Families Changing But Values Strong: New Report
15 July 2002 at 1:07 pm
The so-called 60s swingers should be thanked rather than condemned for freeing marriage from unrealistic constraints according to The Australia Institute.
A new Institute report shows that far from ushering in social catastrophe, the breakdown of rules-based marriage has provided an opportunity to strengthen rather than undermine family values.
The report called New Families for Changing Times by Dr Pamela Kinnear shows contemporary families have developed a strong moral basis not least because they are bound more by the quality of their relationships rather than outdated and repressive rules.
Releasing the Report, Institute Director Dr Clive Hamilton says the fundamental values of family life have remained remarkably stable, which we should welcome and encourage.
Dr. Hamilton says the functions of caring, companionship and nurturing that families have always provided are not being abandoned in ‘new families’, but continue to be provided within new structures.
The Report shows that while changes to family structures can be positive, the extent of change is overstated by conservative commentators.
Dr. Hamilton says the nuclear family remains the model to which most Australians aspire and currently comprises nearly 75 per cent of families.
He says interestingly, 53 per cent of these families have been intact for more than 30 years. A century ago, only 41 per cent of families remained intact for that long, due to death and desertion.
The Report shows that, far from sacrificing their children in pursuit of their own sexual and personal gratification, modern parents desire deeply to protect their children from harm whatever the family structure.
He says there is no doubt that separation can be traumatic, especially for children, but in place of the constant emphasis on harm – which leads people, including children, to expect disaster – church and political leaders need to focus more on the strengths of new family relationships.
Dr Pamela Kinnear says the modern ‘ideal’ of the nuclear family took root only after WWII. It was a misleading benchmark as family structures had undergone sharp changes since the Industrial Revolution and in any case frequently masked a “dark side” of oppression, inequality and violence.
Dr. Kinnear says Instead of trying to ensure that families conform to a preconceived structure in the hope of greater ‘stability’, it is better to support all types of families in fulfilling parental functions well and resolving disputes constructively.
She says rather than insisting that parents stay together for the sake of the children, it is more practical to encourage parents to resolve conflict in constructive ways for the sake of the children, preferably within the marriage but, if that is not possible, outside of it.
Dr Hamilton says it’s futile to imagine that the structure of families can be quarantined from the rapid and far-reaching changes in society over the last four decades. By continuing to play the guilt card, conservative leaders are not helping families.
If you would like a copy of the Executive Summary of the report called New Families for Changing Times by Dr Pamela Kinnear in PDF format just send an e-mail to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like more information about The Australia Institute go to www.tai.org.au.