Public and academic discourse regarding the meaning of family has grown both in frequency and intensity in the past few years. The language typically used to describe “family” (or “the family”) increasingly has been contested in social scientific scholarship and contemporary politics. Some lament what they see as the weakening, or even destruction, of the family, while others embrace the increasing diversity of new family forms. These changes and, in turn, how families are defined have far-reaching policy implications. It therefore is puzzling that we have known so little about how the public sets boundaries between “families” and “non-families.”
Brian Powell presented results of a U.S.-based study in which over 2200 adults were interviewed about their stances regarding same-sex couples, cohabiting couples, gay marriage, gay adoption, and, most importantly, what counts as family. In examining how Americans are making sense of, and in some cases reevaluating, changes in living arrangements in the United States, Powell made predictions regarding the likely changes in Americans’ definitions over the next decade. He also discussed the potential implications of recent Supreme Court decisions and state-level legislative responses to these decisions.