About the changing world all around us

Why is the family changing?

Families are en essential part of our everyday life, our development, our self image, our values and our social support. We all need people we can rely on and that we some how know won’t just walk away when things get tough.

In my last post I have written about the changing structure and form of modern families. Now I would like to take up why the modern family is going through change. In my studies at Oslo College University we are learning about the modern family. There are four major reasons the family, especially in the west, is going through change:


Urbanisation: Most of western societies and many of eastern societies have gone from a farm and natural resources based economy to an industrial, and later service based economy. This means that people often leave villages they have lived in for generations and move to cities, or even other countries to find work and a better way of life. This breaks generational family ties and makes our support network more fragmented.

Changing roll of women: Women have ventured more and more out into the workforce of the last 50 years. Women being more independent and self reliant, higher educated and career oriented is without a doubt a positive thing. But it tends to increase the divorce rate and the amount of cohabitating couples, and women choose to wait until later in life to have children and have fewer of them.

Mother and child

Mobility and time press: The newest trend is families that don’t live together full time. An increasing number of younger couples are for example living separately during the work week to accommodate careers and live in the same home only on the weekends, or periodically.

Individualisation: Along with the growth of capitalism often comes a more individualized society. People in western societies are more reflected than earlier generations, we are more interested in self development, personal gain and success and our personal interests then before. 50 to 100 years ago people had to think more collectively to survive without social benefits, pension, health services, and many of the other benefits of modern society – today we live more of our life alone and think more over our individual needs, often at the expense of the collective good.

Local support networks are being weekend and families are spread out across the globe, like mine….this often makes our cultural traditions and religious codes less important when we are away from our local communities watchful eye. Do you recognise your family in some of these descriptions? Is the modern freedom of living an advantage or are there hidden costs? What do you think? Please post your thoughts for others to share!


Comments on: "Why is the family changing?" (7)

  1. I do think that the role of the woman in the family is changing greatly. As I was growing up, my mother stayed home and did not work outside of the home. On the other hand, I have worked outside of the home since my son began kindergarten.

    Also, our extended family all lived close by. Now we are spread across thousands of miles and have to virtually connect.

    DianeCA There is a huge change just in the last generation. My mom also was at home at least while we were small and we had a lot of contact with our extended family.

  2. I agree that the idea of family has a great impact on the role of women. As my extended family is far away, I felt the need to change jobs and eventually stop working so that I would be available for my two small children. Yet at times, I am frustrated that I worked so hard for my degrees only to put them aside. Also I am concerned that I am not financially contributing to the family. On the other hand, I recognize that I am fortunate to be able to take this time with my children and that very few people have this option. Although there are more choices for working parents, not all industries have embraced these changes. Currently my choices are driven by my young family.

    DianeCA I also made choices to be a Mom while my children were little and needed me most. That’s why at the perfect age of 41 I am enjoying a new round of education 🙂 Thank you for a good example of the role conflict which exists in modern western society. The role of traditional mother and caregiver comes in constant conflict with modern expectations of a career and contributing financially. The good news is you still have time when the kiddies get bigger!

  3. As an Asian, we have our own set of values and family is very important to us. Although the younger generation has changed in their perception of family values, the older generation are trying very hard to preserve it. Call me old fashioned, I insist that my son follow the traditions laid down by our ancestors and to always put family before everything else.

    Here in Singapore, we have 4 or even 5 generations living under one roof!! In my house, there are 3 generations.

    DianeCA There are a lot of benefits to several generations living in the same household. The older generation is protected from some of the difficulties of aging when they have help of family members available, and long before they get very sick. The young have the benefit of more adult role models and help in child rearing and care. Thank you for your participation, a very good example of a multi generation tradition.

  4. My daughter spent 6 years with a man who expected her to support him. They never did marry and I was glad, but in the time she spent with him she began to feel that she was happier alone, with her career. Now time has passed and she is alone and lonely. Yes, she is well admired in her job, but recently she said that she wished she were a stay at home Mom like I had been.
    For me, I live a fairly traditional life, except that I am a second wife to a much older man. But our roles are very traditional.

    DianeCA Thank or participating in our discussion. Your situation underlines my study well I think, in that although you have traditional roles in your home both families take a non-traditional form, and the modern form needs an equal status with the Nuclear family. Your daughters situation is a good example of the balance of career and traditional womens roles and how there are both benefits (admired in her job – lonely in her personal life) and costs.

  5. We’ve been propagating very much for women freedom here in Sweden and supported it in a lot of different ways. Which generally is a good thing, but I think that we have gone a bit too far with that.

    Now it’s not a choice any more, it’s a MUST to work and to NOT care for your kids to get more money to the household. That’s a bad thing, because those kids needs their parents and not other people, to give them their mothering and education for life. The parents is stuck with our high living standards expectations.

    Sure, it’s a good thing that daycare centers exists, but as with everything else it should be used within certain limits, not during the whole day. The kids feels abandoned by their parents and can never get the same attention, caring or love from those workers at the daycare center as they can get from their parents. It’s just not possible – and especially not if the staff is overloaded with kids as they are over here.

    The environment there isn’t exactly like a harmonic home either, often very loud and with too many kids, you have to learn how to make yourself heard, to manage there. This learn the kids already there that they have to elbow their way forward, to get noticed. It’s a rather harsh environment for a small kid. Not all kids makes it.

    The poor parents know this in their hearts and often gets a bad conscience about it, but feels trapped, which makes them feel pressed too, which is affecting the kids as well.

    There are also a very tough, inhuman, pressure on the kids even from there and on, in the school and when they’re attending the working life. Too tough pressure the wrong way. We’re seeing a lot of youngsters today – and it’s increasing – that already at 20-25 years age (or before!) are burned out or suffering from depressions or anxiety.

    We’ve built our whole society on the wrong bases.

    Now to your question: Why is the family changing?

    One of the reasons is because humans are greedy. All our society is built up around money nowadays. Everything that counts is status, money, “I’m the best”-mentality. Every one need to win something from what they’re doing. Not many do things out of generosity or caring for the human any more.

    How many of the humans today, have TIME to really enjoy life and spending time with their near and dear ones? Not many as I can see. We’re HUMANS, we have certain instincts and needs and one of them is to be together and experiencing love for each other, to feel good.

    I’ve noticed that there is not much TRUE love left out there. I do see a lot of stressed people, like squirrels in a wheel which very often has some kind of war going on between them.

    This has already cost us a big part of the humanity in the world. It’s a very inhuman world today and maybe that’s what make the youngsters most depressed. How do they see their future?

    We need to change the foundations in this world.

    Sounds easy hah? *giggles*

    DianeCA Thank you so much for a great reply and really putting yourself into the theme. I have a feeling you really get me 🙂 Society has changed as a whole over a couple of generations through increased mass industry, technology and urbanisation – not to mention capitalism and consumerism into a more individual and often a more cold society. Our standards of living are raised, we have better homes, more luxury, more choice in food, clothing and lifestyle then ever before in history – but we have to admit to ourselves that the costs are high on the human side of it all. You have done a stunning job of explaining this so I will let your reflection stand.

    When it comes to family roles and the conflict of mother in work and home, I remember that conflict to so well – and even though my sons are now 16 and 19 I still have pangs of guilt when I have to work the night shift. However the world is rapidly changing and we can only build on what we have now. We as a society have to decide we want to give more time (and less money…) to our families and push for legislation that is family friendly. One example of this that I am quite proud of is Paternity leave (pappa permisjon) for fathers of newborns. In the scandinavian countries (okay Norway, Sweden, Iceland and I think Finland – am not sure about Denmark) mothers have a right to a PAID leave of absence of between 10 to 12 months (varies from country to country) when a baby is born, and now more recently fathers also have a RIGHT to PAID leave. Their earmarked right which all receive is shorter, however they legally have the right to share the mothers leave. For example some young couples choose to take 6 months each. This is a good step towards more equal rights for FATHERS and more equal sharing of the roll of parents in the home.

    End of preaching – hallelulia – comming down from my soapbox now hehehe!

  6. I think people make too much fuss over change. Actually, in general, people do not like change and resist it.

    I think Marcus Aurelius had a good comment on change, To be in the process of change is no more an evil than to be the product of change is a good.. Or another of his thoughts, “For the thrown stone, there is no more good in rising, than there is evil in falling.”

    DianeCA: I have come to the reallisation that everything around me, including me, is in reality in a constant state of change. Even my own family is in a state of change and flutuation, its not the same family it was a year ago – shared and separate experiences change us and therby change the family. For example my children are growing up, my oldest has finished high school and is taking a year to work before begining to study. This has effected all the roles in our household in some way as he makes his way into the adult world. Sadly I also lost my own mother last year. This has effected my role in the family tramendously, especially the extended family. As the only girl and oldest sibling I in many ways take over the role of matriarch in our family. Keeping in contact with all the family members and encouraging contact between them to keep us together as a family without our mother to drag us home for a gathering.

  7. The subject is very interesting. As I said it to you 1968 was a very important revolution in France. Many people were in street and women too. People wanted more freedom. Simone de Beauvoir way of life was very interesting. She came of a traditional family. She couldn’t support more the traditional family. She decided to live at the hostel all the year and not with her boyfriend Sartre. She decided to live alone without wedding and free. She was very courageous to do this choice. she tought a woman don’t have to be a slave at home.
    I chose to found a traditional family with Pierre. I was young. 21 years old. But I decided to continue my studies and to have a rich social life. I did my studies but I was working in a college and after in a lyceum in the same time! I wanted to win my money. For me it was a question of freedom. I never wanted to depend of a man.
    I have an experience of men with my grand oncle and my father. Their south origins. The power of the pater familias and its impact on the women of my family. This is a rich experience. When you know it, you say: never! I never want to depend of a man! And even my father, who said to me! “Claudie, the most important thing for you is to have a good job! You never know what can happen in your futur! ” He knew how women can have a bad life and have the only solution : stay with their husband because dependant during years and years.
    Now, I think to have time with my children is a very important think too. I need that. That’s why I chose to work in the public fonction. So i could have a lot of time with my daughters and I take a lot of time now too. We have nice relations.
    I have a friend, who is avocate in Nice. She chose her job. And had a baby at only 42 years old. Her friend came from Senegal and she met him at the law faculty. As she wanted the father of her daughter had a job, she bought him a shop of exotic products. It a pleasure to see their happiness to live together.
    one of the solution to preserve families is to help parents to work with a lighter rythm, so that they have more time for their children.
    I can say that many women who don’t work would like to work to have a social life and that a lot of women who work would want to work less. The same thing for men who would want to have more time for them and their children. The parental vacation is a good solution too.
    Of course with the economical crise here now I ‘m affraid things don’t go in the good direction. Now here in France I think the majority of women prefer to conciliate family and job. They are often conscient to be now the equal of their men; they want to preserve their freedom.

    DianeCA: You bring up an important point with a change in values actually in the generation before us. My father also enouraged me to take an education, he pushed me hard and expected a lot, it wasn’t a question of IF I would go to college but where. He was the same with all his 2 children, and even mine. So in a way this change in society began a generation before, although it is mostly the women of this generation that have had quite a different experience. (I was born in 67)

    Finances has a lot to say on whether a women works full time or not I think. When my children were small it wasn’t really a question, I couldn’t afford to stay home. Now they are teens and I work a little over 50%, but then I take a Masters degree at the same time. Very interesting to hear how it is in france, and around the world. I have learned a lot about the french social system but have no experience of living there. Thank you for your comment!

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