Factors unifying the family

In the past the important factors unifying the family have been external, formal, and authoritarian, as the law, the mores, public opinion, tradition, the authority of the family head, rigid discipline, and elaborate ritual. At present, in the new emerging form of the companionship family, its unity inheres less and less in community pressures and more and more in such interpersonal relations as the mutual affection, the sympathetic understanding, and the comradeship of its members.

Though affection and companionship are highly important family functions, they are sometimes difficult to attain, and especially to retain, when other functions are lacking. It is not so easy now for the family to succeed as in a day when it had more to do and when necessity, tradition, and community pressure gave it more support. To give but one example, a wife in colonial times would ordinarily think twice before seeking a divorce, for marriage to her meant economic security. Now, however, the wife is often as well prepared for the making of a living as is her husband, and fear of financial dependency is no longer such a deterrent. Furthermore, divorce is more widely accepted today. We are not suggesting that the family be strengthened by reloading it with its earlier functions, however, or by surrounding it with restrictions. Even if desirable, such a course would be possible only if there could be a complete cultural reversal away from technology; this seems neither desirable nor practical.

Certain functions, domestic in origin, require more ample space or special facilities; these should be taken out of the house even further than they are today: childbirth and infectious illnesses, weddings and funerals, need their communal buildings.

With the return of entertainment to the house, through the phonograph, the radio and the motion picture--with the near prospect of television--the modern house has gained in recreational facilities what it lost through the disappearance of many of the earlier household industries. The radio and the telephone, moreover, have made the house no less a center of communication than was the old market-place. So if certain functions have diminished, others have gained.

It may well be that the family will gain by the interchange, after becoming adjusted to the difference. Certain it is that many of the drudgeries are being taken out of the home, thus leaving more time for companionable experiences. We can expect further developments along this line, not only in laborsaving devices within the home, but in special services from the outside--hospitals, laundries, bakeries, precooked-food dispensaries, dishwashing establishments, nursery schools, diaper services, and the like. With less drudgery involved in housework, more cultural and recreational conveniences within the home, and more time for members to be together, family life ought to find new meaning and strength. The newer emphasis is upon satisfying personal needs of family members; once burdened down with the necessity of producing goods, families can now turn attention to developing personalities. Unless, or until, the companionship element is made to fill the gap left by other departing functions, however, the family will remain weakened by the loss.

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