The Family Today:
In all of the focus groups, most participants strongly agreed that there are more families pulling apart than in the past and that families are increasingly isolated from relatives and neighbors. In Philadelphia, a predominately African American group talked at length about the disintegration of family and community. Here is a sample of the comments made:
· People have lost closeness to their neighbors.
· When I grew up, more than just the parents could discipline children. Neighbors disciplined kids too. They took interest in us, and it was love.
· Miss Lucy across the street would see to me. If I stepped my foot out the door she was on the phone.
· You always had your mother and father, your aunts and uncles.
· Fewer families have a spiritual life now.
· Children are not disciplined properly. (This belief was strongly held in all of the focus groups.)
· Right away now, kids say, “I’m going to have you arrested if you hit me.”
· Ever since they changed the law, where you can’t spank your kids, I think a lot of parents are intimidated. (Contrast this perception with Ohio law wherein the corporal punishment of children by parents is permissible.)
· In my day, if you did something wrong, Miss So-and-So would call home. Now you had better not look at anybody’s kids.
· Too many children are being brought up in day care centers.
· Families spend less and less time together; you never see a family eating dinner together.
· Times have changed. The parents are working more hours; the kids are left alone more. There is not enough quality time.
· Drugs are prevalent.
· TV and movies portray violence and lewd behavior as acceptable.
Other participants in the research thought that the issue may not be that more families are pulling apart. Rather, they suggested that the definition of family is changing.
· Maybe the character of the family is changing. If it’s a single parent family, it can still be a strong family. It’s just different.
· I don’t know that families are necessarily falling apart as much as they are changing. There are different kinds of families now. You have homosexual families, straight families, and single parent families; and they are strong.