As much as Americans revere the family, they differ sharply on how to define it.
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.