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
ping to self.
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
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Ahh, liberal philosophy at work destroying civilization.
Those from a generation who's parents had such a high divorce rate are cynical about marriage. Who wants to tie the not when she will leave you in 5-10 years and take all your money?
Not all of us are going to make the same mistakes are parents made. Many of us seen first hand how divoce destroys lives.
I am glad I have not made those same mistakes.
This is just a natural change in society. With technological and economic progress, people want different things from their living and family arrangements than they used to. Those who are constantly wailing about how awful it is that the "nuclear family" is increasingly scarce, are conveniently forgetting that most of the people who are now choosing NOT to participate in such arrangements, did grow up in a "nuclear family" household. It must not have been nearly as wonderful as its cheerleaders claim, or more young adults would have fond memories of living in such families, and want to form similar ones. They certainly aren't making their choices out of ignorance of what "nuclear family" life is like.
A lot of people have also seen first hand how marriage can destroy lives, and are determined not to make that mistake.
The leading cause of divorce is marriage.
The name of that "natural change" is "death". Not many children, and the children there are will be raised without fathers. Plenty of evidence that fatherless kids end up with all sorts of issues not conducive to civilized behavior.
You want to see the ultimate result of that "natural change"? Look at New Orleans when the lights went out.
WOW! I have never heard of a marriage destroying a life. It has been my experience that the person did not pick their life partner very well and ended up in a mess.
I am sure there are exceptions to that rule....
Another example of why I love FR....always a witty, funny remark to be had....:)
Marriage never destroys lives. Selfishness and sin do that.
The change is natural, it is called the death of Western Civilization. Not by the sword, but by suicide. We in the west have simply decided not to continue on beyond ourselves. Most have become so short sighted that raising the next generation is viewed as a threat.
So revile in the past, and realize that the future has been aborted.
a) The Muslims are having a lot of babies
b) The Social Security ponzi schemes
This wouldn't necessary be a bad thing. There's already too many people on this planet.
Huge numbers of those kids grew up in broken homes, have come not to trust relationships. It's not a natural shift, although it's happened in the past, too, especially near the end of the Roman empire when it became really a pain to try to raise a family because of the economic strictures the later emperors put on economic development...it's a shift away from the future, spawned not by the Xers, and not started by the boomers, although they were involved in it, but by a self-indulgent meme that perculated through a lot of the 20th century that decided a person's right to self-fulfillment meant that they could dump on the backs of their kids, leaving their kids in precarious situations.
Societies with weak family structures and no kids tend to crash when crisis time comes. The future will see if this paradigm holds true this time around.
I think you nailed it.
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