The “nuclear family” is another characteristic of American families. In America， a family is usually composed of a father， mother and two children. It is seldom seen that a family have more than four of five members， or parents live together with their children who have go married. Relatives —— such as grandparents， uncles， aunts， cousins and in-laws usually live separately. This family structure is the so-called “nuclear family”。 Though they still have close relationships among the relatives or the whole family group， the “nuclear family” is economically independent of the rest of the family. Parents and children often visit each other and the same applies to the married brothers and sisters when they live quite near.
Marriage is a matter of individual responsibility and decision for the young. They have their own right to deal with their marriages and are independent of their parents. They often fall in love with each other in spite of the disapproval of their parents. American young people are generally more affectionate and they usually regard love as more important than social class， education， money or religion. They like to have romantic love. Young people can get married with each other even if they have different religious beliefs or back grounds. But marriages between blacks and whites are still rare. Because of the social prejudices probably less than 1% of all the marriages each year are between blacks and whites.
Before marriage， young people date each other， i.e. they often go out together. Casual dating usually begins in the early teens， and in the late teens a pattern of steady dating develops. There is great possibility that one goes to a dance with one person， to a football game with another， and a picnic with a third. Sometimes two couples go out together. This is known as “double dating.”
Group dating is also popular among the youth. Large groups of boys and girls may go around together. They are almost free in physical contact such as holding hands or putting their arms around each other. But some are very strict in their codes of behavior； and some act according to their religion.
Young people may go out together for some length， which is in effect， a public statement of the intention to marry. Broken engagements are freely performed if the engaged couple change their minds.
Men and women go out together a great deal， especially those in cities. This is “adult dating”。 They ski together， work together， dine together， either at restaurants or in each other's apartments.
The American dating system is a rather casual one. Very often young Americans who hardly know each other go out on dates. It is also acceptable for them to arrange a “blind date”， that is， a date between two young people who have not met before.
Most American young people live independently after marriage. Most newly married couples set up their own household immediately， and begin to perform the family plans in the future. Most married couples practise some kind of birth control. They plan the number of children they are going to have and the time when their children will be born.
Ironically， the rate of divorce in America ranks first in the world. A divorce is almost free if a marriage is found to be a mistake by the couple.
In the American family， equal rights are often exercised between the husband and wife when they make a decision. Young couples today share both the household chores and care of the baby. The children also can have a say in family affairs when they are old enough. The old rule “Children should be seen and not heard” is generally broken， and they are often allowed to do things independently. Parents do not interfere in what they wish to do， and children are encouraged to be independent at an early age.