Social Change and the Traditional Family Unit

The questions of marriage, children, procreation, and happiness. Are they all the same question, and do they all have the same answer? There’s a lot of debate back and forth. On the one hand, we have those who are pushing for social changes. On the other, we have those who are hesitant or downright against it. Each side has their reasons, and some have good intentions, while some might not. Unfortunately, the debate often seems to have broken down, and instead of reason and discussion, we hear words like “bigoted” and “hateful” being thrown around. Other popular reactions to opposing opinions are to call them “idiotic” or “laughable.”

Most of us have seen a child throw a tantrum. They cry, point fingers or kick--maybe they throw some things, and scream about how you “hate them,” “never want them to be happy,” and “want them to die.” If it’s in public, it draws a lot of attention, and they often know it and use it to their advantage. Explanations don’t help much at that point, as they don’t really want to listen to reason. They just “want what they want, when they want it.”

Just as the child who throws a tantrum won’t listen to anyone’s reasons for not giving them what they want, sometimes those who push for radical social change and a redefinition of the traditional family unit don’t want to listen to reason. They “want what they want--right now!” Fingerpointing and name-calling has been used as an effective tool to continue to demand things that may not be the best for them or others. They can’t see a reason why not, so anybody else’s reason must be ridiculous and based on hating them. One can find haters here and there, but using that as an argument against those who resist sweeping social change is juvenile and manipulative thinking.

What about the debate once we get past the name-calling? What are some possible issues with changes to traditional marriage? Arguments often centers on concern for child development, and by extension the effects it will have on our society.

Sometimes we hear it said that kids will be fine. We are instructed to look at all the broken marriages, abusive homes and less-than-ideal situations that kids get put through. We are told that most family situations are a huge mess. The argument is that a loving home is surely the most important thing for a child, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a mother, a father, two mothers or two fathers who provide it to them.

We can all agree that loving homes homes are vital to a child's health and happiness, but the question here is, should we really be trying to bring kids into a less-than-ideal family structure? After all this time, and all of our studies, all the research still points to the traditional family unit as the healthiest environment for kids to grow up in. It's true that abuse happens, parents die or get divorced, and children end up in foster homes or left on the streets. Some kids adapt better to these situations than others. But no one is saying that these situations are ideal for kids.

Divorced parents who care about their kids spend a lot of time trying to make sure that kids get quality time with both parents, single parents often spend a lot of time trying to make up for the lack of another parent in their children’s lives, and adoption is considered a life-saver for the child who has been abandoned or mistreated. But the ideal situation for kids--and the situation that they deserve if there’s any way to get it for them--is to know their father and their mother and to be loved and nurtured by them.

You may not believe that the system for raising a family was organized by God, but you still shouldn’t scoff at the idea that traditions shouldn’t be changed just for the sake of change or because you want them to be changed. We have been made to work a certain way, eat a certain diet, and be nurtured and provided for in a particular way. Sure, there’s a little wiggle-room, but how much?

In the mid-1900’s, science was sure that they had figured it all out, and we began making big changes to our food. It became processed, packaged and fortified. Nutrition experts of the day claimed that fortified food would meet our nutritional requirements. Baby formula was advertised as superior to mother’s milk, and mothers were encouraged to give up nursing in favor of a formula that was supposed to be “better for baby.” Decades later, we’ve learned that these things are not as good. In fact, they can be detrimental to our health. We’ve learned more and more about what our bodies need, and the way in which they need it. Pills and processed packages cannot make up for the optimum package of nutrients delivered to us in whole, natural foods. A lot of what we do with food is done with the intent to reproduce or preserve what nature already gives us. We know by now that we can’t sit on our butts eating potato chips and watching tv all day without serious consequences to our health and longevity. We have particular dietary requirements for optimum health, as well as physical activity requirements for our bodies.

As we’ve learned these things, we’ve started to idolize them and make them something to be considered desirable in our society. Smoking is now looked down upon, whereas it was once ultra-cool. Exercise and physical fitness is revered, and healthy bodies are things to be coveted and admired. We’ve turned everything around to make each other aware of these issues because we realized that they are something that we aren’t able to ignore without serious personal and societal consequences.

Take, for instance, the care and nurturing of wild animals in captivity. To take proper care of any animal we know that we are supposed to provide the optimum food, nutrition  and environment for them. This includes a social structure that mirrors the one that they would have in the wild. Animals that are not given the social structure that they need become depressed, sick and even aggressive. Many animal rights activists would argue that animals should never be kept in captivity at all, because captivity can never fully mirror the natural environment for the animal.

If it is so important for an animal to have the proper social structure and nurturing, how can we so confidently make the argument that our traditional social structure is a superficial construct, based on biased and bigoted traditions that should be changed without respect to the impact that it may have on our society and the well-being of our children? Why do we keep trying to carelessly change the things that have always been integral to a functioning society? What do we really know about the traditional structure of the family, except that in its ideal state it produces the happiest and healthiest people? What are we basing this idea of change on, except our desires to have what we want, right when we want it? We were made with this need for parents and nurturing, so who are we to suddenly decide that the traditional structure for raising children is just not as important for kids anymore now that we’re “grownups” and have our own desires? To make the argument that it makes no difference to a child is to make a self-centered and short-sighted moral narrative, leaving aside true consideration for the well-being of children.

Over and over we’ve seen the harmful manifestations of negative changes in our bodies and psyches, and in our society. Too many changes from our naturally intended environment can hurt us. Environments that don’t nurture us properly can cause mental disorders, depression, aggression, or other antisocial behaviors. What kind of effects would changes to the traditional family structure have? Honestly, we don’t know. All we know right now is that every change away from it so far has not been proven ideal for the development of children.

We’ve become a rather selfish society, where every social decision seems to be geared towards “what will this do for me.” And not many people are apologizing for that. We seem to be lauding it, encouraging it and perpetuating it. Perhaps in this issue, instead of focusing on ourselves so much, we should focus a little more on what’s best for children, and perhaps we should be trying to figure out why it’s best, instead of just changing things to fit our own needs and desires. Instead of the tantrum-throwing and emotional accusations of hate, we should be considering that others may have very valid and important reasons and concerns that have nothing at all to do with hate or bigotry. You may find haters on both sides of the argument, but nobody intelligent is listening to their rants, except as a useful example to shame each other with.

Perhaps instead of just being on “our side,” we should be on the same side: the side of humanity, and the side of children.

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