The media and mainstream social science research play major roles in characterizing the Black family. One of the most important findings is that, typically, the African-American family has been marked as dysfunctional; we do not fit the middle-class white norms of the family. The media has recognized the dichotomy between the white and Africa-American families in America, and therefore has taken the television programs where Africa-Americans play lead roles and made the shows resemble the norms of the white family. Television programs such as "My Wife and Kids" depict the typical, nuclear family: a married couple living together with 2.5 kids and a pet. The media has a tendency to "sugarcoat" reality, including the reality of the African-American family. The one exception to the media sugarcoating reality is the news. The news, more often than not, shows images of African-Americans living in rundown, overpopulated, polluted, noisy, crime plagued areas (the ghetto). Other races are receiving mixed messages about the African-American community. The media and research should provide the public with information that reveals the true essence of the family structure and how it is changing. Unfortunately, the media is far from a representation of real life.
There is no single way to understand families, but sociological theories have helped uncover some of the underlying family structural differences and similarities between cultures. The Functionalist views the family as having to fill specific societal needs; the family is responsible for taking care of the hierarchy of needs of each individual in the family. The Functionalist view of the family is one where marriage is a mutually beneficial exchange between a man and a woman. The typical view of marriage and families containing a husband and a wife is shifting towards the acceptance of same sex couples raising families, and most recently, getting married.