Science tells us why the family is dying

Summary: The family is dying. Scientists tell us the bad news, but we don’t listen. This is one of the most important stories of our time.

A family holding hands
ID 12543477 © Iofoto | Dreamstime.

The family is one of America’s foundational institutions. It is dying in America. Slowly, incrementally, generation by generation. We see it but rationalize. Divorce is good for the children. Cohabitation is the best path to marriage. Cohabitation is as good as marriage. Children are adaptable, and can withstand instability at home. Scientists tell us what’s happening. But we’re not interested in hearing. Let’s take a quick look at some.

Background: the key to the success of marriage

The reward for marriage was patriarchy. In a patriarchal system, a good wife was wonderful. She provided a boost to a man’s ego, an aid to his career, a wonderful home. The family defined his existence and gave meaning to his life.

Even with that reward women still had to entice men to join the rat race. Women dressed to attract the “male gaze” (stockings and pantyhose, skirts and dresses, makeup and nice hair). They deferred to men, pretending that men had “headship” in the home. From an early age, they learned how to understand and manage men – preparing for courtship and marriage.

Women have the right to be whatever they choose to be. Just as men have the right to marry or not, as fits their needs. Flashing forward to today, life in America has changed.

Women's liberation

How women have changed.

Before discussing the causes and effects of changes, we need to understand what has changed. The numbers are out there, although often too radical for dispassionate analysis.

Sandra L. Bem created the Bem Sex-Role Inventory in 1974. It provides a consistent benchmark to measure the gender traits of American college students. In the four decades since (1974–2012) the masculine trait scores for women increased significantly from 1974 to 1994, then remained stable from 1994 to 2012. Women’s androgyny scores followed the same pattern: they increased from 1974 to 1994, then remained stable. Women’s femininity scores did not change, nor did men’s scores for masculinity, femininity, or androgyny. {Per a paper by Kristin Donnelly and Jean M. Twenge in Sex Roles, May 2017.}

Why women divorce so often.

Another example of seldom discussed changes, see “‘These boots are made for walking’: why most divorce filers are women” by Margaret F. Brinig and Douglas W. Allen in American Law and Economics Review, January 2000. Gated. The numbers in the paper are interesting. The analysis is largely story-telling driven by ideology.

“Because of the financial and social hardship faced after divorce, most people assume that generally husbands have instigated divorce since the introduction of no-fault divorce. Yet women file for divorce and are often the instigators of separation, despite a deep attachment to their children and the evidence that many divorces harm children. Furthermore, divorced women in large numbers reveal that they are happier than they were while married. They report relief and certainty that they were right in leaving their marriages.

“This fundamental puzzle suggests that the incentives to divorce require a reexamination, and that the forces affecting the net benefits from marriage may be quite complicated, and perhaps asymmetric between men and women. This paper considers women’s filing as rational behavior, based on spouses’ relative power in the marriage, their opportunities following divorce, and their anticipation of custody.”

The author’s conclusion is a revelation of the blindingly obvious: “Our results are consistent with our hypothesis that the filing behavior is driven by self-interest at the time of divorce.

Future of Children Logo

Now for the bad news

The family is the central ring of the 21st Century American circus. For an introduction to its evolution, read the Fall 2015 special issue of The Future of Children about “Marriage and Child Wellbeing Revisited”. Lots of news. It is all dark.

The introduction by Sara McLanahan and Isabel Sawhill.

“Men and women of the youngest generation are either marrying in their late twenties or not marrying at all. Childbearing has also been postponed, but not as much as marriage. The result is that a growing proportion of children are born to unmarried parents – roughly 40% in recent years, and over 50% for children born to women under 30.

“Many unmarried parents are cohabiting when their child is born. Indeed, almost all of the increase in nonmarital childbearing during the past two decades has occurred to cohabiting rather than single mothers. But cohabiting unions are very unstable, leading us to use the term “fragile families” to describe them. About half of couples who are cohabiting at their child’s birth will split by the time the child is five. Many of these young parents will go on to form new relationships and to have additional children with new partners. The consequences of this instability for children are not good. Research increasingly shows that family instability undermines parents’ investments in their children, affecting the children’s cognitive and social-emotional development in ways that constrain their life chances.

“With these trends as background, the Future of Children first addressed the issue of marriage and its effects on children a decade ago, in 2005. Then, we found that children raised in single-parent families didn’t fare as well as those raised in two- parent families, that the rise of single parenthood was contributing to higher rates of poverty …”

Why marriage matters” by David Ribar.

“Marriage between two parents, compared with other family living arrangements, appears, on average, to enhance children’s wellbeing and development. Some of the positive association between marriage and children’s wellbeing comes from positive associations between marriage and other things that also contribute to children’s wellbeing. …

“Digging more deeply, he then examines specific mechanisms through which marriage may operate to improve children’s lives. …Yet studies of child wellbeing that control for the indirect effects of these mechanisms typically find that direct positive associations remain between children’s wellbeing and marriage, strongly suggesting that marriage is more than the sum of these particular parts. Thus, Ribar argues, the advantages of marriage for children’s wellbeing are likely to be hard to replicate through policy interventions other than those that bolster marriage itself.”

The Evolving Role of Marriage: 1950-2010” by Shelly Lundberg and Robert A. Pollak.

“Since 1950, marriage behavior in the United States has changed dramatically. Though most men and women still marry at some point in their lives, they now do so later and are more likely to divorce. Cohabitation has become commonplace as either a precursor or an alternative to marriage, and a growing fraction of births take place outside marriage. We’ve seen a retreat from marriage within all racial and ethnic groups and across the socioeconomic spectrum.

“Lundberg and Pollak argue that the sources of gains from marriage have changed in such a way that families with high incomes and high levels of education have the greatest incentives to maintain long-term relationships. As women’s educational attainment has overtaken that of men, and as the ratio of men’s to women’s wages has fallen, they write, traditional patterns of gender specialization in household and market work have weakened. The primary source of gains from marriage has shifted from production of household services to investment in children. For couples whose resources allow them to invest intensively in their children, marriage provides a commitment mechanism that supports such investment.

“For couples who lack the resources to invest intensively in their children, on the other hand, marriage may not be worth the cost of limited independence and potential mismatch.”

Cohabitation and Child Wellbeing” by Wendy D. Manning.

“In recent decades cohabitation has become a central part of the family landscape in the United States – so much so that by age 12, 40% of American children will have spent at least part of their lives in a cohabiting household. Although many children are born to cohabiting parents, and cohabiting families come in other forms as well, the most common cohabiting arrangement is a biological mother and a male partner.

“Cohabitation  is associated with several factors that have the potential to reduce children’s wellbeing. Cohabiting families are more likely than married families to be poor, and poverty harms children in many ways. Cohabiting parents also tend to have less formal education – a key indicator of both economic and social resources – than married parents do. And cohabiting parent families don’t have the same legal protections that married parent families have.

“Most importantly, cohabitation is often a marker of family instability, and family instability is strongly associated with poorer outcomes for children. Children born to cohabiting parents see their parents break up more often than do children born to married parents. In this way, being born into a cohabiting family sets the stage for later instability, and children who are born to cohabiting parents appear to experience enduring deficits of psychosocial wellbeing. …

“Turning to stepfamilies, cohabitation’s effects are tied to a child’s age. Among young children, living in a cohabiting stepfamily rather than a married stepfamily is associated with more negative indicators of child wellbeing, but this is not so among adolescents. Thus the link between parental cohabitation and child wellbeing depends on both the type of cohabiting parent family and the age of the child.”

Trust us! You’ll love the new family we’re creating.

Mad Scientist at work
ID 99011265 © Igor Mojzes | Dreamstime.

Destroying a system that worked so well for so long

Marriage has been an institution in flux for centuries, but the rate of change accelerated after California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the revolutionary Family Law Act of 1969, retroactively abolishing the “traditional” binding contract of marriage and replacing it with no-fault divorce. The feminist revolutions which followed forced further changes in marriage. Few experts predicted the result: a large fraction of women valued their independence more than their husbands. This is the truth too dark to say. However their sincerity when they look into a man’s eyes and say “till death do us part”, over a third of them will later decide to dump him.

Women have learned to play Girls’ Game (men’s Game is a pale imitation, successfully used by few). Marry, have kids (with a husband helping raise them during those early difficult years), divorce after they’re in school, and collect child support. This gets the children she wants without the bother of having a husband (after some years of marriage). The resulting high divorce rate – roughly 50% – with roughly 70%+ initiated by wives, makes marriage a risky proposition for men.

The numbers tell the tale. In 2005/06 less 60% of US adolescents (11, 13, and 15 years old) lived with both birth parents, per the OCED Family Database (source). That was the lowest level among OECD nations. That number is probably lower today. The numbers are worse among the poor and some minorities.

This is America’s new hybrid family system. Its pillars are easy no-fault divorce and and the government’s child support system. The government aggressively collects child support from fathers, and supports the children when the father cannot (or does not). It is a subsidy for divorce. In Economics 101 we learn that if we subsidize something, we get more of it.

The family system-that-once-was did not die. We killed it.

Welcome to the Future

Conclusions

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”
— Don Fabrizio in The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (the top-selling novel in Italian history), and a 1963 film with Burt Lancaster.

These trends are not irresistible. No future is inevitable. But maintaining a functioning society requires that we work at it, not let it drift like a paper boat in a stream. But first we must clearly see what is happening, and then decide what we want America to be.

Dalrock’s insights about marriage

He is a married man living with his wife and two kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He wants to know how the post feminist world impacts himself and his family. He explores these issues and produces powerful insights. Dark insights. See some of his posts about marriage.

  1. Time and fantasy: marriage itself has been degraded for many decades.
  2. The one obstacle she can’t remove: divorce is regarded as a woman’s failure.
  3. More bad news for marriage is baked in.
  4. Our family policy is designed to terrify married fathers.

For more information

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about society and gender issuesabout feminismabout marriage, and especially these …

  1. Do we want to bring back traditional marriage? What is traditional marriage?
  2. Classic films show what marriage was. Facts show its death.
  3. Child support payments create the new American family.
  4. Marriage today – and its dystopian future.
  5. Marriage reforms are slowing the economy.
  6. Red Pill knowledge is poison to marriage.
  7. An easy fix to make marriages stronger and work better.
  8. The coming crash of marriage: why, and what’s next.
  9. Millennial girls had a golden age. Gen Z’s inherit wreckage.
  10. See how women’s calculus of marriage shapes America.
  11. Becoming a post-marriage America: see the stories!

Books about the post-marriage world

The classic about this subject: Men and Marriage by George Gilder (1986).

A look at men’s response to the feminist reforms of marriage: Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters by Dr. Helen Smith (2013).

Men and Marriage
Available at Amazon.
Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters
Available at Amazon.

28 thoughts on “Science tells us why the family is dying

  1. Excellent post.

    A few points,

    “a large fraction of women valued their independence more than their husbands. This is the truth too dark to say”

    It shouldn’t be too dark to say. America has built a society that values independence and individuality above all other traits, it should be of no surprise that its citizens have internalised those assumptions.

    Children rebel against their parents, they are our future and our hope, they will come to be disgusted, in time, by the mess we have made, as we despise the boomers. Perhaps they will start to honour other traits, honor, duty, bravery, sacrifice. Look at the wild popularity of Jordan Peterson, the archetypal kind but stern father. I don’t think that is surprising at all.

    I grew up in a country where divorce was banned, women were forced out of public service when they married, where a womens role in the home was enshrined in the constitution. Contraception and abortion were banned unless medically necessary. There was deep shame attached to children married out of wedlock, my own mother waited until her Grandson was 3 years old before telling her family he was alive, all because the child was born out of wedlock. Secrecy and shame were the watch words.
    Deeply destructive Marriages stayed together because of the stigma of separation was so great.
    The brutal dictatorial father was common, as was physical abuse, alcoholism ect.

    Things have changed, divorce is now legal, but it is a lengthy affair, where fault must be proved, divorce rates are the lowest in the developed world.

    There is still stigma to separation, but lessened. Rates of domestic abuse have fallen year on year. Families usually start before marriage, but the majority still marry after a year or two. The social pressure from family and state to marry is still great. The state supports marriage through tax brakes, its worth 3/4000 dollars a year, to the low paid this is substantial. The family is central to all the political parties strategies, they compete to woo them.
    Actually a common complaint is that single people have to subsidise the married!

    I am not as pessimistic as you are, as Adam Smith said, there is a lot of ruin in a nation.
    Policy from a state and federal level could have a significant effect. Unfortunately I can’t see any appetite in this current crop of politicians to change things. The left dominates the intellectual environment in regards to social policy, even as they largely abandon labour rights and accept right wing economic policy.
    But the left will not hold the high ground in social policy forever, the key to defeating them lies in accepting what must be accepted, the family has changed, marriage has changed, you cannot step into the same river twice.
    However, people will respond to incentives.

    He is my policy prescription, any Democrat and Republican congressmen reading, feel free to use.

    1/ An end to no fault divorce, instead fault must be proven, and a cooling off period of 2 to 4 years before divorce is granted.

    2/ Equally shared custody, the mother does not get the kids, unless the the father is delinquent.

    3/ Child support remains, but perhaps at a lower level? I don’t see how it could be removed, without widespread poverty resulting.

    4/ A reduction in tax burden for married couples. Being married conferes a privileged status. Unfair to the unmarried, but hey, tough.

    5/ Reduction in alimony payments, I think this would have wide support, as women earn more the last thing they want to see is there cash been syphoned away by their ex.

    6/ In general remove the financial incentives to divorce, as the paper cited above states
    “This paper considers women’s filing as rational behavior, based on spouses’ relative power in the marriage, their opportunities following divorce, and their anticipation of custody.”
    Rational behavior can be changed.

    Marriage, as it stands in America, is a paper institution.

  2. Excellent post LK!

    Marry, have kids (with a husband helping raise them during those early difficult years), divorce after they’re in school, and collect child support. This gets the children she wants without the bother of having a husband (after some years of marriage).

    Add to that the opportunity to double dip. She can move another man in and have him support her too.

    1. Dalrock,

      To expand on your point, I wonder how much of what we’re seeing is the result of young women seeking to have the success of the late Boomer and early Gen X women. The ones that had it all, or as close as anyone can get in the real world..

      1. Almost equal access to higher education and professional jobs.
      2. Marriage to guys in their socio-economic class (associative marriage, not bosses marrying their secretary) – the fast track to security and good incomes.
      3. Easy divorce with sole custody, widespread grants of alimony, division of community property, and child support.

      Now alimony is more difficult to get, and usually only for a limited period of time. The shrinking middle class means that couples have smaller pies to divide in divorce. The widespread use of joint custody makes mom’s life more difficult (for most, some prefer to off-load half of the child care). And most important – increasingly numbers of men just won’t “man up” and marry them.

      Just as men have only slowly recognized that the new social order is hostile to them (esp marriage), women have been slow to realize that many of them won’t have the success of the Golden Generation of women.

      So we have two shock waves traveling through the pool of young Americans. We can only guess – probably wrongly – at the results when they cross. Expect the unexpected from this, the Left’s largest social engineering project since Communism!

  3. Marry, have kids (with a husband helping raise them during those early difficult years), divorce after they’re in school, and collect child support. This gets the children she wants without the bother of having a husband (after some years of marriage).

    Woman was made from man and for man (“I will a helpmeet suitable for him). This has been understood by Christian theologians that part of the wife’s job is to take care of the husband. My mother understood this. My wife does. Women that divorce no longer have to take care of a husband, thus they have less work. Of course, they no longer get the security of a man, but we have an increasingly-militarized police force to do that. They also have food stamps and welfare from Big Daddy government as you all have noted.

    1. PRCD,

      That’s all somewhat true, but there is another element to this. We always considered men to be feral when unleashed — that is, unless “socialized” (i.e., domesticated). Little attention was given to women’s core nature. We’ve unleashed them, reducing the heavy indoctrination given them as children — to be good girls, have long time horizons, value chastity and monogamy, pro-natalism (want to have children), etc.

      We find that they like bad boys (attracted to guys with the dark triad traits), promiscuity over monogamy (pair-bonding was indoctrinated), attention “whoring”, and above all – their independence. They love independence more than money – which is estimable in terms of many philosophies. All of this is incompatible with “traditional” marriage.

      Now for the big one: much of the gender differentiation that powered our society resulted from indoctrination. In the “state of nature” (ie. without indoctrination), men and women don’t differ as much as we thought.

      More surprises lie ahead, I suspect.

  4. Great post.

    In my legal career, I have done well over a hundred divorces. The ones started by men are the great exception, though some men carefully push their wives to divorce, in order to claim victim status with their children.

    Discontentment and individualism are key factors. People realize they are unhappy and blame their spouse rather than look inside to investigate their own issues.

    The internet and social media are great instigators of divorce. 20 years ago, we had the phenomenon of the AOL divorce: people bought a computer with 6 months free AOL and soon got into chat rooms and found people with whom they formed close bonds and then divorced their spouse.

    Then came the Facebook divorce, as people reconnected with old flames and suddenly blew up their marriages.

    I just saw one like this a few months ago, when a marriage of more than 10 years blew up after the wife was messaged on Facebook by a high school friend (with multiple felonies and 2 kids from 2 baby mommas) and she gave up her very comfortable life in suburbia. The husband confided in me that she had been informed a year before of her fertility issues, and that she was the product of a broken home with a mom who had numerous husbands and boyfriends and had moved 14 times during childhood.

    When faith was stronger, divorce was reduced, but the larger cultural acceptance of divorce, cohabitation, children born out of wedlock, promiscuity, and such are very important.

    Additionally, I have yet to see a woman in a divorce act rationally and very few men. It isn’t rational for a woman near 50 to blow up her family and then live in near poverty the next 30 years just because she feels unhappy in her marriage, yet women are doing that.

    But I also know a man, a very devout man very active in his faith, who decided in his early 50s that he wasn’t happy in his marriage and rather than work on himself or his marriage, just blamed his wife for all his concerns. And moaned for years after his divorce that it was her fault and that she cost him so much money (community property state so it was hers by law). After years of depression, he remarried at 60 to a woman almost identical to his first wife rather than the billionaire heiress he dated for years after his divorce.

    Ending no fault divorce will not fix this. We need a major cultural change that I just don’t see happening. People need to return to ideas like loyalty and sacrifice instead of instant gratification and avoiding pain.

    1. Gaius,

      Thank you for your comment! It is always good to hear from the front lines of our social changes. Two quick comments.

      (1) You appear to imply that men and women initiate divorces in equal numbers. Numbers vary, but the usual ratio is about 30% to 70%. Also, studies tend to mention wives pushing men to file – to get victim status for custody disputes. While I’m sure men do this also, I’ve not seen anyone say that this occurs with remotely the same frequency as women doing so.

      (2) “The internet and social media are great instigators of divorce.”

      Divorce rates have been stable or declining slightly since roughly 1990 – when the internet age began. So this might be a superficial cause of divorces, it is just replacing other superficial “causes”.

    2. Gaius,

      Another reply to your comment!

      “People need to return to ideas like loyalty and sacrifice instead of instant gratification and avoiding pain.”

      The research is pretty clear that rational self-interest is driving divorces, as in the previous family system it encouraged people to remain marriage. I am skeptical that loyalty and self-sacrifice were widespread motives, now or in the past. Such people are always with us, princes and princesses of the spirit. But not in sufficient numbers to make society work.

      Western civ, like most great civilizations, built on “low but solid ground.” Appealing to motives that are often consider base, but are widespread and reliable. Marriage was considered the prime example: people got stability and sex (even safe sex), men got patriarchy, women got homes and security and children.

    3. “The research is pretty clear that rational self-interest is driving divorces, as in the previous family system it encouraged people to remain marriage. I am skeptical that loyalty and self-sacrifice were widespread motives, now or in the past. Such people are always with us, princes and princesses of the spirit. But not in sufficient numbers to make society work.”

      While I don’t disagree with that statement, isn’t there somehow quite a bit (also) to the idea that previous era had a different outlook on life in general? Not that self interest wasn’t at the core, or close to the core, of many or most people, but that the tribal/clannish aspect was also far much stronger in societies that were much more traditional (cultural/organizational aspect), much more static (geographically, socio-economically) and much closer to the immediate reality of survival (closer to where food is made and the conscience that it may become scarce quickly, closer to economic danger….).

      In such conditions, the individual was NOT the basic social unit, and could not be (except for very strong characters unable to abide by the dominant rule and permanent, underlying “zeitgeist”, or those seen as useless and undesirable): the family, the clan, the village/community (whatever its form)…. Were far more relevant and imperative as something one depended upon. As a result, an individual tended far more to be and see him/herself as having duties towards said group. When marrying, this individual was therefore more inclined to put his/her stock, efforts and aspirations in the new social unit (itself part of a greater one) thus created, and work more at it, consider his/her needs and wants according to the needs and wants (and long run aims) of said unit/group.

      The contemporary paradigm has reversed, by placing the individual at the core of everything: a society based on individual rights can only go towards more individualism, especially in an age of (relative) abundance where basic necessity (and/or the conscience of it) works less and less conjointly with other factors to encourage the basic aforementioned tribalism (familial and clannish).

      For matriarchies (or things approaching it) today, I’ve read about a few examples, and I’m not sure what they reveal sociologically, except that in all or most of those, men tend to be deplorable and/or useless, and encouraged to be so… And these micro-societies (one in China comes to mind in particular) are static, go nowhere, and seem to always have been other, neighboring societies’s plaything. One thing is sure: no matriarchy (or thing approaching it) has ever let any significant trace in history, or created anything fruitful, sustainable, or worthwhile. Except the imaginary ones: the Amazons we keep being badgered about as if they had existed and had been anything else than a literary device used by many cultures in many eras.

    4. Tancrede,

      “In such conditions, the individual was NOT the basic social unit, and could not be (except for very strong characters unable to abide by the dominant rule and permanent, underlying “zeitgeist”, or those seen as useless and undesirable): the family, the clan, the village/community (whatever its form)”

      I agree fully, but that’s looking much father back than do most discussions of marriage. As my post about “traditional marriage” describes, by that most of us mean marriage in America from very roughly after WWI thru 1970. That is, the nuclear family – with clan a minor or trivial factor.

      “The contemporary paradigm has reversed, by placing the individual at the core of everything: a society based on individual rights can only go towards more individualism,”

      Now you are discussing deeper causes! I agree, the shift from the family to the individual is epochial. It changes everythings. Bloom discusses the philosophy and effects of this in Closing of the American Mind, which I highly recommend.

    5. “As my post about “traditional marriage” describes, by that most of us mean marriage in America from very roughly after WWI thru 1970. That is, the nuclear family – with clan a minor or trivial factor”

      I fully get that, but I really do think that the great “transition” happened gradually during that period, not earlier: on a historical standpoint, traditionalism (in the full sense of the word) was still an important, if not dominant, reality even in the most modern societies of the time. I really believe in the strength of inertia during that era, for most places, in part because of the persistence of culture and transmission, and also because of actual living conditions. Rural areas still lived in large parts like they always had, and big cities were in no small part organized like agglomerations of de facto “villages” (little Italy….) where a certain sense of community still existed as a very tangible (and sometimes invasive) reality. Systems and subsystems of support, forms of social organization perpetuated by the very communities (migrants especially) that had brought them from abroad, from the countryside…. These things have a life of their own that often tend to outlive, at least for a while, what superficially appears, from the outside, as “individualistic modernity” (in an urbanized area). Religion, family, ethnic/cultural proximity…. Still mattered a great deal up to a very recent period. If you had the practical constraints of life until the 50’s/60’s (quasi impossible to be a functional social unit -with kids- without an important social support system until several innovations, changes and increases in GDP), you can see why a certain persistence.

      For the particular case of France, I would place the change around the 60s/70s, where the rural exodus became a dominant reality: until the 50s, 45% of the population was still rural (in the full sense: in agriculture), but the first generation post war was also the first to get massive access to higher education or opportunities for industrial jobs on a scale not seen since the XIXth century (first industrial revolution = first rural exodus), at the same time big changes happened to agriculture (mechanization on a big scale, reorganization of production….) and the post war growth provided opportunities like never before. That generation was a de facto uprooted one, a very brutal change that went along with a level of urbanization also never seen before, which changed the very nature and structures of big cities in the country (where the modern “atomization” of individuals, instead of the juxtaposition of communities, became the rule). The tempo of lives and careers changed radically, and very rapidly, in that era, bulldozing the conditions that made traditional communities and support systems possible and desirable.

      I know England and the US were more urbanized a bit sooner (much sooner for Britain), but the changes were in the end equally massive, and essentially as fast, too fast for the delicate ecosystem of family/clan life to survive. There has been different levels of persistence, sometimes just of the form of such systems, for a while. Some still survive, some still manage to be upheld by people deeply attached to them and conscious of their value (or necessity), but overall, atomization is the dominant rule. And until the post war era, it wasn’t the case for the most part. Consumerism, abundance, the modern urban landscape (the urban phenomenon has radically changed in nature over the last 70 years, compared to before), the tempo of modern life and career…. Are the framework of it, as much as or more than the cultural changes, the pill and no fault divorce (to me). Call me a materialist (I’m not BTW), but these thing matter a great deal to our species that tends to adapt to its environment, and tries to make the better of it: only very recent developments have allowed a majority to do it, or think they can do it, on an individualistic basis (many, if not most, will fail at it).

  5. Can anyone name a civilization that was spawned, developed and reached its pinnacle that was not a patriarchy? The very few matriarchies were and are not civilizations nor cultures but short-lived micro cultures.

    Reagan’s “no fault” divorce in 1969 and his signing of the AMNESTY for illegals in 1987 left legacies far more detrimental to America than winning the Cold War.

    1. rjjcda,

      Historians and anthropologists are quite clear about this: there are and have been no known matriarchies (although many societies have some elements of matriarchy). But once we’re beyond written records people can imagine what they like about the past. From the Wikipedia entry about “Matriarchy” (as always with Wiki, the links are the most valuable part of the entry).

      “Most anthropologists hold that there are no known societies that are unambiguously matriarchal.[58][59][60] According to J. M. Adovasio, Olga Soffer, and Jake Page, no true matriarchy is known actually to have existed.[54] Anthropologist Joan Bamberger argued that the historical record contains no primary sources on any society in which women dominated.[61] Anthropologist Donald Brown’s list of human cultural universals (viz., features shared by nearly all current human societies) includes men being the “dominant element” in public political affairs,[62] which he asserts is the contemporary opinion of mainstream anthropology.[63]”

  6. “Nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus.”

    “We can tolerate neither our vices nor the remedies.”

    Atributed to Titus Livius (around 59 BC – 17 AD), known as Livy in English.

    1. Roberto,

      Thank you for posting that great quote. Tweaking the translation was the easy part.

  7. From the above:
    * Sex Roles:
    This study shows that men did not change since 1974 while women did: “…masculine trait scores for women increased significantly from 1974 to 1994”
    * LK:
    “People need to return to ideas like loyalty and sacrifice instead of instant gratification and avoiding pain.”
    * GG:
    “Discontentment and individualism are key factors. People realize they are unhappy and blame their spouse rather than look inside to investigate their own issues.”
    * The Evolving Role of Marriage: 1950-2010
    “…families with high incomes and high levels of education have the greatest incentives to maintain long-term relationships.”

    An aspect, barely touched in this analysis and the Replies, was the (my obvious factor) socio-economic change. In the economic boom, from the end of WW2 until perhaps to the Oil Crisis, the traditions of housewife was easy to maintain; then, from the mid 70’s to maybe the end of 20thC, a wife had to provide more than the traditional support (looking after her husband and their kids), she had to go to work to supplement the family income to maintain, say, at least an appearance of a middle class status — so they had to change, masculine trait perhaps?; now, did the men, in general, change sufficiently to accommodate for this? Answer may seem obvious.

    Also, why didn’t anybody try to look at this from the core of the other perspective? Just consider that men may not be the victims of this “rampant feminism” — it may be that there has always been many of these cheating, self-centred and misogynist jerks among us and women then did not have the insight and power to get out of such marriages. In that case the call for renewed loyalty and sacrifice would land on deaf ears at both sides.

    And then, with the steady erosion of the classical structure of our society, the new economic reality of the majority of today’s society is not all that conducive to the classical concepts of family. I don’t think that looking inside would identify the answers — looking outside may be more likely.
    And, rephrasing the last quote becomes the obvious:
    Families with low incomes and low level of education have the least incentives to maintain long-term relationships.

    AND, DO NOT DESPAIR: Look at the Marriage / Divorce Ratio around the world — Divorce demography: Here, US at ~46% and Canada at ~48%, we’re just in the same class as most of the EU and we’re still far better off than Portugal (71%)

    1. JaKo,

      “it may be that there has always been many of these cheating, self-centred and misogynist jerks among us and women then did not have the insight and power to get out of such marriages.”

      That’s a child’s perspective, or that of an immature (to be generous) adult. This post discusses the science of human behavior.

    2. LK, E, please, do not forget that your response to my point-by-point critique of some aspects of this entire post MAY be interpreted as a proof (at least in my childish mind), that the entire narrative was not about scientific (that would imply an objective and reviewable) investigation of human behavior, but somehow a pick-and-chose-directing-the-blame for something so complex as the recent structural changes in our society squarely onto the Feminists. And that will never facilitate the tenet of this site: “Reigniting the spirit of a nation grown cold.”
      The pivotal point of my reply was: “…did the men, in general, change sufficiently to accommodate for this? (as in non-voluntary change of women)”
      I believe, the original “sin” is not the “dying family,” but the dying “village,” a community if you will. Humans did not evolve as individuals or families, they only prospered as parts of their communities. Taking any side in this “dying family” business is just another episode of the intensifying Identity Politics…

    3. JaKo,

      “MAY be interpreted as a proof”

      You must be kidding. It was an extended exercise in making stuff up. At least Kipling’s “Just So Stories” were entertaining (e.g., “How the Elephant got his trunk.“).

      “she had to go to work to supplement the family income to maintain, say, at least an appearance of a middle class status …”

      Making stuff up. Middle class incomes have been stagnant in real terms since roughly 1970. They have not fallen. Most measures of “Middle class” life have improved greatly: much larger homes, more and larger cars per household, etc. That is where the second worker’s income has gone. Note that debt per HH has also increased, as spending has increased faster than their incomes.

      That is not good or bad. It is just a fact.

  8. It shouldn’t be too dark to say. America has built a society that values independence and individuality above all other traits, it should be of no surprise that its citizens have internalised those assumptions. Agreed..

    What about in around 20 -30% of marriages, one or both parties feel that they are better off alone, the other member is reducing their perceived life chance and they opt to leave.

    Bad spouses will use the position of power where the victim cannot resist or escape to their advantage be they teachers, priests, husbands or French Presidents wives. Divorce s the only option with alcoholics, drug addicts and abusers, after you have tried support and therapy for a few years.

    Yes, too many don’t work at it enough 20- 30%, we need to say divorce could be halved with more effort, but the rest may be like leaving a job you hate and is killing you, to find another job.

    It took me two goes at marriage to find the right one.

    1. Just a guy,

      “Divorce s the only option with alcoholics, drug addicts and abusers, after you have tried support and therapy for a few years. …alcoholics, drug addicts and abusers”

      You have drank the kool-aid. Those divorces are not a quarter of marriages (ie, half of divorces). Those divorces are perhaps 10% or so of marriages (which includes divorces initiated by both men and women).

    2. Just a guy,

      “Yes, too many don’t work at it enough 20- 30%, we need to say divorce could be halved with more effort”

      Re-reading your comment, I may have misinterpreted it. So half of divorces (a quarter of marriages) result from people “not working hard enough at it”, as if it is a job. So what’s the benefit to men of working harder to please the women now divorcing them – the big payoff that justifies this massive effort?

  9. “(1) The research is pretty clear that rational self-interest is driving divorces … (2)Western civ, like most great civilizations, built on “low but solid ground.” Appealing to motives that are often consider base, but are widespread and reliable.”

    1. As a proponent of rational self interest, I would say on a short enough timeline, rational self interest becomes rationalizing self interest. I think that is a closer characterization. Our society seems to have demonized anything that smells of a longer term goal or value.

    2. Sings the song … “the wise man builds his house upon the rock … the foolish man buildshis house upon the sand…”

    1. citizen,

      Your comment is a two-fer!

      (1) That’s an incisive observation, and deserves more thought. Women are divorcing for reasons that seem rational to them. But surveys show that their happiness is decreasing, despite the massive “gains” of feminism.

      (2) Thanks for the quote. I had forgotten it, and will use it in the future.

  10. JFV promoter:

    In life, there are 3 types of lies: small lies, big lies and statistics. They all apply to cohabiting Unions but, at the same time, they all fail to uncover the real underlying causes of their disintegration and the devastating economic losses that follow.

    It was the legal industry which created the fictional utopia of institutional marriage as the savior of humanity. But, in fact, this Union is an industry of the lawyers, by the lawyers and for the lawyers’ sole benefits. Like sharks attracted to the blood of the injured swimmer or diver, the lawyers engage the Unions’ partners with the same ferocity, bite into their financial flesh to the bone and disengage only after depleting the Union’s assets.

    In Kerr v. Baranow, 2011 SCC 10, the Supreme Court of Canada declared for the first time that common law cohabitations are Joint Family Venture (JFV) which are entitled to similar considerations on division of property as marriages do. Unfortunately, the SCC didn’t follow that ruling with a more expansive and equitable resolution by recognizing that people enter into cohabitation, by marriage or common law, with the implied goals of creating a JFV for the equal benefits of all the family members. And these partners have the legal right to end their JFV when they deem appropriate, without asking for the government’s permission and without being exposed to the predatory lawyers who benefit from that split by siphoning the Unions’ assets into their personal accounts.

    The only reasonable remedy to this illegal transfer of wealth, from the Unions to the lawyers’ industry, would be the abolishing of the Divorce Act(s) and the establishment of the JFV as the framing legal structure of the Unions. The JFV should recognize the economic aspects of its foundation and establish simple rules for its creation, maintenance and dissolution. That would be the only way the Unions’ partners would fully control their destiny and preserve and defend their common assets from outside attackers, namely the sharky lawyers. Just as people file annual income tax returns, the partners in the JFV should privately maintain an updated status of their Union’s annual income. And, similarly on the annual basis, the Union’s written agreement could be updated based on the partners’ mutual consent. And, if they so choose, the partners could dissolve their Union and split the commonly held assets according to their agreement. It’s a simple cohabiting legal structure that would keep the economic expectations of its partners in check and, most importantly, will protect the JFV’s fortunes from the relentless attacks of unconscionably selfish raiders, namely the lawyers!

    Let’s make JFV great again, just as it used to be before the attorneys institutionalized the legal industry in the 1200s!

    1. Robert,

      That’s an interesting brief about cohabitation in Canada! Thanks for posting it. But I don’t understand this.

      “It was the legal industry which created the fictional utopia of institutional marriage as the savior of humanity”

      Marriage long predates anything like the western “legal industry.” Also, in the Medieval period in Europe marriage was a device used by the upper class to manage property and inter-family alliances. What we think of as “lawyers” were useful for this, but not the originators of the process.

      Extending it to the lower classes – who had little or no property – was done by the Church in a long slow process (see Wikipedia). Priests began marrying people very roughly after 900. The Church became interested in marriage after the Council of Verona (1184) declared it a sacrament. And even more so after the Council of Trent (1563) – when the Reformation made it important for the Roman Catholic Church to stake out a large role in the lives of the common people.

  11. Larry,
    I didn’t mean that lawyers created the marriage industry, which clearly existed since the earliest recordings of history. But, since the early medieval times, they institutionalized it by enacting a complex labyrinth of laws that provided fertile grounds for lawyers to sneak in and siphon out the family’s assets by offering their service for ever escalating fees. In those days, most lawyers worked for or together with the Church, as they both pocketed large “compensations” for their “soul searching services”. For the Church, the marriage was a very efficient vehicle of capturing the people into their “godly preaching”, in return for contributions to the Church institutions. (When I say Church, I mean the self-defined priestly structures overbearing all religions, worldwide. I am not an atheist; I believe in God but I despise the self-promoting and self-serving intermediaries between God and the individual person). The lawyers found a very effective ally in the Church, because it allowed the legal industry to expend its sharky tentacles ad infinitum. Since you brought up the Council of Trenton (CoT), it’s important to note that its message was one of depriving the freedom of the individual family to cohabit as they choose. In its Session 24, Canon V, CoT declared that “If any one saith, that on account of heresy, or irksome cohabitation, or the affected absence of one of the parties, the bond of matrimony may be dissolved; let him be anathema.” (In those days, “anathema” was applied to a person consigned to damnation, destruction and excommunication.) I don’t think that in 2018, many people will look at CoT as the “guiding light” of what cohabitation, in marriage or common law, should be! Today, in the face of abundant of evidence of the Church abuses in general and of the children in particular, one might want to keep the Church out of the arguments against the lawyers and their legal industry. I also think that your comment that “Reformation made it important for the Roman Catholic Church to stake out a large role in the lives of the common people”, was misreading history. The Church’s decision to increase their invasion of “the lives of the common people” was financially motivated, pure and simple. The Reformation deprived the Church of a significant and lucrative income from their English parishes. Consequently, the priestly economists concluded that enforcing the utopian ideal of marriage, and its consequential and mandatory “service fees”, would be a proper substitute for their lost English income. And, not coincidentally, the practice of Indulgences (insurance against the after-life time in purgatory) also increased in parallel to CoT’s decreases. One would not wrong considering that Indulgences, which formed a significant source of income for the Church, founded the modern Insurance industry.

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