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Amish Families in America

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The objective of this work is to research the culture, values and beliefs of Amish families in America and how these relate to the ecological theory and the environmental factors that influence them.


Today's society is characterized by a broken down unit of what was once a structure formed tightly through matrimonial bonds and was a structure that was a firm foundational beginning for children's futures to be constructed upon. It was a structure that has passed the test of time in society and that had served well. Feminism arose when it was required by the processes at work within society in order to find a balance for women who work however, feminism assisted in the breaking down of the family unit as divorces and working mothers became more and more common. There is still today a group of people existing in the United States that follow a very simple life that is adherent to family, faith and community principle and who separate themselves from the common society. These people are the Amish who originally came from Switzerland and were at one time brought into the protection of America by William Penn.


The work entitled: "Amish Women" reports a study in which Amish and American women of other cultures were compared and contrasted. The report states that both differences and similarities exist between Amish women and the contemporary American woman. The first difference that exists is the role of the Amish women and contemporary American women as 'wife'. "Amish women greatly value the institution of marriage; they do everything humanly possible to make their marriages work. More importantly, they believe in the scriptural injunction that says 'wives submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the lord.' (Ephesians 5:22) Roles also differ between Amish women and contemporary American women in view of their roles as working in the community. "Amish women work in the homes and close to their homes and are efficient managers. In addition to providing childcare the wife normally oversees the garden, preserves food, cooks, cleans, washes, sews and supervises the yard work." (Amish Women, 2007) Oftentimes the Amish women also assists their husbands working on the farm by "...feeding the animals, milking cows, gathering eggs, and harvesting crops and vegetables." (Amish Women, 2007) The study relates that Amish women "are happy doing their jobs of family caring and they express high levels of social and personal satisfaction." (Amish Women, 2007) Another area in which Amish and contemporary American women differ is the area of 'family ties'. For Amish women "the family is the cornerstone, most important component of the Amish structure..." (Amish Women, 2007)

Marriage generally takes place between the ages of 19 and 25 among Amish youth and marriage "is highly esteemed and raising a family is the professional career or Amish adults." (Amish Women, 2007) Another area of difference between Amish women and contemporary American women is in the area of 'child discipline'. Amish culture adheres "strictly to the words of God. Children learn the norms of fearing God and separation from sin from their parents and the church." (Amish Women, 2007) While Amish children receive spankings when disciplined, in the United States today, most children are not spanked. The manner of dress is different between Amish women and contemporary American women in that "Amish women wear the gab of humility" and do not wear jewelry, makeup or other devices of beauty which are seen as deceptive. The 'social cultural' lives of Amish women and contemporary American women are different in that "Amish women are home people, they center everything on the home" (Amish Women, 2007) while the contemporary American woman spend much time away from home through work, socializing, traveling and other activities. The work entitled: "Origins of the Old Order of Amish" relates that Old Order Amish were once called "The Plain People" and originated in the country of Switzerland in approximately 1525 arising from a division of Mennonites or Anabaptists (re-baptizers) who opposed the union of the church and state and infant baptism. (Paraphrased)

The Amish baptized only adults in the 16th century when baptizing adults was a crime therefore the Amish have an "impressive list of martyrs." (Origins of the Old Order of Amish, nd) The Amish were accused of criminal negligence because their students did not attend schools with certified teachers and neither did the school advance students into secondary levels. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Wisconsin vs. Yoder (1972) made it unconstitutional to force Amish individuals to attend high school. Amish people are stated to endure to this day "as a distinctive folk group because they have preserved a mentality of separation from the world and the sentiments of persecuted strangers in the land." (Origins of the Old Order of Amish, nd) The position maintained by the Amish is one that is profound in nature in their preparation for the "world to come rather than for becoming rich or famous in this world. The Old Order Amish has spanned across many generations and stated simply is adherence to a simple and humble life at peace will the earth and refuse to use gasoline, electricity, commercial chemicals, CFCs--all of which pollute the environment." (Origins of the Old Order of Amish, nd )


The ecological theory of Bronfenbrenner is one that views human development "within the context of the system of relationships that form his or her environment." (Paquette and Ryan, 2000) According to Pacquette and Ryan (2000) the interaction "between factors in the child's maturing biology, his immediate family/community environment, and the societal landscape fuels and steers his development. Changes or conflict in one layer will ripple throughout the layers." In order to understand the development of the individual it is necessary to view not only the individual and their immediate environment but as well the interaction of the larger environment as well." (Pacquette and Ryan, 2000) The following figure illustrates the components forming the structure of the individual's environment: (1) microsystem; (2) mesosystem; and (3) exosystem



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