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im boo
  • im boo
  • Buffalo, WY
  • United States

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What do you believe are the most significant reasons American families are disintegrating and how can we improve this situation?

People leave their birthplaces due to many reasons -- to obtain employment or to pursue a new career, to join the military, to change climates, due to divorce, and more. With internet and cell phone use, families try to stay connected. However, not everyone can afford to fly back often to the families they left behind. How can we retain and improve relationships with our families when everyone is spread apart in various states? What is the answer?

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  • Nov 4 2013: I disagree that American families are disintegrating. What do you mean by family? Of course some people leave their birthplace, they always have, and at different times and for different reasons in different places that movement has accelerated or declined.
    The family consisting of two parents and their natural children has never been the majority of families; in fact, it has always been a significantly small percentage. But families of all kinds continue to thrive, especially as we add more possibilities for the composition of families.
    The question of how we can improve relationships within our families is as old as human society. What are your expectations? What do you desire from family? What skills have you learned for seeking out and creating your own family? Not every family is going to be the same, interact in the same ways, serve exactly the same needs. Distance itself is becoming less of a problem as emotional/psychological distance becomes easier to maintain despite physical distance, but strong families have always found ways to stay in touch and stay connected and stay close. The problems posed today are certainly no more egregious than those faced by our ancestors, who often left everything behind in remote European (for example) communities in order to come here; or for the families of those who set sail in the age of the great sailing ships, or travelled the wilderness during the years of western exploration for months at a time, leaving family behind, often without the ability to communicate at all.
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      im boo

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      Nov 5 2013: Perhaps “disintegrating” was not the right description of what I was trying to describe. Perhaps I’m expecting too much in that I’ve found when family members are spread out in several states, and everyone is so “busy”, that the emotional bonds seem to not be as solid as they were growing up in the same house.
      I know one family – the main way they communicate is by texting on their cell phones – they rarely call each other – very little verbal communication.
      I moved back to my home town some years ago, and found everyone so “busy”, that after I moved away, I actually hear more from them now than when I lived in the same town!
      Family meaning the parent/s and their children – the core family members. I disagree with your saying that a family consisting of 2 parents and their natural children has always been a significantly small percentage – at least in the United States. Before the trend of divorce becoming commonplace, the majority of families in America stayed closer together, often in the same town.
      • Nov 5 2013: You raise two different questions here. One has to do with family distance, but the problem seems to be one of emotional distance rather than physical. You say that you had more frequent communication after you moved away. That actually makes sense. Sometimes when something is relatively easy, we don't think about it, so it never gets done. But when it becomes more difficult, we are more apt to make the effort.
        The other has to do with disintegration of the family unit, which can also happen even without creating great physical distance. You may be pleased to discover that divorce rates actually stabilized around 4.9 per 1000 population from 1975 to 1996. Since 1996 the rate have actually been declining, with the rate of divorce in 2009 equal to that of 1970.
        Some of that has to do with the number of actual marriages, of course; with the highest rate of divorce occurring at times of highest marriage rates, but the decline in divorces is greater than the decline in marriages. Also, the statistics often do not distinguish between first and subsequent marriages. The divorce rate for first marriages is less than 2/3 that for second marriages, for instance.
        I was thinking only of the strict "nuclear family," which is two married people and their natural children. However, most statistics only refer to married, unmarried, with or without children, and "other." Within that categorization, the number of that type of family in the general population is higher, but still not a majority. The percentage peaked in the U.S. in the 1940's at about 45%. By 2010, the percentage was around 20%. Lots of factors here. A growth in the types of accepted family structures is a big one, but the decline in "traditional" families is not the same as a decline in the number of families if we allow people to define family according to things like love and intimacy.
        Communication remains a problem for everyone, of course, in all our relationships.
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          Nov 5 2013: Thank you for bringing data into the discussion to throw better light on the underlying assumptions.
  • Nov 4 2013: Stay connected-write, call, Skype, and stay involved with each other. Remember birthdays, strive to get together when you are able and share in the triumphs and tragedies of each others lives. Use modern technology to remove the distances.

    Genealogy is a neat way to stay connected. Collect pictures, family lore, special dates and events, talk to older family members and learn family history. Record it, share it with other family members, and try to put the puzzle together as a group. There are many neat new digital tools and databases that can be consulted to assist in the search. The stories and lessons learned are a common thread that almost everyone likes to know. Share the knowledge with the next generation. Prepare it so that it when they ask the questions, you have the answers prepared in a way that makes the story interesting for them to hear, and want to hear more.
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      Nov 4 2013: Indeed, innovations in long distance communication over even the last half century make it SO much easier to stay in good touch with dispersed relatives than it was in the mid-twentieth century.
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      im boo

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      Nov 4 2013: Thank you for your Insightful Reply, Robert!
  • Nov 8 2013: One of the things that is hurting the American family is the 7x24 work schedule due to cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc.
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    Nov 7 2013: ;)
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    Nov 7 2013: The cause of this spreading is our western tendency to put more importance on the individual in my opinion. It atomizes our society. We don't take care of our elders anymore (in a direct way). We don't stand up together to face our government anymore. The importance shifted from family to me. From community to I. We want to fly around the world, but stay in that comfortzone called family at the same time...

    But now it has come that far, so we have to deal with it, I think we should utilize our technology in a positive way; skype is already closer to a face to face situation then sending a telegram every month or so ;). But it's still distant and 'cold'.
    So maybe the feeling of belonging can be accomplished by focussing also on your community. With globalisation we might realise that indeed we are a global family. And we can feed that primoral feeling of belonging by enjoying the interaction with the community around us instead of just focussing on the classic idea of family (we all embrace the freedom of the individual, but at the same time longing for being physically close to your family.) Ofcourse don't deny contact with your long distance relatives, but try to find that balance and be happy with the choices you make, make connections and share love with your neighbours.

    Better to have a good neighbour then a distant friend right?
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      im boo

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      Nov 7 2013: I think you're right, Mike.
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    im boo

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    Nov 7 2013: HI,
    To "resolve to not introduce my ego" -- thats an interesting perspective.
    I don't know if such a mental exercise would be enough though.
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    Nov 7 2013: .

    It is invalid (harmful) happiness.
  • Nov 6 2013: Humans were designed to live in tribes/ clans on other words large extended families. Now in the past 50 years it has all changed. With small isolated families the kids are reared to feel that the world revolves around them. They are chasing happiness like a puppy chasing a laser pointer dot. In prior centuries there was little time for chasing happiness and people felt part of a larger unit. There was good and bad in that way of life but we now are ill-equipped to deal with the changes that modern life brings.
    What might help is less time on the net and more face to face time.
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      im boo

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      Nov 6 2013: Thanks Rudera for your insightful comment. So true!
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    Nov 6 2013: we live in a culture of excess...look at those stores bursting with stuff...and because there is so much..we have unemployment..no one needs the worker..therefore we have hardship.stress.That is our society...However in other regions the family catches a meal for the day a few hours of work for meat...longer for wheat like products..and spends the rest of the day together waiting for the food....somewhere in between would be my preferred life. Building a better family in a capitalistic race will be hard because sales works works from an idea of you are not enough..where the force of a family resides in each person making the other feel relevant....so these are actually competing models...Because I have an unusual family...I study other ways families bond...over what?All I can really add is that our current state of stress is manufactured by a system that does not have its heart pulling for the family...and it is important to be able to deconstruct a good social myth if you care at all to develop ways to improve it
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      im boo

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      Nov 6 2013: I hear you Carolyn on the materialism aspect & unemployment factor.
      I get overwhelmed when going to buy something and there are 100 different varieties of a product to choose from.
      Like your comment "where the force of a family resides in each person making the other feel relevant" and contrasting that with the capitalistic aspect.
      To make another feel relevant is perhaps the crux of what I was asking in my original question -- it is so important.
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        Nov 7 2013: ok..now i have an idea...family are the event in which we have the greatest opportunity to feel relevant...memories,foodlikes,religion.dislikes...if you are blessed you are similar on issues that wont restrict your growth..and of course I could even see the attraction of being embedded in this. SO this would be my technique if I yearned for something I was as of yet unable to do....I would simulate an event..E.G. I would think in my mind ..what would my family do..and then behave in a way that I felt would please them...I do this with my brothers memory who ended his life 3 yrs ago...This action yields a sense of re evoking of what was my memory of my brother and if I resolve to not introduce my ego...It is pleasing...If my ego appears...I am sad and discontent that reality fails to yield to desire. Its not the supreme best idea...but I am sure many people do this ritual quietly...regardless of logic
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    Nov 5 2013: It is not just American problem, this problem is much more wider.

    Mostly, running for career, for possibility to go somewhere where they have chance to prosper, more then at home. That is the main reason families split up. But whole that running career stuff is for making good conditions for your family, right?

    So, I see some possibility in technology, to solve this problem partially, by social networks,skype etc. But, obviously, that can not replace human live touch. It can make easier informing between family members, and stay in touch. I mean that only human direct touch between each other can make this problem less dramatic, so, whatever you do, you have to find the way to see your family members.

    In fact, you are working that hard for you and your family, so why you can't afford to see them?
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      im boo

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      Nov 5 2013: Hello Jelena, Thanks for your reply. I live where I found work and must survive to support myself. Whenever I went back to my hometown, the work prospects were dim. Yes no electronic communication replaces a physical hug, to hold a hand, to kiss a cheek, etc. On my salary, I save and can afford to visit every 3 years.
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        Nov 5 2013: I'm so sad to hear this. It is obviously the same problem in whole world. I thought about problem in general.

        I also have problem to find the job (although I graduated, and had high scores). If I go out of my town, I will give whole my salary for place to live. If I stay home,in depressed town, full of disappointed people around, I'll become one of them.I'm still in the transition, and you have "emergency situation"..

        I think it would be helpfully for you, to tell you alternative ways to earn more money (besides the salary) so you'll find the possibility to make this family distance more milder. For example "at home" working projects, free lance, translation, handmade accessories. Also, you can ear, you can have fun too. Good luck with that, I hope you will see them soon ;)
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    im boo

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    Nov 4 2013: Thank you Shahzad, for sharing your thoughts on this.
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    Nov 4 2013: I am not from America from disintegration of family life is not just an american phenomenon but is becoming common in every "urbanizing", "modernizing" and "developing" cities. One reason I believe is the changing values and a culture of instant gratification.
  • Nov 4 2013: Look at the ccollapse of wage structure an employment in America and other places. Too many people.
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    Nov 4 2013: If you do not spend time with your kids when they are young, share with them, show them how stuff works, hug them and always feed them fresh fruit and vegetables, then don't expect them to suddenly start sharing with you when they get older, they won't. There is more to parenting than giving them a list of things to do and then watching TV or Facebook! In fact for starters, take the TV apart and document it as you go, then see if they can put it back together again. It will be a wonderful project for the whole family and I guarantee they will all learn something and you will have no problem keeping their attention. If it works, next try the car.