Tag Archives: fragmentation

The New American Family

636049977265561773-1517921144_immigrant%20-%20family_0

Research based on the latest census data indicate that the American family is no more. The dramatic changes in living arrangements, delayed child-bearing and longer singlehood mean that what we once thought of as a “traditional” family may be long gone.

But here’s something very interesting from a news report on the study:

Despite the negative changes in American families, one group has remained stable and most closely resembles what was once considered the American norm and that is the immigrant community. [This study] found that immigrants tend to be married at a higher rate, and divorce and remarry at a lower rate when compared to those born in the United States.

It seems like those on the road to becoming our newest citizens seem to look and act more like traditional Americans than even we do! Immigrants depend upon their families for so much:

  1. Economic support and launching into a new society – who but family wants me to succeed more?
  2. Remaining close in order to maintain important traditions and values during assimilation – while we’re becoming Americans, we want to keep cherished traditions from where we came
  3. Collaboration with other immigrant families from similar backgrounds for help making the social transitions – people who have come here ahead of us can help to show us the ropes. Family members help other family members.

As I think about it, what’s tragic is that we all need our families like this, still. It doesn’t matter if we are immigrants or native born. We all need help making it in the world around us. Family is supposed to fulfill that function.

More people in our country have terrible difficulty in life because their family just isn’t there anymore. Maybe we should look to our immigrant neighbors as examples?

 

Fragmented Identities

_MG_2365

Surely it wouldn’t take you but a minute to come up with a quick list of the most significant social experiences in your early life that helped to shape who you are becoming?

  • That birthday party
  • The fishing trip
  • Reading together before you went to sleep
  • Learning to drive
  • Christmas morning

Most of these experiences we take for granted. They were just part of the routine of our lives. The building bricks that helped prepare us for the next steps like our own marriage, college and the first job.

A recent article by Michael Barone in the National Review Online points out the social crisis that America is currently facing because our families are fracturing.

What is family fragmentation? The facts are easy to state. About 40 percent of babies born in America these days are born outside of marriage. That’s true of about 30 percent of non-Hispanic whites, more than 50 percent of Hispanics and more than 70 percent of blacks.

An American society that has destigmatized couples living together instead of marrying, out of wedlock births, divorce, and single parenthood is creating a two-tiered society. Children from these fragmented families experience:

  • less healthy lifestyles
  • poor education
  • higher rates of delinquency
  • less preparation for employment
  • little investment in college readiness

These fragmented families are mostly from a lower SES and are racial/ethnic minorities. This type of family fragmentation did not occur during the Great Depression. Fragmented families are producing an underclass that will cripple our entire society and no one is daring enough to say out loud, “your pursuit of happiness is damaging everyone else.”

Social Identity Theory helps to explain that as we construct our sense of self we are very dependent upon the social groups to which we belong. Families are the first and most important group that each of us experience as we develop our identity. Children depend upon a stable family group to provide role models that they in turn use to construct their own identity:

  • Gender roles
  • Parenting lessons
  • Spousal relationships
  • Work ethic
  • Career preparation

Families provide children with a number of essential and ongoing experiences that both build an individual identity and prepare for meaningful participation in society as adults.

We are nearing a time when a critical mass of our children will not have a stable family nor enough time together with their over-busy family. Our children’s social identity will more and more be built from experiences they have at daycare, school, after school groups, neighborhood peers and the media. There won’t be a basic foundational family experience to support or contradict the messages gained from these additional social relationships. The family experience is the essential experience for healthy identity formation.

As family life is rapidly fracturing and our definitions of what constitute a family are widening, this is not only damaging to our social structure, it will also produce individuals who are less certain about who they are and how to form healthy relationships with other people. I guess that’s good news for all the social media conglomerates.