Tag Archives: family

Behavioral Poverty

More than 50 years of social-sciences evidence demonstrates that behavior is highly predictive of many important life outcomes. Children who are temperamental, fussy, and aggressive often cause their parents to withdraw affection and to limit supervision, which leads to further bad behavior later on, along with subsequent struggles and frustration. Adolescents who verbally accost or threaten their schoolteachers are more likely to be suspended or expelled, as well as to spend less time studying, working on homework, and attending classes. And adults who engage in crime are the same ones who not only frequently end up in jail and prison, of course, but also remain voluntarily unemployed, and often find themselves at the bottom of the economic ladder. Behavior is predictive from one setting to the next, and consequences snowball. The body of research linking bad behavior to negative and cumulative consequences is remarkably robust, extends across countries, and has been replicated across academic disciplines with diverse samples, methodologies, and analytical techniques. These findings provide the basis for a range of policies and cultural narratives that could, if embraced, help people avoid many of life’s costly pitfalls.

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Behavioral poverty is reflected in the attitudes, values, and beliefs that justify entitlement thinking, the spurning of personal responsibility, and the rejection of traditional social mechanisms of advancement. It is characterized by high self-indulgence, low self-regulation, exploitation of others, and limited motivation and effort. It can be correlated with a range of antisocial, immoral, and imprudent behaviors, including substance abuse, gambling, insolvency, poor health habits, and crime.

While behavioral poverty’s causes are likely complex—involving the interplay between parents, genes, and culture—understanding its consequences is not complex: they are depressingly predictable. Because behavioral poverty can emerge early in life and remain stable over time, it’s not uncommon to see behaviorally poor children perform badly at school, compile arrest records as juveniles, and transition into adulthood with few or any skills outside those valued on the street. Few who work in the juvenile-justice system, for example, are surprised to find out that former clients get arrested as adults, or involved with drugs, or pregnant with no means of support.

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The ingredients to living a meaningful life involve self-restraint, tenacity, and personal responsibility.

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Behavioral poverty is perhaps most vividly illustrated in the lives of drug addicts. Here, adult responsibilities and even basic human needs, such as eating and sleeping, are subordinated to the compulsive ingestion of alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or a mixture of these substances. We’ve interviewed offenders who reported staying mostly awake for ten to 20 days while on a binge. When drugs are not available, the addicts usually resort to crime. Drug offenders commit offenses at rates several times higher than their non-drug-using peers. Much of the incidence of crime, particularly burglary and theft, is tied to drug use.

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[M]any criminal offenders have no desire to engage in conventional, productive adult conduct. In our experience as criminal-justice practitioners, researchers, and clinicians, thousands of offenders have told us as much. All the rigors and responsibilities of adulthood—from paying rent and utilities to maintaining relationships—are fulfilled, free of charge, by the criminal-justice system. Conventional adults are horrified by the idea of imprisonment, but many offenders view jail as a refuge from the demands of life.

Behavior Matters: Why some people spend their lives in poverty and social dysfunction,” by Matt DeLisi and John Paul Wright, City Journal, Summer 2019

 



Angus Deaton: Measuring and understanding behavior, welfare, and poverty

 

We’ve known for a long time that unstable family life related to divorce, missing fathers, and communities with large numbers of single-mother households can be bad for kids. Deaths of despair are a red-flag warning that that these disruptions are similarly hard on adults. Though only 32% of the population, unmarried and divorced men account for a stunning 71% of opioid deaths. Emile Durkheim, one of the godfathers of sociology, found a link between suicide and family breakup over a century ago; the same link remains today. Divorce increases the risk of alcoholism for both men and women; so does checking “single” for marital status on government documents.

These numbers shed some light on why deaths of despair are concentrated among those with lower incomes. Higher income folks are more likely to marry and to stay married. They have closer, more sustained relationships with their children, relatives, and in-laws. In recent years, despite its one-time reputation as stalwart family traditionalists, the white working-class has diverged from its more affluent counterpart. As of 1980, about three quarters of white working-class adults were married; that was very similar to the 79% of high-income adults. By 2017, however, the working-class number had fallen to only 52%.

. . .

It’s also true that many singles and divorced people, though unmarried, are not alone. Unmarried couples today frequently live together, sharing a roof, a bed, and meals. But these cohabiting arrangements tend to be short-lived and are often just a pitstop in a series of transitory, quasi-monogamous relationships. Fathers who split up with cohabiting partners are far more likely to visit erratically or disappear entirely from their children’s lives. Moreover, cohabiting couples’ ties to their significant others’ families and friends remain looser than do those of married couples.

The upshot of all of this is a growing subculture of loosely bound or even isolated adults. No wonder so many of them lapse into despair. Humans have always depended on close kin to love and care for them, especially when times are tough. The dismantling of kin networks is proving to be especially hard on the weak, ill, and elderly.

A nation dying in despair, and family breakdown is part of the problem,” by Kay Hymowitz, September 26, 2019

Family in the High Tech and Affluent West

Social psychologist Jonathon Haidt writes in his book The Righteous Mind about “WEIRD” people — the people who live in Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich Democracies who are very different from most of the world, and yet we are used by most psychological research studies to stand for all of humanity.

Haidt compared “weird” people to typical people elsewhere. “When asked to write 20 statements beginning with the words ‘I am,'” he said, “Americans are likely to list their own internal psychological characteristics (happy, outgoing, interested in jazz), whereas East Asians are more likely to list their roles and relationships (a son, a husband, an employee of Fujitsu).”

Maybe in our history Americans were more connected to others. We aren’t now.

“Weird” Americans: Black Friday vs. Thanksgiving

War on Marriage and Family

[O]ur present culture, which makes war on marriage and the family, is also making war on genuine manhood. In spite of its own braggadocio, modern culture doesn’t really make war on things such as “sexism” and the abuse of women and children because it encourages the machismo that turns men into abusers while simultaneously discouraging the familial and paternal responsibility that turns men into good husbands and fathers. Such a culture does not only make men miserable, it makes women and children miserable too—and all in the name of the pursuit of freedom and happiness! It’s all so pathetically funny. A tragedy that is also a divine comedy because it shows that virtue is the only way of getting to the happy ending.

Beyond Machismo to Manhood: The Challenge of Real Masculinity

Culture of death

Family and Civilization

Civilization depends on the health of the traditional family.

That sentiment has become a truism among social conservatives, who typically can’t explain what they mean by it. Which is why it sounds like right-wing boilerplate to many contemporary ears.

The late Harvard sociologist Carle C. Zimmerman believed it was true, but he also knew why. In 1947, he wrote a massive book to explain why latter-day Western civilization was now living through the same family crisis that presaged the fall of classical Greece and Rome. His classic “Family and Civilization,” which has just been republished in an edited version by ISI Press, is a chillingly prophetic volume that deserves a wide new audience.

In all civilizations, Zimmerman theorized, there are three basic family types. The “trustee” family is tribal and clannish, and predominates in agrarian societies. The “domestic” family model is a middle type centering on the nuclear family ensconced in fairly strong extended-family bonds; it’s found in civilizations undergoing rapid development. The final model is the “atomistic” family, which features weak bonds between and within nuclear families; it’s the type that emerges as normative in advanced civilizations.

When the Roman Empire fell in the fifth century, the strong trustee families of the barbarian tribes replaced the weak, atomistic Roman families as the foundation of society.

Churchmen believed a social structure that broke up the ever-feuding clans and gave the individual more freedom would be better for society’s stability and spent centuries reforming the European family toward domesticity. The natalist worldview advocated by churchmen knit tightly religious faith, family loyalty and child bearing. From the 10th century on, the domestic family model ruled Europe through its greatest cultural efflorescence. But then came the Reformation and the Enlightenment, shifting culture away from tradition and toward the individual. Thus, since the 18th century, the atomistic family has been the Western cultural norm.

Here’s the problem: Societies ruled by the atomistic family model, with its loosening of constraints on its individual members, quit having enough children to carry on. They become focused on the pleasures of the present. Eventually, these societies expire from lack of manpower, which itself is a manifestation of a lack of the will to live.

It happened to ancient Greece. It happened to ancient Rome. And it’s happening to the modern West. The sociological parallels are startling.

Civilization depends on the health of the traditional family.

(From “Too much pleasure, too few children“)

Marriage Matters

Though young people take a variety of paths into adulthood—arranging school, work, and family in a dizzying array of combinations—one path stood out as most likely to be linked to financial success for young adults. Brookings scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill have identified the “success sequence,” through which young adults who follow three steps—getting at least a high school degree, then working full-time, and then marrying before having any children, in that order—are very unlikely to become poor. In fact, 97 percent of millennials who have followed the success sequence are not in poverty by the time they reach the ages of 28 to 34.

Sequence-following millennials are also markedly more likely to flourish financially than their peers taking different paths; 89 percent of 28-to-34 year olds who have followed the sequence stand at the middle or upper end of the income distribution, compared with just 59 percent of Millennials who missed one or two steps in the sequence. The formula even works for young adults who have faced heavier odds, such as millennials who grew up poor, or black millennials; despite questions regarding socioeconomic privilege, our research suggests that the success sequence is associated with better outcomes for everyone. For instance, only 9 percent of black millennials who have followed the three steps of the sequence, or who are on track with the sequence (which means they have at least a high school degree and worked full-time in their twenties, but have not yet married or had children) are poor, compared with a 37 percent rate of poverty for blacks who have skipped one or two steps. Likewise, only 9 percent of young men and women from lower-income families who follow the sequence are poor in their late twenties and early thirties; by comparison, 31 percent of their peers from low-income families who missed one or two steps are now poor.

Even more significantly, it appears that marriage in itself reduces millennials’ chances of being poor. Why? Young men and (especially) women who put “marriage before the baby carriage” get access to the financial benefits of a partnership—income pooling, economies of scale, support from kinship networks—with fewer of the risks of an unmarried partnership, including breakups. By contrast, millennials who have a baby outside of marriage—even in a cohabiting union—are likelier to end up as single parents or paying child support, both of which increase the odds of poverty. One study found that cohabiting parents were three times more likely to break up than were married parents by the time their first child turned five: 39 percent of cohabiting parents broke up, versus 13 percent of married parents in the first five years of their child’s life. The stability associated with marriage, then, tends to give millennials and their children much more financial security.

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If young adults make bad choices about education, work, and family, all the jobs and policies in the world will not give them an equal shot at realizing the American Dream as their peers who follow the sequence to success.

Marriage Matters

Men Need Children and Purpose

The longer I live, the less complicated (but more difficult) I believe life to be, especially for men. When I see the difference between the men who struggle and the men who thrive, the men who thrive are the ones who (not to get too technical about it) tend to do something cool while maintaining deep connections with others. It goes back to the core of Ecclesiastes, where Solomon urges men to find satisfaction in their toil, and to the selfless love of the Gospel.

And make no mistake, both elements are linked and important. I’ve seen men with good families flounder and plunge into depression if they struggle in their professional life, or if they lack any hobby that engages their mind or allows them to work with their hands. At the same time, not even the most dynamic professional or the bravest firefighter or soldier thrives when their family crumbles or their friendships fracture.

A Wounded Generation Builds a Family and a Purpose

The impact of your life on others

None of us can truly gauge the impact of our lives on others. Yet, even without your knowing it, the witness displayed by your faithful marriage might be the lighthouse that guides and helps others to hold their marriage and family together. You could be saving a family from the destructive influence of the world. You could be leading someone to the threshold of faith, and you may never even hear about it.

Your Marriage: Ground Zero for Astounding Good

You probably have no clue of the enormous good you do by cherishing your marriage, your spouse, and your family, and by simply living your life as a faithful Christian. Your personal relationship and commitment to Christ reverberates all around you, sending out ripples that affect the lives of others in unseen and unexpected ways.

This kind of impact is extremely personal and therefore difficult to quantify or measure. Yet legitimate social science seems to bear out the point I am making. As Kay Hymowitz has observed, children “have a better chance at thriving when their own father lives with them and their mother throughout their childhood—and for boys, this is especially the case.”

Your Marriage: You Have No Idea of the Good You Are Doing

Family, Jobs, and Place

“I believe that each of us who has his place to make should go where men are wanted, and where employment is not bestowed as alms,” advised New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley in a famous 1871 letter. “Of course, I say to all who are in want of work, Go West!” Basically, Greeley was telling Americans to pick up and go to where the jobs and opportunities are.

Americans were once more willing to heed Greeley’s advice. From the end of World War II through the 1980s, the Census Bureau reports, about 20 percent of Americans changed their residences annually, with more than 3 percent moving to a different state each year. Now more are staying home. In November, the Census Bureau reported that Americans were moving at historically low rates: Only 11.2 percent moved in 2015, and just 1.5 percent moved to a different state. Yet many of the places where people are stuck offer few opportunities.

Why have we become homebodies? In a draft article called “Stuck in Place,” Yale law professor David Schleicher blames bad public policy. Schleicher argues that more Americans are stuck in places with few good jobs and little opportunity, largely because “governments, mostly at the state and local levels, have created a huge number of legal barriers to inter-state mobility.”

To get a handle on the mobility slow-down, Schleicher identifies and analyzes the policies that limit people’s ability to enter job-rich markets and exit job-poor ones. He also describes how economically declining cities get caught in a policy spiral of fiscal and physical ruin that ultimately discourages labor mobility. The effects of lower labor mobility, he argues, include less effective monetary policy, significantly reduced economic output and growth, and rising inequality.

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And homeownership rates correlate with higher regional unemployment and lower inter-state mobility. Mobility may be lessened due to the hassle of selling a house. Another possible effect is that homeownership might hold back development in an area through zoning restrictions that are detrimental to new jobs and entrepreneurial ventures. Of course, the federal mortgage interest deduction is a huge incentive encouraging homeownership.

Why Aren’t More Americans Moving?

McDowell County [West Virginia] has been the iconic symbol of poverty in America ever since the 1960 presidential campaign, during which then–Sen. John F. Kennedy visited the county four times. In his May 3, 1960, speech in the town of Welch, Kennedy cited the collapse of employment in the coal industry and declared that had President Eisenhower “come to McDowell County, he would have seen a once prosperous people—the people of the largest and most important coal-mining county in the world—who were now the victims of poverty, want, and hunger.”

Ever since, the unrelenting awfulness of McDowell’s problems has drawn the eye of storytellers and researchers alike. In March 2014, The New York Times ran a story comparing affluent Fairfax County, Virginia, with McDowell. Besides noting the fact that average per capita incomes are five times higher in Fairfax, the article reported that average life expectancy in McDowell County was the lowest for males in the United States, at about 64 years. “Poverty is a thief,” the Times quoted University of Maryland professor Michael Reich as saying. “Poverty not only diminishes a person’s life chances, it steals years from one’s life.”

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The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports that McDowell County has the highest prevalence of fair/poor health among adults in the state (25.3 percent), along with the second highest prevalence of obesity, with 44.8 percent of adults reporting a body mass index of 30 or above. The percent of residents over age 25 who are high school graduates is 64.5 percent; nationally, it’s 86.3. Only 5.8 of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the national rate of 29.3 percent.

In his incisive book, “Hillbilly Elegy” (Harper), self-described hillbilly and Yale Law graduate J.D. Vance notes, “Growing up around a lot of single moms and dads and living in a place where most of your neighbors are poor really narrows the realm of possibilities.” He adds, “It means that you don’t have people to show you by example what happens when you work hard and get an education.”

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“The provision of subsidies to induce people to stay in…place delays the inevitable. At worst, such subsidies effectively retain the kinds of people who are the least able to adjust, ultimately, to market forces,” write Iowa State University economists David Kraybill and Maureen Kilkenny in a 2003 working paper evaluating the rationales for and against place-based economic development policies. “It does no good to retain (or attract) people in places that are too costly for most businesses, which cannot sustain economic activity. That turns the place into a poverty trap.”

. . .

Donald Reed works nights at the Welch Hospital as a Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment drug abuse counselor. From that position he sees just how bad McDowell’s drug, and especially prescription opiate, problem is. “McDowell has the second highest overdose rate in the nation,” he says. I ask him if he’s seen any cases in which addiction treatment worked. He sighs. “After 30 to 90 days at a treatment center, they bring you back to exactly where you were. People are so tied to their families,” he explains. “When you come back to where you are comfortable, back to the same habits, and back to the same people, it’s no wonder treatment hardly ever works.” He adds, “There is no support here. The best thing you can do is leave here and never come back.”

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The vast majority of good jobs in McDowell are in government or nonprofit social services. According to the Blueprint Communities report, the public sector accounts for 33 percent of employment in McDowell County. The largest employer is the school board, and teacher salaries average just over $40,000 per year. Entry-level federal correctional officers earn $39,000 annually. That’s considerably more than the median household income of $23,607.

. . .

So why don’t people just leave? That question is actually surprisingly easy to answer: They did. After all, 80 percent of McDowell’s population, including my grandparents, cleared out of the county to seek opportunities elsewhere during the last half-century.

But as the mines mechanized and closed down, why didn’t the rest go, too? Reed, Whitt, and Slagle all more or less agree that many folks in McDowell are being bribed by government handouts to stay put and to stay poor. Drug use is the result of the demoralization that follows.

In a Fall 2014 National Affairs article called “Moving to Work,” R Street Institute analysts Eli Lehrer and Lori Sanders asked, “What is keeping the poor from moving their families to new places to take advantage of better opportunities?” They argue that “the answer lies primarily in the structure of poverty-relief programs.” In other words, the government is paying people to be poor.

. . .

The R Street analysts’ proposed solution to the mobility freeze is to streamline public benefits and provide some kind of subsidy to encourage people to move to areas with better job prospects. Perhaps by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is now only available to people with some income.

. . .

But when I ask if they plan to come back to McDowell County after they finish their educations, most say that they do.

Why? Mostly because of family.

Donald Reed, the hospital drug counselor, is someone who came back. “We can’t sit here and wait for the government to save us,” the 35-year-old says. “We can’t sit here and wait for coal to come back.” Reed’s day job is as the West Virginia University Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development. He works in the County Commission Building on Wyoming Street. The windows on the third floor of the municipal headquarters are boarded up with plywood, and signs on the way up direct visitors to the drug-testing facilities. Yet Reed has been quite successful, signing up nearly 800 kids for 4-H programs this year.

I ask him why people stay in McDowell. “People love it here,” he says. “They love the safety of the mountains, the safety of small communities.” As an example, he says that if his car broke down, it wouldn’t be long before one of his neighbors driving by would stop to help him fix it or get him to where he needed to go. I suggest that it might take a bit longer for someone to stop and help me, an outsider. He smiles and allows that that might be the case.

But why did he stay? “I know there is very little opportunity here,” Reed says. “But I wanted to come back because I need someone to remind me of what life is about. I know these people, prayed with them. They carried me when no else would. We value people, memories, and experiences.”

Stuck – Why don’t people who live in places with no opportunity just leave?

Family and Friends and Place

We do not put down very deep roots. Sometimes we put down deeper roots than we wish we had. Neither condition is satisfying. Sometimes we are John Denver’s “Country Roads,” lamenting our deracination and desiring to return to a sentimentally scrubbed home town. Sometimes we are Tom Waits’s “Whistle Down the Wind”:
. . .
In some contexts, we try to make up for that with a shallow, fake intimacy, which, if you think about it too much, will only make you sad.

Some restaurants are sadder than others, of course, and some occasions are sadder than others. The people in cafeterias and diners on Thanksgiving and Christmas, either alone and lonely or simply having given up on the ancient rituals of home and hearth. It is almost unbearable to be in public on Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve in the presence of people struggling, desperately, to convince themselves they are having a good time.
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Our manners — acting and speaking as though everyone were our best friend — speak, quietly, to that loneliness.

You and Who Else?

Walker Percy talked about this in his novels (e.g., Love in the Ruins) and in Signposts in A Strange Land.

The people want what they think is the truth, and they want it super-sized. They want it loud. They want it with backbone. They want it acerbic, assertive, and even aggressive if need be. They would be happier with a truthful tyrant than a lying libertarian.

There is, of course, another way.

That way is for an army of ordinary men and women of integrity not just to speak the truth, but to live the truth. It is no mistake that the One who said, “I AM the Truth” also said, “I AM the Way and I AM the Life” because truth is not simply a verifiable statement. It is a way and a life.

It is a way of life.

No matter what the future holds, this second way is the way that will prevail, even if first its progress is halting and slow. This way and this life will prevail against the lies not only because it is practical and possible, but most of all because it it true.

Are We a Nation of Liars?

How Have We Left Our Children?

[D]o our children really fare better in a world of unrestricted abortion, rampant divorce, sexual confusion, and the diseases and dysfunctions that accompany them? Have smaller families, euthanasia, political correctness, and moral relativism really improved things? Is the world we Baby Boomers are handing on really better or is it just more technologically advanced? What good are bigger homes when they are empty? What good are granite countertops when families don’t gather to eat dinner together anymore? What good is the Internet when it often pipes in error, pornography, and false values?

Better or Bitter? How Have We Left Our Children?

Fatherhood

I. The merciful father loves the mother of his children.

One of the most merciful things a father can do for his children is to love their mother with tender affection and gentle, protective support.
. . .
II. The merciful father attends to his own healing and maturity.

It is a work of mercy for a father (and a mother, too) to work through his own issues and thereby spare his children pain. There is an old saying, “If I get better, others get better too.”
. . .
III. The merciful father does not allow his career to eclipse his vocation.

Be careful, fathers. Career can be big on the ego and it can easily ensnare you. Home life may be less glamorous and less immediately rewarding in terms of money, but there is no greater satisfaction than to have raised your children well. The rewards will be enormous for both them and you. And this is a very great mercy.
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IV. The merciful father is the spiritual leader of his home.

He should be the first one up on Sunday morning, summoning his children to prepare for Holy Mass. His wife should not have to drag him along to Mass. He should read Bible stories to his children and explain their meaning. He should teach them God’s law. While his wife should share in this, the father ought to lead.
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V. The merciful father listens and teaches.

It is a beautiful work of mercy for a father to actively listen to his children and to give them his undivided attention whenever possible. It bestows on them a sense of dignity, because they see that what they say and think matters to their father. And it reassures them that he cares for their welfare and what is happening in their lives.

Fatherhood and Mercy

Surviving as a Catholic family in a heretical wasteland

Bishop [Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan] said that to survive in a heretical wasteland, Catholic parents must:

1. See persecution as a grace from God for becoming purified and strengthened, not simply as something negative.
2. Become rooted yourself in the Catholic faith through study of the Catechism.
3. Protect your family’s integrity above all else.
4. Catechize your children as your first duty.
5. Pray with your children daily, such as litanies and the Rosary.
6. Turn your home into a domestic church.
7. In the absence of a priest and Sunday Mass, make spiritual communion.
8. Withdraw your family from a parish spreading error and attend a faithful parish, even if you have to travel far.
9. Withdraw your children from school if they are encountering immoral danger in sex-ed.
10. If you cannot withdraw your children, establish a coalition of parents to fight for that right.
11. Fight for parental rights using available democratic tools.
12. Be prepared for persecution in protecting your children (see first point).

The bishop said that being a Catholic “family” in the truest sense of the word is the key to survival.

Bishop Schneider’s 12 steps to surviving as a Catholic family in a heretical wasteland

Parenting

The upper-middle-class American style of parenting is creating a generation of children who are trained from birth to believe three things: first, that the central goals of life are success and emotional well-being; second, that the child’s definitions of success and emotional well-being are authoritative; and third, that parents and other authority figures exist to facilitate the child’s desires. If the child is the star of his own life’s story, then parents and teachers act as agents, lawyers, and life coaches. They are the child’s chief enablers.

Parents, for their part, didn’t set out to raise fragile children. Instead, they desperately desired that their kids first be safe and happy. Then — later — safe, happy, and successful. Faced with kids they loved and perhaps still reeling from their own childhood problems, including growing up during the first massive wave of divorce and in an era of increasing crime, Millennials’ parents (younger Boomers and older members of Generation X) decided that they were going to get parenting right.

. . .

My parents’ priority was building character, not maintaining my happiness. They wanted to raise a child who would love God and live by the Golden Rule. So I had to learn that I wasn’t the center of the universe. I had to learn that I was often wrong. And I had to learn the daily courage necessary to confront and overcome problems on my own, without constantly appealing to a higher earthly authority for aid and comfort.

Presently, however, many parents view their child’s pain, anger, or inconvenience less as an opportunity to teach the child a lesson about character and perseverance than as an imperative to come to the child’s rescue.

. . .

Graduation season is upon us. At countless dinners, emotional parents and children will reflect on their journey, and two sentences will be uttered time and again: “Mom, you weren’t just my mother. You were also my best friend.” Those words, tearfully delivered and gladly received, are the reason that the present cultural trend is likely to endure, at least for the foreseeable future. Parents are raising exactly the children they want to raise.

But it cannot last. Life is too hard, and authority figures are ultimately too weak to guarantee enduring joy and success. So the aggressively fragile generation will face a choice: either greater anger and aggression as they desperately flail for the utopia that can never come, or a rediscovery of the virtues that enable perseverance.

Blame Parents for Milennials’ Laughable Fragility

Extended Families and the “Sexual Revolution”

And of course if you move further back in time, or look elsewhere in the world today, you’ll find that multi-generational families sharing living quarters is, if anything, the norm. And it’s a norm that, though it certainly has its shortcomings, works well in various dimensions of “home economics”: if one wants to looks at it in the most grossly utilitarian terms, through living as an extended family my parents got free child care, my grandparents got free rent, and I grew up surrounded by family members who loved me, even when my father was in prison. How did living this way become an image of “a life gone wrong”?

Well, for one thing, the separation of the extended family is good for many industries, especially those that are housing-related and, of course, restaurants. (Few of those young adults who move out of the house learn to cook right away.) The more atomized people are, the more they need to buy — which also means: the more they need to work outside the home, in order to make the money to do the buying.

But it seems to me that the single most important contributing factor here — the most important by far — is the sexual revolution. Young adults need to live apart from their parents in order to be free to hook up without interference, explanation, or embarrassment. This is why we’re seeing increasing interest in “co-living” arrangements, especially in megalopolises — here’s a London example, and here’s one in Manhattan: the benefits of sharing at least some resources coupled with sexual freedom, which sounds like a great trade-off except that you’re basically living in a college dorm.

. . .

In the social world most younger adults inhabit, it’s simply unthinkable to change the hierarchy of values in such a way that erotic opportunity drops down the list.

But for other people, in other times and places, it was and is thinkable — which is worth remembering, however you explain it. The place of sex in current hierarchies of value is not a given of human nature; it’s an artifact of a particular socio-economic era, a particular ideology, a particular set of “hidden persuaders.” You may genuinely like your Controllers, but it’s always good to know who they are and what they want you to do.

Co-Living, Extended Families, and Hidden Persuaders

“Families are civilization factories.”

Families are civilization factories. They take children and install the necessary software, from what to expect from life to how to treat others. One hears a lot of platitudes about how children are “taught to hate.” This is nonsense. Hating comes naturally to humans, and children are perfectly capable of learning to hate on their own. Indeed, everyone hates. The differences between good people and bad resides in what they hate, and why. And although schools and society can teach that, parents imprint it on their kids.

Western Civilization and Other Fairy Tales

Most people become “ready to get married” when they get married. Throughout history most people got married at a much younger age than people today. They were hardly “ready.” They got married because society and/or their religion expected them to. And then, once married, they tended to rise to the occasion. The same holds true for becoming a parent. Very few people are “ready” to become parents. They become ready . . . once they become parents. In fact, the same holds true for any difficult job. What new lawyer was “ready” to take on his or her first clients? What new teacher, policeman, firefighter is “ready”? You become ready to do something by doing it.

The ‘I’m Not Ready to Get Married’ Trap