Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences

Document Type



Americans now live in a diversity of living arrangements—more so than ever before. Whether or not these living arrangements are counted as family can have direct consequences for people’s lives. Families enjoy many rights and privileges—both formal and informal—that are not provided to others. Understanding the boundaries that Americans make between “families” and “nonfamilies” tells us who is seen as deserving of these rights and privileges. In this article, Brian Powell discusses results of a U.S.-based study in which more than 2000 adults were interviewed about their stances regarding same-sex couples, cohabiting couples, same- sex marriage, and, most importantly, what counts as family. In examining how Americans are making sense of, and in some cases struggling with, changes in living arrangements in the United States, Powell makes predictions regarding the likely changes in Americans’ definitions over the next decade.