WASHINGTON – The Census Bureau defines a family as any household with two or more members related by blood or marriage. For the overwhelming number of Marylanders, that still means the “Ozzie and Harriet” family.
But for David Horvath and Carol Garman-Horvath, family is more “Brady Bunch” than “Ozzie and Harriet.” Besides their own 4-month-old son, the Westminster couple has three other children from previous relationships, who split their time between the Horvaths and their other families.
For Renita and Jacqueline Young, a gay couple in Baltimore, family includes them and their 2-year-old daughter, Camren. For Glenn Chester, a single dad from Temple Hills, it is him and his 8-year-old twin daughters.
“These alternative family types are accounting for an increased share of children,” said Suzanne Bianchi, director of the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland, College Park.
“There’s no doubt there’s been an increase in (the number of) kids being raised in those households, in the last two or three decades, certainly since the mid-20th century,” Bianchi said.
Traditional, nuclear families — mom, dad, sister, brother — are not only the overwhelming majority of family types in Maryland today, there was even a move back toward them in the 1990s. The 2000 Census showed that married couples made up half of the 2 million households in the state, and 46 percent of those couples had children under roof.
But the numbers show, and demographers agree, that alternative families in the state are growing.
“As the proportion of them (children under 18) that are not in those standard family types increases . . . there’s increased recognition of alternative family types,” said Jason Fields, a Census Bureau official who wrote the report, “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: March 2000.”
Today, in addition to the married-with-biological-kids model, the Census counts families consisting of gay, straight, single and married parents, and even parents who are not technically parents, such as grandparents or sibling raising children.
Add rising numbers of adopted children and stepchildren to the mix, as well as a growing number of biracial and multi-ethnic families, and the picture of the Maryland family looks very different than it did 50 years ago.
Bianchi said the increase in alternative families “has been dramatic between the mid-50s and the ’90s,” at which point the rate of single motherhood began to decline and the numbers of married parents began to stabilize after a decades-long decline.
Despite the recent rebound in traditional families, however, she said alternative families remain a constant fixture in the lives of Marylanders and their children.
So, who is raising Maryland’s children? An analysis of Census and other data shows that families in Maryland today include older parents, single parents, same-sex parents, bi-racial families, blended families, families with adopted children, and families where grandparents or other family members are raising related children.
“Among some groups . . . alternative family types may even account for the majority of children. For example, in the African-American community most children are not being raised in a two-parent family where the parents are married,” said Bianchi.
“For those reasons, I do think it’s important to track or assess these changes,” she said.