an article by our site
The isolated, normal American family, situated in pseudo-communities across our nation, has tried to be an adequate resource for adequate nurturing—and failed at it—for much too long. What does all this heroic posturing and pretense hope to prove? The jury is already in. We know without the slightest doubt that our hopes and expectations go beyond the social and situational resources of almost all families.
Ninety-six percent family dysfunctionality is more than a mere symptom of a culture in trouble. It's a tragic symptom. Victoria Balfour says that "Most addictive behavior can be traced to American family life. John Bradshaw, a family-systems therapy advocate and family dynamics expert, cites research that found 96 percent of all families to be to some degree 'dysfunctional'—that is, the system by which the family interacts is distorted by the addictions and compulsions of one or more members and, so, ignores the needs of each individual. In his view, it is the 'don't trust, don't feel' rules in such families that lead the children into their own self-destructive patterns. . . . 'Most people think they come from a dysfunctional family,' says Dr. Michael Kerr, a psychiatrist at the Georgetown University Family Center. 'They're looking for answers, and they're looking for a charismatic leader. That's why they like someone like Bradshaw to stand up and say, 'This is why you're hurting.'" (Source: People May 28, 1990, Vol. 33, No. 21, "John Bradshaw" by Victoria Balfour.)
Ninety-six percent family dysfunctionality is a tragic waste
As mentioned, ninety-six percent family dysfunctionality is much MORE than a mere symptom—it's an indictment and exposé rolled into one. So what do we do about all this—give up our hopes and expectations? No—just the opposite. Expand them. Hope for even more! Expect more! But this time, make a realistic plan for achieving these goals! Isolated, normal families haven't shown us that they are either bad or useless. They've merely, by overwhelming symptoms, demonstrated their limits and weaknesses! In view of the new MC knowledge, we now have a way to hope for and expect more than ever before in history. Only this time, we won't be disappointed.
"As 96 percent of all families are to some degree emotionally impaired, the unhealthy rules we're living by are handed down from one generation to another and ultimately to society at large. Our society is sick because our families are sick. And our families are sick because we are living by inherited rules we never wrote." (Source: Bradshaw, John, Bradshaw On: The Family, Deerfield Beach, FL, Health Communications, 1988)
A nuclear family
Demographers and social scientists say that the American totem, the nuclear family with Dad coaching little league, full-time Mom nurturing 2.2 statistical children, the frisky collie, and the station wagon in the driveway, is disintegrating, and they speak of the social and psychological traumas that broken families trail in their wake. By 2000, fewer than three of every 10 adolescents will have lived in a continuously intact family until the age of 18. And yet, the reality of these facts is a vision that suburbanites continue to ignore. (Source: Patner, Andrew, "Shifting Suburbs," The Wall Street Journal Reports, Friday, March 9, 1990, p. R20-R23)
Suburbs—the home of suburbanites
"The data on family change in America are fairly unambiguous. They point to a long-term decline in the significance of the family as a social institution, a decline that accelerated dramatically in the period from 1960 to 1980 after the baby boom reversals of the 1950s. The weakening of the family shows up in every indicator:
- A reduction in the frequency of marriage. American women will spend 27.2 years in the single state below age 50, and 12 percent will never marry. The proportion never marrying has doubled since 1960 and five more years will be spent single for those marrying.
- An increase in the probability that a marriage will end in divorce. About 50 percent [and up to 67 percent according to other experts] of American marriages will end in divorce under current rates, up from 25 percent in the 1950s.
- A reduction in rates of childbearing. For the past 15 years, American fertility has been below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman.
- A rise in out-of-wedlock births, to 23 percent of U.S. births.
- A decline in co-residence among all categories of kin.
". . . The central issue from a social policy standpoint is whether [the] major function that we've assigned to the family, the socialization and development of children, is being adequately fulfilled.
"Here there are reasons for concern. One is a rise in child poverty to a level of 22 percent. While cutbacks in social programs and diminished economic prospects for young workers account for some of the increase, [it's] estimated that 44 percent of the rise in child poverty between 1970 and 1982 resulted from the shift of children from two-parent to one-parent families.
Surveys are great marketing, sociological, and demographic research tools
"There are also indications of increased emotional disturbance among children. Comparisons of surveys taken at different times find parents reporting more psychological distress among their children, with most of the increase occurring in the category attributed to family breakdown. There has been a rise in teen suicide and a sharp rise in the proportion of adolescents getting psychiatric counseling, most of which is attributable to children in one-parent homes." (Source: Preston, Samuel H., "The Vanishing American Family: A Demographer's Perspective," —Excerpts from a speech given by Samuel Preston, at the 1989 Economics Day celebration at the University of Pennsylvania. Preston is sociology professor and chair of the graduate group in demography, an expert on changes in the American family, and is past president of the Population Association of America and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Penn Arts & Sciences, Spring 1990, pp. 8-10)
Samuel Preston is a sociology professor and chair of the graduate group in demography, and an expert on changes in the American family
There's a sharp rise in the proportion of adolescents getting psychiatric counseling, most of which is attributable to children in one-parent homes
In the University of Michigan's yearly study of high school seniors graduated in 1986, certain values were compared to those of 1976 high school graduates. When asked about their attitudes about material goals, less than 50 percent of high school seniors in 1976 considered having a lot of money extremely important while almost two thirds of 1986 graduates placed a great importance on wealth. When questioned about whether a sense of purpose in life was extremely important this response fell from 89 percent in 1976 to 85 percent in 1986
Researchers tell us that the world is moving toward the "post-nuclear family," with the United States leading the trend. This trend is characterized by the widespread breakup of the mother-father bond. So 31 percent of kids are born to never-married parents. And forty-one percent of all first-time childbirths in the United States are to never-married mothers. And the family is getting smaller. In the United States in the late 1950s the family birthrate was about 3.7, with the average family having nearly four children. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, the family birthrate in the United States is about half what it was then.
There is a forty-one percent chance her child is illegitimate
Worse yet is the inability of the family to carry out its basic functions, particularly the socialization of children and the passing on of a culture and character and competence to the next generation. This was once accomplished in the family but it is now being accomplished by other institutions. In the United States, various professionals and in particular the media are raising the children. Identity used to form mostly in the home, but now one purchases it in the marketplace or at the mall or from peer groups or popular culture or—worse yet—from Facebook. And the value of the family in the society at large is weakening. As the family weakens, the values of individualism or self-expression begin to rule. (Source: Reversing the Trend Toward the Post-Nuclear Family, David Blankenhorn, 2001)
Except for the last paragraph from 2001, the above content summarizes the disintegrating situation in the year 1990. That was 25 years ago. It is now 2015. As predicted, the situation has degenerated even further.
The American divorce rate in 2010 is nearly twice that of 1960
U.S. Census data indicate that the retreat from marriage has accelerated in the wake of the Great Recession of 2007 to present. Also increasing is lifelong singlehood and there is a steep growth in unmarried cohabitation. Fewer people consider their unions happy. The U.S. divorce rate in 2010 (US population 309 million) is nearly twice that of 1960 (US population 179 million), but has declined since hitting its highest point in our history in the early 1980s (this decline isn't about less relationship dysfunction but about less money—they cannot afford to divorce). For the average couple marrying for the first time in the 21st century, the lifetime probability of divorce or separation now falls between 40 and 50 percent. Between 1960 and 2010 the number of unmarried couples in the U.S. increased more than seventeen-fold (from 1.1% of couples in 1960 to 11.6% of couples in 2010—a ten-fold increase), and the illegitimacy rate went up as well.
Between 1960 and 2010 the number of unmarried couples in the U.S. increased more than seventeen-fold in raw numbers and as a percent of the number of couples it's a ten-fold increase
The trend toward single-parent families is probably the most important of the recent family trends that have affected kids and teens because the kids in such families have bad life outcomes at double or triple the rate of kids in married, two-parent families. While in 1960 a mere 9 percent of all kids lived in single-parent families, by 2010 the percentage had risen to 25. (Source: Social Indicators of Marital Health and Well-Being, National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, W. Bradford Wilcox, ed.)
Many people believe that they do not have enough time to spend with their children. This is often particularly referred to as "quality time." However, time-diary studies have shown that people have more leisure time now than they did 10 or 20 years ago, and that on the average, Americans spend the same amount of time on leisure as they do on their jobs. And they spend more time watching TV than they spend with their children.
Families spend more time watching TV than they spend with their children
Is it really that bad that people opt for alternatives to marriage or even having kids and so often end up liking to shack up, or indulge in same-sex relationships, serial marriages, single-parent families, living alone, etc.? No, what's bad is that they normally do not create successful relationships, which leads to unhappiness, depression, abuse, substance abuse, suicide, and obsessive escapism via entertainment and Facebook.
Depression rate in the U.S. in 2011
So when bad relationships, married or not, lead to kids, the kids are at least as unhappy and unfulfilled as their parents, so the next thing you know these kids—whose needs were not met—are getting pumped full of Big Pharma's wonder drugs. Of course the wonder, here, means not that the drugs are great but that you wonder how these people can sleep at night exploiting these helpless children in such a way. Kids' enthusiasm? A mental defect! Who knew?
This is your child's brain. This is your child's brain on drugs. Any questions?
Big Pharma spreading "good health via medicine" across the land
And, drugged senseless or not, an increasing number of kids are symptomizing the inadequate parenting and the viewing of parental squabbles and the lack of good examples to emulate by becoming obsessive materialists who accept things in place of the love they needed a billion times more than things. And these kids symptomize this NONnurturing situation by becoming obese, depressed, media-addicted junk-food eaters who try to substitute food and things in place of the relationships they need, and when this fails they go for vicarious media relationships and Facebook obsession as well as texting obsession. The unhappy parents do little better, replacing parenting with bribing kids with stuff and junk-food. Parents say they don't have time because they work so much so parenting inadequacy is not their fault. Yet the statistics on their TV watching belies that.
Registering for MC search and match
Is this sad state of affairs really necessary? Is it just an unavoidable sign of the times? NO! Using one of the authoritative parenting styles from the bottom of this page Why register for an MC? and PSBs for communication and MCs for lifestyle, you can have the type of life that is the exact opposite of the depressing scenario above. Do not wait. This is the ONLY life you'll ever have!
For an insightful overview of Dysfunctional Family Patterns, including what can be done to minimize or eliminate such behavior, see Dysfunctional Family Patterns.