Who Needs a Family These Days?


I got you babe I got you babe
I got you to hold my hand
I got you to understand
I got you to walk with me
I got you to talk with me
I got you to kiss goodnight
I got you to hold me tight
I got you, I won’t let go
I got you to love me so

I Got You Babe, Sonny Bono, 1966

Thanksgiving is approaching. Family time is around the corner. The best of times, the worst of times. Better get ready.

I don’t want to alarm anyone (well, maybe I do) but things are really changing when it comes to family. Did you know that the way we define family has changed? In leading college Marriage and Family textbooks here’s how family is now defined:

“Any relatively stable group of people who are related to one another through blood, marriage or adoption, or who simply live together, and who provide one another with economic and emotional support.”  (Schwartz, M. and B.M. Scott. 2012. Marriages and Families. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.)

Wouldn’t college roommates fit that definition?

Some definitions that I have read even remove the prerequisite that you have to live together – due to the large numbers of divorced families.

When the definition of what constitutes a family becomes blurred this is a certain sign that the norms and obligations that strengthen and enable the perpetuation of this essential social institution have weakened to the point of practical expediency.

Did you know:

  • In 1960, 72% of American adults were married. By 2008, that share had fallen to 52%.
  • 58% of Americans believe that divorce is preferable than staying in an unhappy marriage (even when there are young children in the family – btw, so do an overwhelming majority of my students, even when we learn how devastating divorce can be for children).
  • Most Americans now say the rise in unmarried couples living together either makes no difference to society (46%) or is good for society (9%).
  • The number of children living in single-parent homes has nearly doubled since 1960. Close to 1/3 of our children are growing up without a father in the home. Over 70% of African American children grow up in a single parent home!

While we’re all up in arms about healthcare, debt and terrorism our family structure is collapsing all around us. When families fall apart neighborhoods disintegrate. When neighborhoods disappear schools fail. When schools fail our economy deteriorates. When our economy shakes to pieces our civilization will collapse. As goes the family, so goes the nation.

We all need a family.

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