A major source of anxiety about the future of the family is rooted not so much in reality as in the tension between the idealized expectation in the culture and the reality itself. Nostalgia for a lost family tradition, which, in fact, never existed, has prejudiced our understanding of the conditions of families in contemporary society. Thus, the current .anxiety over the fate of the family reflects not only problems in the family but also a variety of fears about other social problems that are eventually projected onto the family.
The real problem facing American families today are not symptoms of breakdown as is often suggested; rather, they reflect the difficulties of adaptation to recent social changes, particularly to the loss of diversity in household membership, to the reduction of the variety of family functions and, to some extent, to the weakening of the family adaptability. The idealization of the family as a refuge from the world and the myth that the work of mothers is harmful has added considerable strain. The continuous emphasis on the family as a universal private retreat and as an emotional haven is misguided in light of historical experience.