Family Matters

English spelling has changed a lot over the centuries and there were often several acceptable spellings of many words.
‘Potatoe’ was one such alternate spelling, circa 1600s, so when Dan Quayle spelled it that way in 1992, I just figured he learned his spelling where he learned his politics.

Similarly, when I hear the blather of the Family Values crowd, it reminds me very much of the 1600s in New England:

In theory, the seventeenth-century family was a hierarchical unit, in which the father was invested with patriarchal authority. He alone sat in an armed chair, his symbolic throne, while other household members sat on benches or stools. He taught children to write, led household prayers, and carried on the bulk of correspondence with family members. Domestic conduct manuals were addressed to him, not to his wife. Legally, the father was the primary parent. Fathers, not mothers, received custody of children after divorce or separation. In colonial New England, a father was authorized to correct and punish insubordinate wives, disruptive children, and unruly servants. He was also responsible for placing his children in a lawful calling and for consenting to his children’s marriages. His control over inheritance kept his grown sons dependent upon him for years, while they waited for the landed property they needed to establish an independent household.

I think ‘authority’ is the key word here. And they too pretended their rights were God-given, didn’t they?
Sound familiar?

From University Of Houston link (which may no longer be available), the following Family History has some interesting quotes.

Over the past three centuries, Americans have gone through recurrent waves of moral panic over the family.
Mounting public anxiety led to increased government involvement in the family and the emergence of distinct groups offering expert advice
about childrearing, parenting, and social policy.

It was only in the 1920s that, for the first time, a majority of American families consisted of a breadwinner-husband, a home-maker wife,
and children attending school.
The democratization of the family ideals [circa 1950s, Ed.] reflected social and economic circumstances that are unlikely to be duplicated:
a reaction against Depression hardships and the upheavals of World War II; the affordability of single-family track homes in the booming suburbs;
and rapidly rising real incomes.

Yet despite widespread rhetoric about promoting family values, many “reforms,” such as welfare reform, weakened social supports for families.
Whether the early twenty-first century will witness a wave of family-related reforms comparable to the Progressive Era remains to be seen.

Bottom line: Family definition and structure change while officialdom plays politics.

Rather long but well worth reading

…because they don’t want to address the real dangers…[]…discourse is rarely linked to discussions of the economy. Discussions of the underclass, for example, typically deal with declining values, rather than the decline of blue-collar jobs or the social consequences of prolonged unemployment.

…although the entire Western world has experienced similar changes in family life since 1965 [] virtually every country except the United States has adapted to them through family support policies.
[] The assumption in these countries has long been that shifting family patterns are a response to large economic and social forces. We are the only country in which government policy has been aimed at reversing the tide of family change, rather than mitigating its effects.

The conservative right has for years equated family values with the traditional nuclear family.
…they generally use a language of moral failure and cultural decline to account for family change.
They all seek to revive the stigma that used to surround divorce and single motherhood.

…the current family structure crusade is playing by the family values scripts of the l980’s……stigmatizing single parents, cutting off welfare, and restricting access to divorce may harm large numbers of children and deepen the very social ills they are trying to remedy.

The most critical factor in a child’s well-being in any form of family is a close, nurturing relationship with at least one parent. As child advocates and researchers have long known, the greatest threat to children’s well-being and development is poverty and inadequate income.

It is not an unalterable fact of nature that children born to poor families or unmarried mothers have to grow up in poverty. Although other western countries may have higher initial poverty rates than we do, they do more than we do to provide additional support.

…an inclusive pro-family message could be articulated and combined with proposals for economic and social reform.

If we are to avoid the nightmare scenarios of social deterioration described by the new family structuralists [Family Value politicians, Ed.], we had better not follow their more punitive and coercive prescriptions.


Death of the dream.

In the last 70 years, I’ve known only a handful of families which did not have some dysfunctional aspects. My experience is obviously not universal but I’d suggest that the overwhelming majority of families harbor some behavior, circumstances and malfunctions which contribute negatively to the welfare of the family members, particularly the children.

Most parents will – at least privately – admit to the existence of problems, although they may not fully grasp the consequences and will likely downplay the seriousness of the situations.

There are those whose particular mindset is such that to merely acknowlege the existence of imperfections is so threatening to their sense of themselves that they cannot admit to anything less than perfection. These people tend to be up-tight authoritarians and all too often use their interpretation of religion to bolster their shaky position.

Worse yet, in an act of ultimate teabaggery, those families most in need of support are condemned as somehow morally defective and undeserving of society’s support.

If a banker is someone who will loan you money if you can prove you don’t need it and an umbrella when it’s not raining, the right wing fundamentalists are happy to help any family which can prove it doesn’t need help and firm in their denial of their own dysfunctionality. .

2 Replies to “Family Matters”

  1. It couldn’t be more simple. The key to a healthy family unit in whatever form is for men and women to get along. And gender apartheid creates a deep schism between them.

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