Skip to comments.Nuclear family gets nuked by the Gen-Xers
Posted on 09/15/2005 9:28:57 AM PDT by qam1
THE Australian family is under attack: not from an evil outside force intent on destroying a wholesome way of life, but from a none-too-subtle shift in values between generations.
Whereas the boomers were great supporters of mum, dad and the kids, later generations of Xers and now Ys are clearly less enamoured with family life, at least in youth. If there is a place for the traditional nuclear family in modern Australia it has been relegated to the late 30s and early 40s wasteland.
In 1991, 41 per cent of all Australian households featured a traditional nuclear family. This proportion would have exceeded 50 per cent in the 1960s. In this early manifestation of the traditional family, "the kids" numbered four and upwards.
Not like today: families have slimmed to two kids at best; a single child is common.
There is now a whole generation of Ys, and increasingly of Zs, growing up as lone kids in suburban houses. There are no brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles or aunties. These kids are quite alone.
The role of the family changed dramatically in the 90s. By 2001 only 33 per cent of all Australian households contained a traditional-styled family. In one devastating decade the family yielded 8 percentage points of market share to other, flashier, trendier, sexier households such as singles and couples.
Gen Xers didn't want to be stuck with a permanent partner and kids. They wanted to flit from relationship to relationship, job to job, home to apartment and then back to home, or from Australia to London and back.
Xers wanted to "discover themselves"; doing the daggy family thing just didn't sit well with Xer's plans for their 20s. Xers are incredulous at the suggestion they should pair up, bunker down and reproduce by 25.
"This is a no-brainer, right? The choice is either the pursuit of a cosmopolitan and funky 20- something lifestyle or spending this time cleaning up after a two-year-old? And the upside of the second choice is what exactly?"
Well, my dear little Xers, the upside of having kids in your 20s is that you grow as a person; you discover a wonderful sense of fulfilment in caring for and raising a well adjusted child who depends on you for everything.
"Bernard, please stop it. I can't take it any more. My sides are hurting. Tell me the real reason why we should forgo earning an income and having a good time in our 20s to have children.
"You mean that's it? That was for real? Look, if previous generations were dumb enough to waste their youth doing the kid thing, so be it. But don't lay any guilt trip on us just because we are exercising options that others were too stupid to grasp. And if I wanted a wonderful sense of fulfilment, then I'd go shopping."
And so the family shrivels.
By 2011 the traditional nuclear family will make up barely 28 per cent of all Australian households.
Singles and couples will account for 28 per cent of households. By the end of this decade the traditional nuclear family will no longer be the dominant social arrangement within Australia.
This is a very different world to the childhood of boomers 40 years earlier. In that world the family ruled. The family was reflected positively on television rather than in dysfunctional parody.
A suburban three-bedroom lair was designed specifically for families. No-one questioned the logic or the sanctity of the 1960s family.
The family is projected to continue on its current downward trajectory to make up just 24 per cent of all households by 2031. Single person households at this time are expected to make up 31 per cent of households.
What will Australia look like in 2031 when almost one in three households contains a single person? And this is not the young, sexy 20-something single that blossomed in the 1990s. No, the burgeoning market for singles during the 2020s will comprise sad old lonely baby boomers whose partner has died.
If we accept that there was a cultural impact from the baby boom in the 1950s that shaped consumer demand for 50 years, then we must also accept the confronting fact that there will be a "baby bust" 70 years later in the 2020s. The former delivered and deified the family; the latter will deliver a fatal blow to a social institution wounded by the shifting values of Xers and Ys 30 years earlier.
No need for sporting fields in Australian suburbia in the 2020s, but there will be a need for social and religious clubs to stem isolation within the burbs. It is an odd fact that as Australians get older and closer to death they also get closer to God. The 2020s will see a rise in religious fervour.
The bottom line is that the family is in transition, downwards. It is little wonder that political institutions are rallying behind its demise. The stark and brutal assessment is that within half a century we will have shifted from a situation where traditional families accounted for one in two households to one in four.
There will never be another decade like the 1990s when families conceded 8 percentage points in market share. After all, if we did this in the 2020s, then by the end of that decade traditional families would make up barely 17 per cent of all households. And at that level, you would have to question the basis upon which we as a nation bring up our kids. I don't think the Australian nation would ever be happy to have the majority of our children brought up in a social institution that does not contain a mother and a father living in cohabitation.
If these are our values, then the attack on the family that started in earnest in the 1990s must slow down and grind to a halt in the 2020s. Such a shift will slow down the rate of household formation and, combined with the dying off of the baby boomers in this decade, will lead to a severe slowdown in the demand for residential property in the 2020s.
As a consequence, I reckon the property industry has one, perhaps two, boom periods to run before it hits the wall at some stage during the 2020s.
Bernard Salt is a partner with KPMG
Isn't it funny how what started out as an accomplishment for "women's liberation"---the idea that a woman could and should work outside the home to fulfill herself---has become a millstone?
Indeed, in some circles, it's become a status symbol if a woman does not work. It means (in these circles) that her husband makes big bucks and she doesn't "need" to work.
Lots of people's lives (including children's) are destroyed by the combination of one lousy partner in a marriage, and the other partner insisting on staying anyway, either out of financial necessity (read: I always assumed I'd be part of a great pair forever, so I made no plans to be financially secure any other way), or out of misguided religious beliefs ("til death do us part" isn't supposed to mean "until I die at my husband's brutal hands, with my children watching"). I know plenty of people who are lifeling psychological basket cases, as a result or growing up in a home with an intact but awful marriage. They're easily in as bad shape as those who grew up in the middle of a vicious tug-of-war between divorced parents.
Having been married and divorced in my 20s and now happily married to to someone who had never been married before, I can look at these issues from various sides.
There is no cookie cutter solution to the problem, because every one is different.
My ex had 3 children from a previous marriage - when that ex sought an increase in child support for the youngest, my income was included in the calculation for the increase.......he attempted to not only get me to pay him spousal support, but to keep up the child support payments for a teenager who was not my child. Had I not has an on-the-ball attorney, both would have been granted to him.
My ex-husband passed away this spring - all alone because not even his sons, all grown men, wanted anything to do with him. He wasn't a boomer, or a gen Xer - he was born in 1939....and was divorced from the mother of his children long before no-fault divorce and the "feminist agenda"
Not really, I save/invest over half my income.
support my 2 kids and my mother on $35k a year plus ~$300.00 per month of support. It's a struggle, but I've done it for almost 4 years so far.
I said, I'd have kids if I felt prosperous. By prosperity, I mean how long I can live my current lifestyle without working.
While today's standard of living is certainly higher than in the past, I dispute the assertion that the average person is more wealthy. Last time I checked, America's saving rate is negative.
oh, relax - the pendulum will shift the other way inside ten to twenty years: the nice thing about fads is that they die.
reality will reassert itrself, and the old ways shall return to the forefront.
the only questions:
1. will the lesson stick?
2. will it be too late to save the western culture?
The nuclear family isn't the only possible strong family structure in which children can be raised into happy, self-sufficient, socially responsible adults.
What a silly response. Extended families have been around since the beginning of time, and its only been the last few generations where we began shuttling parents off to old folks homes (though certainly sometimes for medical reasons that is the best choice.) Nothing leftist at all about the concept of taking care of your own family.
Each person has to make their own moral decisions, and I'm not going to second guess them, but one of the benefits of extended families has always been that those who cared for their children for 18 years would in turn be taken care of when they could no longer care for themselves. That isn't asking gov't to do so, that is a family taking care of their own responsibilities. Some may have lost sight of that, for whatever reasons, but it is something to consider.
It is not possible for a man to enter a legally equitable relationship with a woman. Married men are 2nd class citizens and men married with kids are little more than serfs. I.E. no real claim on their future labor or even the custody and upbringing of their children.
That is an opinion, and a very anti-marriage, anti wife opinion, in my opinion.
While I sympathize with men being torn from their children because of those who abuse the system - I've seen many women experience the same at the hands of the same courts.
However, I refuse to broadbrush either with the same brush, because as was said earlier - it happens both ways.
I quite agree, and I'm female. Personally, I think it would really be better to go back to the legal concept of children as chattel, only with male and female parents recognized equally. Girl children belong to the biological mother, boy children to the biological father, unless the biological and any other parents involved have contracted for a different arrangement, or a court has found a parent to be utterly unfit to have custody of any child (not just less fit than the other parent). You leave a relationship, you take your kid(s) with you, and you have no rights or responsibilities with regard to your ex and his/her children.
There are plenty of people in nursing homes who stayed married and raised their children in a nuclear family, whose spouse has died and whose children are nowhere to be found. Spouses and children aren't insurance policies.
My only problem with your proposal is the idea that boys don't need mothers and girls don't need fathers. I think that a presumption of shared custody would be better- there would be less of using children as pawns to hurt your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Yes, but why? Do people not save because they spend money on things they want or things they need? America is a very consumerist society. Frivolous spending is an issue of wealth management, not wealth ownership.
My great uncle lived in a nursing home for the last year of his life after suffering a stroke. He had never married nor had children, yet he had by far the most visitors. Many of the others with children had few or no visitors at all.
It's the last few generations that have seen great increases in lifespan. I would argue that the nursing homes are a function of the number of extremely old people in a society, wherein physical deterioration is most severe.
Most women can get pregnant in their early forties with high-tech help, and if they've been working at something productive all those years, they shouldn't have any trouble affording it. And reproductive technology is galloping forwards so fast that this will be a non-issue by the time today's adolescent girls are old enough to think about having children. Very soon, anyone will be able to have children that are genetically their own, at any age they choose. As it is now, any woman who doesn't have serious health problems, can bear a child that is not genetically her own, well into her 50s, and some are even doing it in their 60s. And IMO, the day when no woman is choosing when and whom to marry "because I'm running out of time to have a baby" can't come soon enough.
It happens a hell of alot more one way than it does the other. Women, standing the most to gain, initiate divorces at a rate far higher than men and they are granted custody in the overwhelming majority of cases. Hell, in California, boys statutorily raped by women are forced to pay child support. Show me an example of a teenage girl paying child support to an adult male rapist.
Are you single and do you like warm fires in rustic mountain cabins?
Prolly has to do with interest rates being below the rate of inflation and FDR's decision to make stimulating consumption a high government priority.
One of his big expenses is that he's having a lot of his money confiscated by the government to pay for raising your children. Take a hard look at all the goods and services your family uses, starting with public schools, and you'll quickly see that YOU aren't supporting them on the budget you describe. Public school districts are fond of concealing the true per student costs of their operations (often by omitting the substantial cost of purchasing and maintaining land and buildings), but most are spending at least $15,000/year per student, and quite a few are spending over $20,000. And most of that is NOT being paid by the parents of the students who attend those schools. And if your children attend a private or church-affiliated school, their tuition and/or scholarships are similarly subsidized, just by private contributions rather than tax money.
Adam, your posts are saddening, but true. I'm afraid there IS a financial disincentive for marriage, and especially for men. But what is the remedy?
I believe that government and society do have an obligation to do what they can to encourage the furtherance of the species and the country by encouraging families. The only means they have to do this is through monetary and tax policy. Would you support a movement to change those policies in ways that would support families? Would that change your mind about marriage?
Or, maybe it's too late for you, but future generations of men could be reached before it's too late.
I truly believe that the future of mankind lies with building on what we have learned and done in Western civilization. If we do not have children, all of what has been built over the centuries will be lost.
Paying women to have illegitimate children has worked - we now have LOTS of them. The sexes are perpetually angry at each other. Far too many people would rather have casual or paid sex than a true relationship.
It is sad, bad and dangerous. I would like to see it changed. Would you?
Parents can share custody if they want to, but if they don't want to and it has to be enforced by courts, the children usually are harmed more than benefitted. And more and more children are comfortable with their custodial parents subsequent significant others, so they aren't necessarily without a parent figure of the opposite sex.
Testify !!! More little blood sucking brainwashed commies.
The trick is, of course, to buy up enough tax liens so that you have no net exposure to property taxes.
An article posted on FR the other day said this was due to men having a higher probabilty of behaving badly - more drunkeness, drug abuse, physical abuse, cheating, etc ..
Wishful thinking. Religion does not automagically fix all problems no matter how active and devout the religious life. Such assertions are vacuous platitudes that actively ignore reality.
I am the son of a small-town preacher in flyover country. Was an active religious life part of my family experience? Yup. Was my family dysfunctional? Yup. The religious aspect was almost entirely orthogonal to why the nuclear family was dysfunctional, and all the Christianity in the world wouldn't have fixed it (and didn't).
I see nothing wrong with old (or young) folks who are alone and have no family sharing the same house as roommates. Not only will they have company, they'll be able to share expenses. It's sure better than having to get 200 cats for company.
A world of bastards awaits.
Huh? Where did you get that idea? Seems to me that you are cheerleading for societal breakdown. What societies have flourished when its people stop honoring marriage and family?
Not in my experience. Of the three nearest neighbor families where I grew up, that had clearly happy functional marriages and were religious and active in their churches, one has 3 children (2 male, one female), none of whom have ever attempted anything like a nuclear family; another has 4, of whom 1 (male) is part of nuclear family, one (female) is single and childless, one (female) had one child while in a lesbian relationship and another on her own after that relationship ended, and the fourth (male) I don't know about; and the third family had two boys, one of whom has never married or had children, and the other married and divorced a woman who already had two children by a prior marriage, and still keeps in touch with those (now grown) children. So at most, this is 33% of these families' children who grew up to try form nuclear families at all, and 22% who succeeded in maintaining such families. Per my unscientific neighborhood sample, this is only very slightly higher than the rate for the children of parents who were miserably married, divorced, or religiously inactive (or some combination of those).
I don't have any statistics on old folks in boarding houses but it would sure be interesting to see them. I did know a fellow who shared his house with 2 other unrelated people. Everyone seemed happy and able to get along.
I would say that, with a lot more people choosing to forego children than at anytime in history, it will become more common. Of course, people will have to decide what's more important - human company or their own living space.
Like in ancient Rome. At some moment Romans stopped to have children and they got replaced by the barbarians.
Actually no, quite the opposite
Born Again Adults - 27%
All other adults - 24%
Non-denominational Protestant - 34%
Jews - 30%
Baptist - 29%
Mormons - 24%
Catholics - 21%
Lutherans - 21%
From the children of current friends and co-workers, from my memories of college classmates, from children who I used to know when I coached gymnastics, and from the revolving cast of college students to whom I've been renting rooms for the past 15 years. Not all children are miserable when the parent they live with acquires a new significant other. Some are quite happy about it. And a few end up being even closer to the new significant other and/or step-parent, than to either of their own parents. You may regard my position as cheerleading for non-traditional family structures, but I can just as reasonably regard yours as cheerleading for the failure of any alternative family structures. If children and adults are constantly bombarded with the message that they're supposed to be miserable if they don't live in a married-forever-with-children family, they're a lot more likely to be miserable, than if they weren't getting bombarded with that negative message.
Actually, they got replaced by Christians, who did not practice female infanticide.
It's already here.
My 8 year old is in public school because I cannot afford private school on my budget.
My 3 year old is taken care of by my mother.
I am not signed up with any kind of government assistance - something I pride myself on.
So you place your condescending commentary where the sun don't shine, doll.
For women, early 20s are biologically the best time for having children. Men are a different story, though.
Ok, I'll bite. What do you think is a better arrangement?
You go, girl!
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