Monday, May 10, 2010

Changing Family Values

 I suspect those organizations that campaign for "traditional family values" as being the bedrock of society really have little idea of how much family structures change as society changes. I think what they really yearn for is the values of the 1950s middle class, when a single income could do for a nuclear family, and everyone lived in tidy neighborhoods of split level or ranch style houses.

When I read Ross Douthat's column in today's New York Times, I was interested to see a rebuttal to this image that echoed my own suspicions. Research seems to show that couples that marry young and do not cohabitate beforehand tend to have higher rates of divorce. Couples who cohabitate and use birth control, and marry late, tend to have fewer children and lower rates of divorce. However, I'm not sure I agree with the writer, who equates this with cultural and political values (so called Red and Blue families). Marriage, I'm sure, is as diverse as people's personalities.

What is disturbing is that the lower divorce and out-of wedlock birth rates sustained by "blue state" families is correlated with higher abortion rates. This suggests that the sanctity of human life is exchanged for quality of lifestyles. It would be all too easy to simply proclaim the wickedness of the blue state cultures like some sort of old testament prophet. Rather, it's clear that all of us Americans sustain our lifestyles at a huge human and ecological cost.

Perhaps a new sort of family type is called for, one that can sustain the cost (opportunity, as well as resource wise) of having kids, whilst allowing people to enter into lifelong relationships on a more realistic basis. While I'm unsure of what this could entail, it is good to remember that social change is inevitable, and as society changes, so does the family.

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