Divorce in An American Family: Case Study Example

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Vanderbilt University
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Case study
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An American Family is a reality television show recorded in 1971 and was first aired in the United States in 1973 (PBS, 2015). It consisted of one season of 12 episodes and is regarded as the first reality TV show in America (Rouff, 2002). The show was intended to record the daily life of the Loud Family, an upper middle-class family living in California. The Loud Family consisted of the two parents, William and Patricia, and their children Alanson, Kevin Robert, Grant, Delilah Ann and Michelle. Instead of the show documenting the day-to-day lives of the Louds, it documented the break-up of the family and the divorce of the parents. The series was very popular in the US, and it elicited a lot of controversies.

Divorce and How to Cope With It

One of the most memorable scenes in An American Family series involved Patricia asking for a divorce from Bill after 21 years of marriage. She said that she wanted to leave the house. Pat requested the divorce because of her husband's infidelity. The divorce was messy due to its inclusion in the TV series. Putting the divorce into the public domain made the divorce more difficult to cope with for Pat and the children (Rouff, 2002). In the 1970's divorces were private affairs yet the Louds' private family issue was broadcast to millions of TV viewers. The divorce was real to the Louds. However, to the millions watching the show, it was entertainment. There are speculations that the producers of An American Family coerced Patricia into asking Bill for a divorce on camera.

How did the divorce affect the Louds and how can a family cope with it? The divorce had adverse emotional effects to Patricia and the children. Divorces are usually tough to children who witness the collapse of the love between their parents. The children used to live with two parents have to adjust to living with only one parent. For the Louds, the emotional trauma of the divorce was too much that 10 years after the show, no child had considered committing into marriage (Rouff, 2002). It can be argued that the divorce laid the foundation for the dangerous lifestyle adopted by Lance Loud. He became a crystal meth addict and contracted HIV.

A divorce is a very stressful experience. It triggers unsettling emotions, and one feels confused, disappointed and isolated (Segal, Kemp & Smith 2017). A divorce represents the loss of dreams and ambitions shared by a couple. It also brings uncertainties about the future. It is important to properly deal with divorce to avoid its long-term emotional scars on a person.

A divorced person should accept that it is normal to be divorced as human emotions change. Emotions such as anger and frustrations should be accepted as normal during the divorce (Segal et al., 2017). A divorced person or their family should not go through divorce alone. Talking with friends or counsellors about divorce can be very helpful. A divorce can also join a group of people who have experienced divorce to talk with each other cope with the break-up.

Children should not be involved in conflicts between spouses. It is also important to maintain the normal family routines so as to reduce the effect of divorce on children (Segal et al., 2017). Children should be encouraged to call the other parent just to chat. If a child is having a difficult time coping with divorce, it is important to have him talk with a therapist.

In conclusion, An American Family demonstrates how mass media can induce social problems into a family. The recording of the show led to the divorce of the Louds. This divorce was not coped with well, and it indirectly led to the death of Lance. Thus, families must cope well with divorce to avoid emotional scars and fatalities.



PBS. (2015). An American family: anniversary edition | PBS Programs | PBS. An American Family: Anniversary Edition | PBS Programs | PBS. Retrieved 18 July 2017, from http://www.pbs.org/program/american-family/

Ruoff, J. (2002). 'An American Family,' the original reality show hits the big screen at Dartmouth. Dartmouth.edu. Retrieved 18 July 2017, from http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2002/june/061702.html

Segal, J., Kemp, G., & Smith, M. (2017). Dealing with a breakup or divorce: grieving and moving on after a relationship ends. Helpguide.org. Retrieved 18 July 2017, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/dealing-with-a-breakup-or-divorce.htm


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