The emphasis on family unity that is characteristic of the southern family has its roots in the traditional values of the agrarian upper class. The English, Scottish-Irish, and African immigrants to the south, who arrived in the 1600 and 1700s, instituted the basics of southern culture, though these patterns continued to develop and progress, as they do today. The basis of the southern lifestyle was farming and rural living, which lingered well into the 20th century, at least in certain parts of the south. Even today, agrarian traditions continue to influence southern culture. Because of the influential governing classes, family was, traditionally, more important in the southern United States than any other region of the country. Critics have insightfully argued that the southerner's emphasis on family echoes concerns with social stratification just as much as it does his dedication to family values. Beginning in the mid-20th century, however, the paternalism of the southern family began to decline with women's increased autonomy and economic independence.
The Social History of the American Family: An Encyclopedia
Copyright 2014 Sage Publications, Inc.
Pittman, J. (2014). Southern families. In M. J. Coleman & L. H. Ganong (Eds.), The social history of the American family: An encyclopedia (Vol. 1, pp. 1255-1258). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781452286143.n498