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10-08-2015, 23:37

The Family

The reasons advanced to explain this paradox vary widely. Some observers place the responsibility for many contemporary social problems on the decline of the traditional family system. The statistics are indeed disquieting. There has been a steady rise in the percentage of illegitimate births and single-parent families in countries throughout the Western world. In the United States, approximately half of all marriages will end in divorce. Even in two-parent families, more and more parents work full time, thus leaving the children to fend for themselves on their return from school. Observers point to several factors as an explanation for these conditions: the growing emphasis in advanced capitalist states on an individualistic lifestyle devoted to instant gratification—a phenomenon that is promoted vigorously by the advertising media; the rise of the feminist movement, which has freed women from the servitude imposed on their predecessors, but at the expense of removing them from full-time responsibility for the care and nurturing of the next generation; and the increasing mobility of contemporary life, which disrupts traditional family ties and creates a sense of rootlessness and impersonality in the individual’s relationship to the surrounding environment. What is worth noting here is that to one degree or another, the traditional nuclear family is under attack in societies around the world, not just in the West. Even in East Asia, where the Confucian tradition of filial piety and family solidarity has been endlessly touted as a major factor in the region’s economic success, the incidence of divorce and illegitimate births is on the rise, as is the percentage of women in the workforce. Older citizens frequently complain that the Asian youth of today are too materialistic, faddish, and steeped in the individualistic values of the West. Such criticisms are now voiced in mainland China as well as in the capitalist societies around its perimeter. Public opinion surveys suggest that some of the generational differences in Asian societies are only skin deep. When queried about their views, most young Asians express support for the same conservative values of family, hard work, and care for the elderly as their parents. Still, the evidence suggests that the trend away from the traditional family is a worldwide phenomenon.