The Post-Modern Family Values: Open Blog Entry

12 September 2009

It's pledge week on KALW, our host station.  And we're doing a live pledge show that will only be heard on that station and not on our affiliates  around the country.  But if you'd like to tune it, you can do so at 10am PST time, on KALW's Website  where the show is streamed live.   Join the conversation.   Of course, even if you can't hear a broadcast version of the show,  we will eventually put the streaming version up on our own  website, from which you can also purchase an downloadable version.

A couple of weeks ago, I started an open blog entry on pornography, so I thought I'd do the same for the Post-Modern Family.  Our guest today will be sociologist, Michael Rosenfeld, author of a The Age of Independence: Interracial Unions, Same-Sex Unions and the Changing American Family.   I've only read a bit of it,  but what I have read is fascinating.   He argues that increase in  same sex and interracial unions in America is due largely to the occurrence of a relatively new "life-stage"  -- the age of independence, he calls it -- during which young adults are single, co-mingled with one another in colleges, universities, and the work-force,  and, most importantly,  mostly free of their parents.   That's because more and more people go off to college in young adulthood, and go into the workforce at an age when earlier generations of their age cohort were living with or near their parents.  That gave earlier generations of parents more influence over their offsprings mate choices.   But that's been lost with the gradual rise of the age of independence as a distinctive life stage.    

As a sociological, demographic thesis this strikes me as extremely plausible and I doubt either John or I will challenge  Michael on that score.  But my question is what does this mean about the role of the family in society.   One used to think of a family as one of the primary means of transmitting values from generation to generation.   One might have thought, in fact, that that is one of the primary things that family is for.  Of course, it has other functions -- providing for its members daily material and psychological needs prime among them.   It also inculcates a system of binding ties between the old and the young such that the old care for the young in their age of dependency in such a way that the young feel permanently bound to the old and out of love and affection, more than mere "duty"  return the favor when the old are very old.    Families also traditionally provided central ingredients of our self-narratives -- the narratives in the telling of which we constitute ourselves thick identities, as particular people, with particular life stories. 

But can a family structure  which so radically weakens the normative ties between generations really do that identity constituting, value transmitting,  generation binding work? 

That's one of the questions I'd like to discuss with MIchael on the air.  

We'd love to have your input.    Leave a comment on this blog or call in or send us an e-mail.  

 

gotta run.

Comments (28)


Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, September 12, 2009 -- 5:00 PM

I'd like to know what Professor Rosenfeld would sa

I'd like to know what Professor Rosenfeld would say about the claims of some "pro-family" advocates like Maggie Gallagher, who claim that relationships that don't produce biological children are of less value to society than relationships based on other things, like mutual care, commitment, companionship, etc. Some seem to think that we should not reward couples who don't produce biological children, which is something our society needs.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, January 25, 2010 -- 4:00 PM

I see lots of history of philosophy. How about a

I see lots of history of philosophy. How about a section on philosophy of history, the topic of my dissertation? How do I do that? Please advise.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 -- 4:00 PM

Some seem to think that we should not reward coupl

Some seem to think that we should not reward couples who don't produce biological children, which is something our society needs.

Rachel's picture

Rachel

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 -- 4:00 PM

Obviously, I am a few months behind on my PT liste

Obviously, I am a few months behind on my PT listening but I want to comment on this show because it failed to question matrimanical assumptions. With a divorce rate of close to 50% it seems rather ridiculous to claim that marriage is a different kind of commitment than cohabiting couples who have been together for a long time. In the U.S., a couple who has been married for a day gets more benefits than a couple who has been living together for decades, forcing many such couples to get married (assuming they are legally allowed to) simply to obtain health insurance, for example. Claiming that getting married has some sort of magical benefit seems rather, uhm, unphilosophical (sorry, Hegel!).
Using marriage to decide who gets rights & benefits and who doesn't is a rather unique thing for the US. If we were truly interested in valuing all families, we would start making benefits available based on need rather than based on license (see Nancy Polikoff's "Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage" for legal arguments on how to value all families, including those of single adults).
Also, the idea that family is an ideal way of taking care of each other flies in the face of the experience of people who are sandwiched between young kids and aging parents. Given the increasing live expectancy, we need to develop new models of caring that spread out the responsibility. It is not fair to expect a person to take care for someone with Alzheimer's, for example, simply because she/he has been married to this person!
Finally, the "traditional family" never really existed, except for a short period of time during the 1950s. I gathered from the interview that Michael Rosenfeld did not look back much further than the 1940s. That time, as Stephanie Coontz & others have documented, is historically a rather anomalous time. Age at marriage, which was one of the indicators Rosenfeld used, was extremely low then, even compared to earlier times (like the 1920s, for example). (One of Coontz' book actually has the title that the judge used in the philosophical reporter's segment: "The Way we Never Were").
I am hoping for more critical thinking during a future segment of the family that questions the role of marriage in society rather than promotes it.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, March 8, 2010 -- 4:00 PM

Post-modernism, by no means simple to define, is c

Post-modernism, by no means simple to define, is characterized by a "close reading" of small units rather than general theorizing about big ideas. The postmodern tends towards elaboration, eclecticism, ornamentation, and inclusiveness; it dismisses the existence of an absolute reality and is deeply suspicious of the concept of human progress (Doherty 1991). If we define the current ongoing effort to remake contemporary family life as the post-modern family, such a definition carries with it overtones from the definition of postmodern art and literature. In these fields the term post-modern signals the end of a familiar pattern of activity and emergence of new areas of endeavour whose activities are unclear and whose meanings and implications are not yet well understood. Thus, the post-modern is characterized by uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt (Stacey 1990).

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, March 8, 2010 -- 4:00 PM

This is so true: noone listens to their parents an

This is so true: noone listens to their parents anymore. At least, not in this part of the world. And if parents are trying to influence their children, most of the time it causes the oppsit effect: rebelling and doing the opposite from parents' advise. I even suspect that some people change their sexual orientation to piss their parents...

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, March 20, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I think that we should find the some different way

I think that we should find the some different way that helps the society.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

So some seem to think that we should not reward co

So some seem to think that we should not reward couples who don't produce biological children, which is something our society needs.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, July 23, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

Rachel...I don't think it's so easy to minimize wh

Rachel...I don't think it's so easy to minimize what the word "family" means.
You talk about the divorce rate being 50% as being one of the reasons for your view here, but if people would decide to place children first and civility next...divorcing either with mediation or through a collaborative divorce would keep the children in tact, because of the use of a divorce coach or some other neutral party.
This is one way a family can retain some meaning.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, July 23, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

It has more to do with the values that are taught

It has more to do with the values that are taught in the home at a young age, then the living arrangements in early adulthood.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, July 26, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

Our main problem is that we have become a TOO mate

Our main problem is that we have become a TOO materialistic society. The younger generation leave our nest in pursuit of career and success. Many times they move and live far from their hometown. This geographical distance also creates disconnection and disintegration of the traditional family unit..

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

Thank you for this post Ken! Michael Rosenfeld app

Thank you for this post Ken! Michael Rosenfeld approach is very interesting. I see the same trend here in Germany!

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

Good to see people still thinking, and not just si

Good to see people still thinking, and not just sitting back.
But the problem is not the rate of divorce but the pressure placed on our kids to think they must marry and at a young age.
We have children who think getting married young is a good thing, and we keep pressuring them into getting married before having sex.
I dont know you but long before I became an adult I lived at home
And I was always told that I have to get married before having sex. And being young thats all that was on my mind.
So we have to teach are children better,

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

Not only are young people more open minded to inte

Not only are young people more open minded to interracial mixing, but the increase in mixing after college days flows back to the parent's generation once they actually get to know their grown up child's friends and partner from another race, as opposed to just assuming things about them from racial preconceptions.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

When it comes to family values and family structur

When it comes to family values and family structure, things are definitely going downhill at a rapid pace. This appears to be directly related to this independent, selfish, ?me, me, me? mentality that so permeates our society today. Many young people today are extremely self-centered and have no concept of respect for authority and what is truly right and wrong?even grown adults fall into this category. If something drastic does not happen soon to inspire people to desire close family ties and bonds again, our society is just going to fall apart.

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

It does seem as though children these days are far

It does seem as though children these days are far more disobedient than in the past. But one problem is that the laws are so strict now on how you can discipline your child that parents are to afraid to do anything.

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I believe some people need to start taking more re

I believe some people need to start taking more responsibility and depend less on the Government. Here's a real situation that happened the other day. My neighbor and I were talking and he mentioned he recently had knee surgery. He was walking around just fine, however he said he was in the process of suing his surgeon. Long story short - He was given instructions regarding post opp and apparently he didn't listen very well and hurt his knee again playing Basketball, which he was not supposed to be doing any running. Anyway, he tore another ligament and when it came to see the surgeon again, the surgeon who previously operated on him refused to see him and referred him to another specialist. Anyway, he is suing the surgeon for refusing to see him.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, July 29, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I think this so called "the age of independence" a

I think this so called "the age of independence" always existed to be honest, maybe in a secretive fashion, but always there under the societal norms.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, July 30, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I'd like to say that even in the age of independen

I'd like to say that even in the age of independence family is still the basic foundation of a human being. Although we are more of the materialistic era,we inculcate in our minds that family is still family. No matter how independent you may think you'll be, you'll always belong to a family that nevertheless guided you in anyway possible. I believe that in this post modern there still is a classical family ties that binds us. We grow not only because of how we adapt with our environment but also because of how we were raised and how we progress as individuals.

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, July 31, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

The lack of social interaction in the present day

The lack of social interaction in the present day world has resulted in attachment even between the parents and their siblings. In that case there is no question of parents having a saying over their offspring's mate choices. From dating to marriage the younger generation goes on their own way without any respect to the older generation.

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, July 31, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I think a few of the comments hit on the real caus

I think a few of the comments hit on the real cause of the decline in the family or at least in the decline in the importance of the family. I think 2 major contributors to this are the "ME" attitude that has arisen and in the dependence in the Government to provide the things the family use to provide.
If we remember back to the 1850's to 1900's, the family was the backbone of this county. The government didn't provide all of the benefits or care for people that it does today. In order for people to survive they needed to rely on the Family for support. They also didn't have the transportation available we have today and that meant staying close to home. That prevented people from mixing and that lead to discrimination of various degrees.
As time has passed, the Government, at our request, has taken over the responsibility for caring for us in a variety of Social benefit programs, Laws to protect women and children,Civil Rights, etc. In addition transportation has improved so we can be on the other side of the world in hours. As we have become more dependent on the Government and can travel farther, we have had less need for the family structure. Laws have been passed that prevent you from physically disciplining our kids, so kids become more independent in their attitudes, because there are not consequences of misbehaving or listening to mom or dad.
I don't think interracial marriage will have a negative impact of the Family. The people in the relationship still have the choice to make the family strong. Same-Sex-Marriage will affect the Family if the Family rejects the idea of this type of marriage.
In summary, the age of rapid transportation, the dependence on Government, the role of government to protect us from each other (including telling us how to raise our kids), the growth of the independent and 'ME' driven individual, are the major causes of the decline in family and I see it getting worse. Several of the comments above talked about getting government to provide more care for our elderly so they don't have to be burdened with them. That tells me the Family will get to be less important.

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, July 31, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I think technology is playing a role in widening t

I think technology is playing a role in widening the gap between the current generation and their parents. As we all know, younger people are generally better with computers and such. I learn things from my friend's 8 year old about the internet and I make my living on the internet...very humbling.
As such, the wisdom which comes with life experience seems to be of less importance than Twitter and Facebook to this younger generation.

Guest's picture

Guest

Sunday, August 1, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

In my point of view, it has to do more with the ed

In my point of view, it has to do more with the education of the parents themselves, but ALSO, with the school... Personnally, my parents put into my mind, from the early stages, that the family is something that you can't mess with. I DO care about the family, and I WILL teach the sames values to my future children....
Sincerely your.

Guest's picture

Guest

Sunday, August 1, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I think you will find that every generation bemoan

I think you will find that every generation bemoans the loss of values of the next. Has been going on since Roman times and likely before.
Like language, society evolves inever newer directions. Get used to it.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, August 2, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I think the role of the family is still intact. To

I think the role of the family is still intact. To instill what is right from wrong. However I feel like people have always over stepped this boundary. Sexual identity is not for your parents to decide, it's your decision, period. Perhaps maybe I only realize this because it was something my parents instilled in me. I do not like to think of it in this way however, because really the choice is mine.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

Another problem only touched upon here is the incr

Another problem only touched upon here is the increasing feeling of resentment felt by the childless (both single and married) about the increasingly large amounts invested in the next generation, when they have no actual stake in this themselves. I myself have tried the "who's going to pay the taxes to keep you in your old age?" argument, but it does seem to convince! Also, many members of childless couples see themselves as working harder than those with children as they never take time off work for "emergencies" either real or perceived! Thanks for the interesting post and coments. O

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, August 5, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

While we have maintained a strong family unit with

While we have maintained a strong family unit within our own mixed race family I can see the deterioration in family values everywhere. Parents are to busy trying to make ends meet and so have little time to spend with their children and instill in them strong family values and a sense of right and wrong.
Schools are bereft of discipline for fear of litigation and if there is no discipline at home there is little wonder that this new generation lacks discipline, social skills, family values and a sense of right and wrong.

Guest's picture

Guest

Sunday, August 8, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I think that the thesis is spot on. With the major

I think that the thesis is spot on. With the majority of young adults going to colleges away from their immediate families, they are supplementing the advice/guidance they would normally receive from their parents on a daily basis with the "families" they build on/off campus. This can be a good and bad thing depending on who is talking, but in my personal opinion, it is not a good thing. I am not saying we should keep children penned in at home behind the iron curtain of mother's skirt, but I definitely am for parents having a more active role in their childrens' lives, not only while they are away at college, but always.

 
 
 

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