Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Family dynamics are an ever-changing quality throughout history. Each century, parenting tactics and strategies evolve in the hope that the next generation will turn out better than the last. 

Traditional gender roles were a fundamental pillar that built most families, but there’s also the aspect of familial connection, which may have been more or less present within families.

For this piece, we’re going to focus on the key differences between family interactions and expectations during the 1700s and compare them to families today. We’ll consider the way discipline was handled as well as how families bonded (or didn’t).


A mother and father bore different duties and motivations for getting married and having children in the 1700s. 

First off, marriages were rarely ever initiated for love and mutual interest. They were usually arranged between the parents of men and women of comparable status contingent upon the families’ wealth. 

After that, there was the obligation of the wife to produce multiple children since they were often seen as assets that would later care for the parents in their elderly years.

The man’s obligation was to have lucrative employment or a sizable dowry that would serve to sustain the family financially. It was also very typical to have the grandparents live with the family as well.

These roles would set the stage for the expectations of the parents and the children, especially in bringing up children with how to anticipate their own potential future should they ever get married. 


The difference in how people communicate with each other today is perhaps the starkest contrast between families that lived two hundred years ago.  

The coming of advanced technology, such as telegraphs, telephones, and even motor vehicles, has transformed the abilities of common pedestrians to be able to communicate within a day. Later technological revolutions in the 21st century rendered the use of mobile cell phones, email, and text messaging, which allowed families to be in constant contact with one another while apart.

Compare this to the 18th century when the best mode of distance communication was correspondence mail, and it often took days, weeks, or months to carry a dialogue. 

Today, communication is more instantaneous and more effective. 

Beyond the ease of communication is also the quality of communication. The culture of the western world in the 18th century relegated discussion between parents and children to very practical matters. There was little time or space in parents’ day to devote to nurturing the mental well-being of their children. This “low conversation orientation” was considered normal and acceptable for most families, unlike today, where strictly functional interactions between family members would cause many to raise an eyebrow. 


Another major difference between then and now is the utility and etiquette of the internet with families. For the whole of history up to only 30 years ago, families didn’t have to contend with the ways the internet can penetrate a family’s health

Parents today are having to have discussions with their kids about how to use the internet and how and what to avoid online. It falls under the umbrella of practical topics that a concerned parent should try to coach their child to be careful with. 

Where in the 18th century, dialogues between parents and kids surrounding being appropriate and being sexually decent were more one-dimensional. There were fewer mediums to easily access inappropriate content the way kids today can on the internet, so the discussions absolutely looked different. 


Family life in the 1700s wasn’t all practical and no fun, however. Families still found common interests, be it horseback riding, hunting, dancing, music, or games. 

By today’s standards, that list is the same, plus much more. The canvas of activities that families can enjoy together is even larger now. Many families today enjoy vacationing away from home. Similarly to that, the idea of “staycationing” has become more of a novelty in today’s society. With how easy it is to travel today and how convenient it is for family members to be apart regularly, while still being remotely connected through technology, it makes being physically present with each other more meaningful than it was two hundred years ago. 

Back in the 1700s, the idea of vacationing locally or staying within the home wasn’t a very innovative recreational activity since traveling was more limited and strenuous, leading more families to remain home more often. 

Different, But Still Similar

Families then and now had significant cultural differences. The age of technology has transformed families today. The ability to share ideas and knowledge has unified generations to feel more independent, free, and capable of harnessing their own futures.

For better or for worse, the changes that happened to family interactions in the past two hundred years have created better home lives for many but also compromised certain obligations of duty to one another. 

Still, the family construct of two parents bringing up their children has not changed over time. We still look at a single parent as being a challenge, whereas a parenting couple is looked at as more efficient. 

It will be interesting to know how much more different familial interchanges look two hundred years from now.  

Author bio: Miles Oliver is an independent writer with a background in business and a passion for history, psychology, and news. He has lived and traveled all over the United States and continues to expand his awareness and experiences. When he is not writing, he is most likely mountain biking or kicking back with a cup of tea.