The Family in Post Modern Times
Is the family falling apart? Just looking around, “till death do us part” seems to mean “as long as I am happy”. Consequently, it appears that more couples choose to end a marriage that fails to live up to their expectations. According to Avery Corman (2006), author of Kramer Vs. Kramer, some do not try as much as they should, claiming that some marriages that ended in divorce are not so dysfunctional that they could have been saved.
As parents pay less and less attention to children, the crime rate among young people has gone up, along with a host of other problem behaviors including smoking and drinking, pre-marital sex, teen suicide, to name a few. As a matter of fact, AYHP (2003) stated that estimates of induced abortions among adolescents reached 319,000 in 2000 and could approximate 400,000 by 2015. Moreover, especially in regions south of the country, south of the Metro Manila area, many informants of the AYHP study spoke of drug use (especially Nobain, shabu, and glue-sniffing, known in local slang as “rugby”) and prostitution as common problems among young people.
Has the family’s importance been eroded during this post-modern time? It seems with the modern age, we are losing our connection to the importance of a close family and community for support. Between deadlines and schedules, competition in the workplace and the devaluation of parenthood, the demand for modern life leave little time of energy for developing intimate relationships with our partners, children or friends. The quest for greater individual choice looks as if it clashes directly with the obligations and social norms that held families and communities together in earlier years. People come to feel that questions of how to live and with whom to live as a matter of individual choice not to be governed by restrictive norms that traditionally were dictated by culture. Commitments have loosened.
Giddens (1999) examines these fundamental changes related to globalization that have brought pressure to the traditional family. For him, these change resulted from “the separation of sexuality from reproduction.” This contributed to the transformation of marriage and the family into “shell institutions.” They look the same on the outside but they now are separated from economic imperatives or extended family customs.
Giddens (1999) likewise coined the term “coupledom” to characterize the basic change in these shell institutions. Coupledom arose as economic motives declined and inequalities diminished. To have a “stable relationship” based on emotional communication and intimacy became the defining goal. Giddens (1999) analyzed the effects of these changes in (a) sexual and love relationships, (b) parent-child relationships, (c) and friendships. He showed optimism in all three, as he tried to establish a promising comparison between the openness and honesty of personal relationships at present (“democracy of the emotions”), on one hand, and democratic societies on the other hand.
He concludes that the traditional family is a counterproductive force as a global civil society struggles to be born. It resists the forces of personal freedom and the related forces of political democratization, which he believes are desirable outgrowths of globalization.
Following Giddens’ (1999) optimism, could it be that there simply are more types of relationships among individuals now so that it is wrong to view the family using only the traditional description, that it has to be composed of a married couple who, at some point in their lives raise children? Or that, having a family is a moral statement because once a person gets married, that person has to stay married? Moreover, is it really an imperative that children be placed ahead of careers and families must always have two parents?
Perhaps the changes that the family is undergoing is caused not only by the changes in lifestyle, the increase in independence and mobility of individuals, but also by the development of new types of relationships among these individuals. It is clear that some people at the moment are linked together by common economic targets, by shared social and cultural ideals, by mutual ideas, desires, aims and principles, rather than by blood relations. The postmodern perspective calls for an acceptance of this reality of diversity of family models. If we enumerate the different kinds of families that people have at present, there would certainly be lots. Some of which are: “lesbigay” families which may be composed of several co-parents and their children, “divorce-extended” families which include spouses, ex-spouses, new spouses, and all of these spouses children, and “transnational” families with members living in different countries, even different continents. They may be also composed of couples from different cultures, races, and/or nations, single-parents and their children, co-habitating couples with or without children, and many other configurations. These arrangements work for them, thus, who’s to say that the traditional family where there are parents and their children is the only kind that could be successful?
Filed under: Language and Literature
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