Family groups - families - Are families under threat?
Do longer working hours, absent parents and divorce mean that
the traditional family is under threat?
The United Nations says that the changing social structure,
together with an ageing population, presents a challenge to
both families and governments.
Migration and HIV/Aids are other major trends that affect
Do you spend enough time with your family? What happens when
normal family life is disrupted by migration, famine or war?
And how good are we these days at looking after our older
relatives? Send us your comments and stories.
We'll be discussing families in our global phone-in programme,
Talking Point, on Sunday, 1st August. If you'd like to take
part in the discussion, please send a phone number with your
comments. This will not be published.
Whatever choice you make, to say that parents in the 60s had
all what we expect to have today and more is pure self-deception.
Once my parents had their children, both worked reduced hours
to care for us children themselves. Can't afford that you
say? Or just don't want to give up your lifestyle? Our parents
also didn't expect to have a car or big home, didn't go out
but gathered at home, babysat in turn with friends, went camping
instead of hotels. Now 60, they are still not wealthy but
have a happy family.
I am the head of a family of five. I was born and bred in
Africa at a time when old age and traditional extended family
were revered. During my childhood days it was my grandmother
(not my father) who was head of our family. My aunt and uncle
were as important to us, the kids, as our mother and father
were. Also, there was no difference between my biological
brother and the children of my aunt and uncle. We were all
brothers and sisters. In fact it was long after, that I came
to realise that the children of my aunt and uncle were my
cousins, and not by brothers and sisters; that I was not another
child of my aunt and uncle, as our parents made us believed,
but their nephew. Things have changed nowadays. My wife and
I (together with our three kids) now live in New York, USA.
Our children are not privileged to stay with an aunt, an uncle
or a grandparent. Even if they are, the desire to meet the
everyday need would have distance those extended relatives
away from them. In Africa, too, the younger generation no
longer admires family values.
Aroun Rashid Deen, New York , USA
Women simply don't really need men
Families just don't really have a function anymore. Women
simply don't really need men, it's as clear as the day is
long. Without that need, all that remains is the fantasy bit.
They served society very well, as did extended families before
them. Times change.
The United States and Europe doesn't seem to give much importance
to family and relatives as Asian countries do. I don't see
a threat to families in Asian countries in the near future.
I stay four hours non-stop drive away from my family. I visit
mostly at the end of the month. My time with my family is
very short and divided. Given this little time you cannot
intimately attend to the needs of everyone. Each individual
requires special attention which given the time, may not be
possible. This distresses the family when they begin to think
you are not responsible, caring and just becoming individualistic.
For famine and war, it is death and life: every man for himself.
Your brother runs East, your sister goes West and you run
South. You may meet again or never at all. Your child may
see you killed before its little eyes and run as far as strength
can afford. When situations turn as these: people chasing
jobs, success, life and the rest, no one has time for the
ageing. Our older relatives need our special attention and
presence more than the sandwiches, sugar, candles and cakes
we post them. They terribly need us but who has time for them?
All we do is send them the items they want. They need us more,
but the pressures of life today makes us no good, actually
worse criminals to our older relatives.
Paul Mayende, Kampala, Uganda
What, exactly, is 'normal' family life. I am yet to meet one
'normal' family. Each is faced with their own problems, and
they either function as a unit or they don't. Especially in
Western cultures, the idea of tight family bonds is rare.
We rarely rely on an extended family unit for economic reasons,
and with the progress of women's rights a wife or daughter
no longer depends on father or husband, which is a huge contributing
factor to the declining importance of family. The whole concept
of the family has been evolving for decades and I believe
such a pattern will continue.
Roidh, Toronto, Canada
Everyone has choices, even if they think they don't
A few years ago I got into the habit of working 70 hour weeks,
and not seeing enough of my family, so I decided to stop.
I cut back my work hours to about 45 a week, and guess what?
The world did not end. My business did no go under. I got
a life back. Everyone has choices, even if they think they
What a laugh! My mother never fails to make it clear that
she can't wait for me to leave the house. I'll take work any
day, over 'family.'
Nicole, Chicago, USA
There is always plenty for me to do when I get to work, however,
if I don't turn in one day the company will not disintegrate.
It is vital to remember that your children are not interested
in board meetings, conferences or overtime - the benefit that
your company will derive from your attention is of no consequence
in comparison to the impression your love and attention will
leave on your children. The cruel paradox is that nothing
motivates an individual to work as much as the need to provide.
I just try to manage my motivation in relation to those needs,
as opposed to the wants.
Dan Brown, Cardiff, UK
Modern business requires a skilled and mobile workforce. Families
don't move. I've chased my career across the UK and now to
Holland - because if I hadn't then I wouldn't have it anymore.
My work is wonderfully exciting and I'm privileged to be doing
it - but it's cost me my marriage and most of my friendships.
Iain Howe, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Although I have been brought up in London, both of my parents
are from overseas, and I have always been shocked at the differences
in attitudes between them and my English friends parents.
While my parents enjoy me and my siblings company, taking
an active interest in our lives and encouraging us to stay
at home, most of my friends parents can't wait to get rid
of them. This does not promote the notion of an integrated
family unit, and almost implies the children are a burden
upon their parents. Simply, it is indicative of a society
and media that is all about me, me, me.
Mark, London, England
I grew up in a one-parent family, and it was one of the most
secure, loving family units anyone could hope for
It depends what you mean by traditional family. I grew up
in a one-parent family, and it was one of the most secure,
loving family units anyone could hope for. Teachers at school
told my mother on more than one occasion that I was better
at coping with life than many kids from two parent homes.
I think this shows that it doesn't matter what the make-up
of the family is, traditional or otherwise. What matters is
how much effort the people involved are prepared to put in.
Most people don't want to make the effort now, they expect
relationships to just work. It is the ultimate display of
today's "disposable" society.
To add another comment to the ones regarding the role of women.
If a woman gives up work to rear children - assuming that
her husband or partner is earning enough to support this -
she cannot pay anything into savings for her old age, such
as a pension scheme. I confidently expect there to be no state
pension worth having by the time I come to retire (I'm currently
30 years old). If I do not pay into some form of savings,
what can I look forward to when I am old? I cannot blithely
rely on my husband to support me - we may divorce, he may
die. But if I have children and continue to work, I am vilified
by many sectors of society, as well as having to spend vast
amounts of money on childcare of dubious quality. Small wonder
that many women like me are finding the idea of childbearing
Georgie, Cambridge, UK
The modern world is all about being competitive. The more
you are aggressive and arrogant and materialistic, the more
you succeed. Under these circumstances there is no room for
love, peace, family, affection or humanity. All of the above
words does not exist in the modern world's dictionary. There
is only one language, one religion and one feeling and that
Seetharaman, Houston, TX, USA
In Russia these days quite a few people are living below or
around the poverty level and what that means is that they
simply cannot afford families and in the past decades having
a family has become a kind of a privilege, something that
only the wealthy can afford, and it's not just because people
are poor, like in the 19th century, 90% of the people here
were just as poor or even poorer than today yet they still
had families. The problem actually stems from the mass culture,
soap operas and Cinderella bases films which all follow the
same pattern: a poor girl with good looks gets noticed by
a rich handsome man who first showers her with extravagant
gifts and then they get married and live happily ever after,
so the stereotypical family that gets drummed into people's
head by TV, is an affluent husband and a faithful beautiful
wife who live in a big mansion like house and drive Mercedes.
That's what people want and naturally nobody wants to have
poor families where you have to struggle from pay day to pay
day to make ends meet.
Igor, Smolensk, Russia