Any kind of family has the potential of being successful, caring, and loving, said two psychology professors at a presentation Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the MVC Murrell Memorial Library to highlight the “Family Diversity” exhibit.
Rachel Mayfield, counselor of the MVC Counseling Center and assistant professor of Psychology, and Jennifer Livengood, assistant professor of Psychology, provided research and MVC statistics about families in today’s America.
“I love this exhibit,” Mayfield said about the library’s display of photos and information relating to the diversity of families. The exhibit is titled, “In Our Family: Portraits of All Kinds of Families.” She added that the exhibit “challenges you to consider what a family is.” She said families today challenge the notions of “normal” and “tradition” that dominated American society 50 years ago.
Showing a YouTube clip of the early TV show “Leave It To Beaver,” where the Cleaver family consisted of a mother who was a homemaker, a father who was the sole employed breadwinner, and their two children, Mayfield said, “What a difference 50 years makes.” In 1962, 70 percent of all American households were like the Cleavers, Mayfield said. Now that group would be 15 percent. Mayfield then showed a clip of the current TV show, “Modern Family” which includes employed parents and a gay couple.
Mayfield noted Missouri Valley College statistics based upon 976 students who completed FAFSA applications for financial aid. Of 976 students, 582 (or 60 percent) had parents who were married or remarried, 224 (23 percent) had parents who were divorced or separated, 156 came from single-parent households, and 14 reported widowed parents. She said that, of the current MVC enrollment of 1,440 students, 914 are Missouri residents, the international group of students is the second largest, and that 61 percent of the student population is Caucasian.
“We have a family here,” Mayfield said, speaking of the greater family unit that involves the college community.
Mayfield also showed a “dance” video titled “Where the hell is Matt 2012” on YouTube by Matt Harding, who travels the world to dance with families and groups, showcasing different cultures, and the website of www.savvy7dwarfs.com which was established by a couple who adopts children from around the world into their family, all of whom are little people.
Jennifer Livengood talked about research relating to families, including the impact on children of growing up in non-traditional families. She said people tend to be scared of what they aren’t familiar with or that they don’t consider “normal.”
Livengood said there are still some negative attitudes toward the working mom. “Be open to other people’s experiences,” Livengood said, adding that “we know that attitudes can change.” For example, divorce is not viewed as negatively as it once was in American society. One in two marriages are affected by divorce, Livengood said. While society accepts divorce, the idea of single moms or dads often meets with disapproval, which means that society can be conflicted. Also, as moms are usually awarded custody of children following a divorce, lots of times divorce can lead to aspects of poverty.
LIvengood noted research that has shown that children raised by single parents can have higher levels of handling responsibility, children raised by gay parents can be more accepting of others, and children raised by grandparents can have more patience.
“The research shows in a positive way that any kind of family has the potential of being successful, warm, caring, and loving,” Livengood said.
A quote on the slideshow at the end of the presentation noted, “Other things may change, but we start with the family.”