Whether or not multiple parentage gains wider legal and social acceptance, the fact that it’s being debated — and, in a few cases, allowed — suggests the flexibility that the concept of parenthood has taken on today, not only among scholars, but among adults doing the work of actually raising children in sometimes unorthodox situations. It’s part of a broader reexamination of what it means to have a family, a conversation that is itself only a chapter in a story that has unfolded over hundreds of years. That constant push and pull has been shaped by religion and law, custom and economics, and its inflection points are not only changes like the abolition of illegitimacy, but the revision of adoption laws, the relaxation of divorce requirements, the movement in some states to legalize same-sex marriage, and even the debate, in places as different as late 19th-century Mormon Utah and the contemporary Netherlands, over the permissibility of polygamy. Some of those changes remain deeply controversial, of course. And yet there are other aspects of the contemporary family that, while they would strike people of an earlier era as deeply unnatural, today go all but unremarked: the fact, for example, that it’s common for grandparents to live not with their children and grandchildren but instead hundreds of miles away. The family of the future may look similarly unfamiliar to us, and in ways we’re only beginning to discern.
more from Drake Bennett at the Boston Globe here.