Linda & Richard Eyre: Tipping points: Is the family doomed?

Published: Tuesday, April 15 2014 4:10 p.m. MDT

Is the family as we know it disappearing?

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Is the family as we know it disappearing? Are those who believe in and live within natural, traditional families becoming a minority for the first time in the history of the world?

Sometimes, problems reach a kind of critical mass where majorities shift — when something that has tilted one direction flips past the vertical point and begins to tilt the opposite way. Consider 10 ratios or percentages that have changed dramatically in the past decade and now indicate the assumptions and “norms” held for centuries no longer hold. These “tipping points” suggest that the future of our oldest and most basic institution is truly in doubt:

1. Within the next few years, there will be more U.S. adults who are single than who are married (“The World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics," United Nations).

2. In several Western countries, very nearly as many children are now born out of wedlock as in it, according to the National Vital Statistics Report and a report by CBS News.

3. Approximately as many U.S. marriages now end in divorce as stay intact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

4. In many major world cities, there are now more households occupied by one single individual than households inhabited by any kind of family (Eric Klinenberg, “One’s a Crowd,” New York Times).

5. In England, more women of childbearing age say they would rather buy a house than have a child. A third say they do not ever want children, according to a survey of 2,000 women by British magazine Grazia.

6. In the U.S. and Europe, among couples that move in together, far more now choose cohabitation rather than marriage (Meg Jay, “The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage," New York Times; Kids Count Data Center).

7. More than half of the Hispanic children in the U.S. are now raised in fatherless homes. Among African-American families, seven in 10 kids are raised without a dad (Luke Rosiak, “Fathers Disappear from Households Across America,” Washington Times).

8. More people now seem to believe that the family should support the career rather than that the career should support the family (“America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012,” United States Census Bureau; Tyjen T. Conley, “Australian Fathers’ Long Hours Affect Sons More Than Daughters,” Population Reference Bureau).

9. In virtually all developed countries, cohabitation, same-sex marriage and intentional single parenthood are expanding rapidly as traditional marriages and birthrates decline (Max Fisher, “How the World’s Populations Are Changing, in One Map,” Washington Post).

10. In 2014, for the first time, more than half of the nations on the planet (116 of the 224 recognized sovereign states and countries) have birthrates below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman and must now either encourage more births or count on immigration to maintain their work forces (CIA World Factbook via Wikipedia).

Have we lost the battle? Are families doomed?

However you may answer those questions, the bottom line is that the “silent majority” is quickly becoming a silent minority — partly because we are silent! Those who still believe in traditional family and marriage, and those who recognize the crises that come without them, need to make some noise and do something about it.

That is essentially the goal of this column — to help those who still believe in and practice a traditional family lifestyle to recognize that, for much of the world, that lifestyle is slipping away, and to encourage them all to stand up more visibly for what we feel is the best and the happiest way to live.

We are in the final stages of writing a new book called "The Turning: Why the State of the Family Matters, and What the World Can Do About It." The title is taken from the warning in the last verse of the last page of the Old Testament, where God warns that the hearts of children must turn to parents, and the hearts of parents to children, “lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:6).

Is today’s society already under the curse of broken families and ever-increasing social problems?

We will try to answer this and related questions in future columns. In the meantime, we offer thanks and encouragement to those of you who defend the family lifestyle in the best way possible — by living it.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at EyresFreeBooks.com or valuesparenting.com. Linda’s blog is at eyrealm.blogspot.com.

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