As much as Americans revere the family, they differ sharply on how to define it.OK, I admit it, I'm not a huge pet person. Sure, growing up I loved my cat, Smoky, enough to run away and take her with me when I thought my parents' grumbling about some Smoky infraction meant they were really going to give her away (I didn't get very far, but what do you expect of an eight-year-old with really inadequate planning skills?!). But I cringe with every post on APC where a waiting parent lists their "furbabies" in their description of their family. And I'm shocked that this study shows that "there's a solid core . . . who are more willing to include pets in their definition than same-sex partners." Sheesh. Can we get some perspective, please?! A gay couple raising two children isn't a family, but an old lady with a houseful of cats is?!
New research being released Wednesday shows steadily increasing recognition of unmarried couples — gay and straight — as families. But there's a solid core resisting this trend who are more willing to include pets in their definition than same-sex partners.
How "family" is defined is a crucial question on many levels. Beyond the debate over same-sex marriage, it affects income tax filings, adoption and foster care practices, employee benefits, inheritance rights and countless other matters.
The new research on the topic is contained in a book-length study, "Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans' Definition of Family" and in a separate 2010 survey overseen by the book's lead author, Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell.
Between 2003 and 2010, three surveys conducted by Powell's team showed a significant shift toward counting same-sex couples with children as family — from 54 percent of respondents in 2003 to 68 percent in 2010. In all, more than 2,300 people were surveyed.
Powell linked the changing attitudes to a 10 percent rise between 2003 and 2010 in the share of survey respondents who reported having a gay friend or relative.
Resisting family separation
10 hours ago