IntroductionIronically, and while American society continues to emphasize the importance of the family unit to the nation’s well-being, a number of realities are in fact creating threats to such units. Increased mobility, younger generations demanding autonomy at earlier ages, and failures of the government to promote the family’s interest and cohesion are among these issues. The following then presents a perspective on the future of the American family, as well as recommendations to the U.S. government regarding its potentials in supporting the subject.
To begin with, the concept of the American family as a model of suburban prosperity, and composed of the nuclear unit of mother, father, and several children is likely illusory. Certainly, such families existed and exist today, but the greater reality is that recent decades have seen an erosion of basic values, as well as external factors greatly challenging stability. For example, and importantly, there is the matter of older generations. As people live longer, it happens that grandparents require care and this places strains on the family, both psychologically and financially. In a very real sense, Americans have little experience in addressing the needs of the very elderly relations. Then, the current administration’s efforts to cut Medicare and Medicaid create further dilemmas, and the family home may well be the only answer in the future.
Then, there is the matter of children. If they do not exactly mature more quickly than did previous generations, the more critical point is that, and largely through the effects of media and the Internet, they believe they do and act accordingly. They may not be overtly defiant but there is an increased insistence on autonomy, which reflects complex social and cultural realities. Moreover, another issue threatening the family in the future is the attraction to urban arenas as encouraging young people to leave home and community. This is not a new development, but the fact is that distance between family member defines many families today and this will likely increase in the future. The social and economic come into play here, certainly. Nonetheless, these shifts mentioned all go to the erosion of the family unit in the nation, and should be addressed. To that end, the government should, first and foremost, ensure that elderly family members have the option of assisted care. This is an ethical imperative, if strain on the family is to be curbed. Then, the government should work to encourage expansion of commercial opportunities not based in the major cities. The nation is in fact become divided as the urban and the suburban, or even rural, grow farther apart. Lastly, and going to parental authority, the government must interfere only when there is strong evidence that the parents are acting badly. Today, the parent scolding their child in public may well be reported to child services, and the government must take steps to ease, at least legally, this mode of undue interference with parental rights.
The idea that the American family was “perfect” in the past is of course invalid. At the same time, changes have occurred creating more likely erosion of the family in the future. Some of these changes are removed from any governmental actions or potential forms of address. It is absurd, for example, to expect the government to police the Internet activity so common in young people and lessening their involvement with their families. At the same time, there are authority measures, such as maintaining health and care benefits for elderly family members and allowing parents to exercise their rights as parents, which the government is ethically bound to take. These recommendations must be at least considered, if the society is to work for the well-being of the American family.