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The Nuclear Family


"Nuclear family" is a term used to describe a traditional household consisting of a father, a mother, and their biological children. This term comes from the concept of there being a central "nucleus" in the family which are the parents. The term "nuclear family" is also suggestive of the Atomic Age, or the post-war 1950s, which is when this concept originated. This type of family structure stands in contrast to single-parent households, extended family households, and other family arrangements that we now think of as non-traditional. The ideal of the Nuclear family is one that was been subconsciously ingrained in popular American culture starting from the 1950s through elevision shows, movies, and other forms of visual rhetoric in mass media. These media not only reinforced the nuclear family structure but also served to illustrate how family dynamics were supposed to play out. In other words, each member of the nuclear family is expected to play a certain type of social role according to the ideological structure. This ideology is so pervasive that most people model their adult lives and journey into parenthood according to this framework without even a second thought. In today's world, this traditional family structure is thought of as how it is "supposed to be," despite the fact that the majority of American households do not reflect this ideal. In today's world especially, non-traditional family structures are in fact the norm yet the established ideology continues to endure. This exhibit examines the visual rhetoric of post cards in the 20th Century and how these rhetorical artifacts perpetuate the ideology of the nuclear family.