There are a great many contradictions within our culture which reflect upon personality and upon family behavior. Modern life is complex, fast-moving, and transitional. There have been innovations coming in so fast and with such magnitude that certain cultural segments remain undigested and society suffers from a "stomach-ache." Values are in conflict. Not only are cultural contradictions analogous to those within the individual, Bain believes, but they are actually productive of personality difficulties. This means that psychiatry may not be able to get very far in its work with individuals until a societal mental hygiene has been developed; personality integration is to a large extent dependent upon cultural consistency.
The confusion in our culture on sex is notorious. There is scarcely any official recognition of the reproductive system by church, school, or home. Birth control is widely condemned but more widely practiced. Venereal disease is still more of a moral than medical problem. The "double standard" still flourishes. Sex-attitudes oscillate from the "romantic-holy" to the "prosaic-evil." We eulogize sex and love in the abstract, but there is a great deal of furtiveness, shame, and sense of sin connected with the facts and acts of sex.
We glorify parenthood, but provide little education for prospective parents. Declining birth rate, child care outside the home, and technological specialism have largely defunctionalized woman. Monogamous marriage is our ideal, but infidelity, marital maladjustment, and divorce abound. Marriage and divorce laws are anarchic and are frequently violated with impunity. Legal grounds for divorce are seldom the "real" reasons and the courts wink at collusion.
Our reliance upon mother love and maternal "instinct" results in personality distortions of both parents and children. If we would, we could cut maternal and infant death rates in half. We still control children by fear and force, but many parents, fearful of Freudian complexes and repressions, abjure all discipline and control. This is the age of the child, but we still have child labor, malnutrition, remediable defects, and preventable diseases. We have school health examinations but little treatment. We "love" children too much and too little; frequently the same child is a victim of this emotional polarity, indulged and frightened in almost the same breath.
These contradictions of culture cause disturbances in both the individual and the marriage relationship. Personality integration is made more difficult because of the confusion that exists within and among various groups and ideologies to which the individual is exposed. Marriage solidarity is less easily attained than in cultures that are more consistent because of the greater likelihood of role conflicts. In simpler societies, where culture is more ordered and integrated, there is greater likelihood that husband and wife would see alike and accept the marital roles that the culture prescribes for them. But in modern American society, which is highly complex and unsettled, there is a wide and changing variety of permissible roles for the mates. Some of these patterns are on the way out, others are coming in; some are held to by certain families and groups but are not universal. It should be clear, therefore, that our culture is imposing a number of conflicts upon the marriage relationship; today, husbands and wives are less likely to agree concerning family roles than was true in other times and places. Tensions and frictions over such questions as who is to be boss, are wives to work, how large is the family to be, and what philosophy of discipline is to be used, must inevitably be greater in a culture that is full of unorganized roles and values.