. A longstanding practice among some African American communities, it can also be seen in LGBT culture, where it is often said that one of the nice things about being gay is that one can “choose their own family.” People are living longer (if not necessarily healthier), lives, so more and more households might include an elderly family patriarch or matriarch under the same roof.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

As the (clichéd but nonetheless true) saying goes, “it takes a village.”

Say what you will about millennials, but when it comes to traditional societal norms, 20-somethings are breaking many of the outdated, traditional molds. From lifestyles and careers, to redefining the meaning of “family” and the resurgence of the commune, times are a-changing.

The bottom line is that now more than ever, there is no such thing as a single kind of family, which means there is no longer a place in the U.S. for a cookie cutter single-family home—today’s families come in all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds, and it’s a thing of beauty.

The post World War II notion of the standard American family is a relic of a bygone era, and real estate’s concept of a “one size fits all” single-family home needs to follow suit.


James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

A creative professional with a sharp tongue and a big smile, taking on city living one slightly-veiled sarcastic comment at a time. Born and raised just outside of New Orleans, James is a living testament to his own mantra, “Southern hospitality is a privilege, not a right,” giving his work a unique, dry humor meets charm perspective.

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