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Is the Destruction of the Nuclear Family More Catastrophic than We Think?

In the light of current events, our entire country is collectively moving through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and inevitably for some, acceptance. While the motivating factors couldn’t be more different, as we all have our belief structures and upbringings to affect our emotions and thoughts, the overarching question is resounding in the same outcry, WHY? Why must children be the object of suffering and hatred? Why do large combinations of death and destruction have to gain the world's attention? Unfortunately, no one has a definitive answer or resolution plan, which causes more time to pass, making these horrific events a distant memory until they resurface again in another inexplicable occurrence. While many speculate on cause and effect, a deeper look into our country’s founding structure and history might illuminate the roots of our issues and help us create solutions to heal us from the inside out.

It seems we should take a deeper dive into our nuclear family standard and its rapid decline. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica definition, a nuclear family, also called elementary family, in sociology and anthropology, is a group of people who are united by ties of partnership and parenthood and consisting of a pair of adults and their socially recognized children. Typically, but not always, the adults in a nuclear family are married.  While this definition has evolved over time the structure remains the same, with two parents guiding the family as they grow through the stages of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Many studies have recently examined the term’s early genesis and its apparent dissolution. Divorce rates moved from 25% of all marriages in 1965 to 50% in recent studies, and that rate gets higher and higher for 2nd and 3rd marriages. While the levels have had their ebbs and flows, the introduction of a no-fault divorce in 1969 allowed couples to get divorced with no stated cause, making the process slightly less complicated and much more accessible. While many divorces certainly have their motivations, it’s clear through multiple case studies, that the short and long-term effects are numerous, perhaps more prolific than most couples anticipate.

 

With that in mind, let’s talk about the benefits of remaining married from a statistical and historical point of view. Children living in nuclear families—families consisting of two married adults who are the biological or adoptive parents of all children in the family—were generally healthier, more likely to have access to health care, and less likely to have definite or severe emotional or behavioral difficulties than children living in nonnuclear families.  Children in nuclear families are generally less likely than children in nonnuclear families to be in good, fair, or poor health; to have a basic action disability; or to have learning disabilities or ADHD.    To that result, children living in nuclear families are less likely to be poorly behaved or to have definite or severe emotional or behavioral difficulties than children living in nonnuclear families.  If those considering divorces were, perhaps, better educated on their choices’ effects on their children’s development, maybe they would be more likely to reconsider mediation practices and therapy to repair drastic relationship mishaps.

However, we can dive even deeper than that. With proper instruction, young people during adolescence can be taught to handle relationships with constructive and cognizant tools that, if introduced understandably, could stay with them as they navigate through their entire life. While mental health is the platform many land and camp out in, if we dove into the root cause and evolution of what creates the “mental health” crisis, we could attempt to resolve it as soon as possible.

Some years ago, the secret service did a study on mass shooters, and 71% of those studied came from fragmented homes, 59% had an abusive situation, and only 23% had a history of mental health issues. The mass population is generally not born with clinical mental health issues; they evolve with outside influence. For example, extended isolation creates mental health issues which is why it’s used as an interrogation tactic. People also want to hang their hats on bullying as a leading cause of mental health issues. Suppose a child is from a home where parents actively dive into their children’s lives. In that case, they can speak about the cause and effects of bullying and circumvent many of the disastrous long-term consequences of it going unnoticed and unattended.

It’s easier to focus on these symptoms because they are the things we can diagnose and put band-aids on, rather than going into the deeper problem of marriage and family because that makes us all individually accountable for our actions and choices. People don’t want to go back and revisit the pain of their own decisions. As a result, massive amounts of money is poured into foster care, poverty, human trafficking prevention, etc. These societal ills aren’t going anywhere – they have generated huge industries that focus their efforts in addressing them. The band-aids are vastly administered, but the overall need continues to grow beyond the number of people willing to sacrifice their time, talent, and treasure towards the various causes.

There has to be a better way, and I believe there is. While countless studies are available on the effects of our nuclear family dissolution, something is starting to surface despite the chaos. It is early education that directly and intentionally focuses on repairing relationships proactively rather than reactively. At Live the Life South Florida, we have adopted a peer-reviewed and non-faith-based curriculum called “Real Essentials,” which is nationally recognized by the government. Based on the knowledge that life-defining decisions can be made as early as ten years old, Live the Life has adopted this curriculum to be taught as early as 6th grade and is now teaching and training other teachers in 42 schools across Broward County.

As a result of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Shooting in 2018, Governor DeSantis decreed every Florida student should have 5 hours of social and emotional learning. While this is a tiny step in the correct direction, we as an organization are advocating to have this increased to 32 hours (an entire semester) which, according to our case studies, would produce incredible results. Ideally in the direction of children, who inevitably come from fragmented homes, collectively making better choices and decisions regarding their life’s trajectory. This curriculum educates on healthy fighting, forgiveness, sex education, parenting education, and un-planned parenthood prevention. According to the 2019 National Household Education Survey, U.S. Dept of Education, 47% of high school seniors weren't living with both biological parents. While there’s little to be done to correct that issue, there are tremendous opportunities to teach those children right now that there is another way to live with healthy and loving relationships in their future.

Back to my earlier point, most cases of psychosis happen over time; it’s nurture versus nature. If we could change the vicious cycle for just a small group of children, the resulting dynamic would be changed for generations. This isn’t just a pipedream, it’s been proven. The thing that needs to increase is awareness and acceptance. While we as an organization are well known for marriage education for pre-marital counseling, conflict resolution, and maintenance workshops, our direct attention is focused on these children and their abilities to change their circumstances and potential. If we can teach them to create lasting, healthy relationships and to believe they are capable of far more than the stories that precede them, we could change the rising statistics dramatically. About 1.5 million children experience the divorce of their parents each year—ultimately 40% of all children; 20-25% suffer significant adjustment problems as teenagers, with the negative impact often persisting into adulthood and resulting in 2x the normal prevalence of mental health problems and impaired education attainment, as well as impaired socioeconomic and family well-being.

This would not only have a relational effect in our direct communities, but a financial one as well. “Research on family structure suggests a variety of mechanisms, or processes, through which marriage may reduce the need for costly social programs. Utilizing a simplifying and extremely cautious assumption that all of the taxpayer costs of divorce and unmarried childbearing stem from the effects that family fragmentation has on poverty, we estimate that family fragmentation costs U.S. taxpayers at least $112 billion each and every year, or more than $1 trillion each decade. Of these taxpayer costs, $70.1 billion (annually) are at the federal level.”    The national average per divorce cost in goods and services provided is $31,000.   In Broward County alone, the total cost of divorces going at the same rate over the next 10 years could amount to $2.6 billion dollars. If Live the Life saved only 20k of these divorces they could save Broward County taxpayers $620 million.

It seems very obvious that there is both social and economic evidence that something needs to shift within our family structure. With broader education efforts and national unity in our cause, we could seek to replace what is missing and have a significant chance of repairing our country’s issues from the inside out.

If you would like to learn more, or speak to someone about your marriage, please contact our office at 954-909-0360 or email monica@livethelife.org