Monday, March 2, 2020
It is, I realize, fashionable to roll one's eyes (or do worse!) over David Brooks's meaning-mongering, but . . . I thought this essay, "The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake", was a really good read. (I'd also recommend Brad Wilcox's response.) In more than a view places, Brooks touches on themes that resonate with Catholic anthropology. For example:
As factories opened in the big U.S. cities, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, young men and women left their extended families to chase the American dream. These young people married as soon as they could. A young man on a farm might wait until 26 to get married; in the lonely city, men married at 22 or 23. From 1890 to 1960, the average age of first marriage dropped by 3.6 years for men and 2.2 years for women.
The families they started were nuclear families. The decline of multigenerational cohabiting families exactly mirrors the decline in farm employment. Children were no longer raised to assume economic roles—they were raised so that at adolescence they could fly from the nest, become independent, and seek partners of their own. They were raised not for embeddedness but for autonomy. By the 1920s, the nuclear family with a male breadwinner had replaced the corporate family as the dominant family form. By 1960, 77.5 percent of all children were living with their two parents, who were married, and apart from their extended family.
Interestingly, many "progressives" who will (reflexively?) recoil from what might seem "conservative" in Brooks's piece also tend to support a political figure, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who made many consonant points in her "controversial" 2004 book, The Two Income Trap.