The global revolution that is changing the perception of families as a unit is impacting families across cultures and in multi-dimensional ways. The traditional, nuclear family consisting of the bread-winning father, stay-at-home mother and dependent children is slowly declining. In the 2006 Australian Census, this structure of family was true for only 37% of the population (AIFS, 2001). Some of the reasons for these changes may be due to gender equality where women are now, in this post-modern era, able to work in similar professions and receive similar salaries as their male colleagues. In this case, some fathers have become primary caregivers for their children (Bowes & Watson, 2008) and reversed roles that were traditionally thought of as the norm. De-facto relationships as well as the legalization of same-sex marriages in some Western countries have also impacted on the decline of the nuclear family.
The impact of globalization on families is undeniable in terms of family re-modeling. Families have evolved due to the impact of individualism which is associated with globalization. Kagitcibasi (2002) highlights three different family interaction patterns which have come into existence due to socio-economic development. In summary, Kagitcibasi (2002) suggests that the model of emotional interdependence (with combined autonomy and control orientation in parenting) is prevalent in immigrant groups in Western Countries. This combination of individualism and collectiveness equates to the concept of related self. I am able to relate to this as the Pakistani immigrants in Sydney. I live and breathe the idea that whatever I achieve as an individual will impact my family greatly and bring them either immense pride or shame. I feel this model of family applies to us because the small Pakistani society in Sydney exists of numerous families who are all inter-connected and therefore there is accountability. I believe, however, in the succeeding generations, immigrant families will evolve into more of the family of independence characteristic of western nuclear families where individualism and self-reliance are encouraged.
MODULE 2 GUIDING QUESTION:
Bowen describes the nuclear family emotional system as the one that exist when couples based their relationships on conflicts, as the conflict makes them feel emotionally in contact with their partners or when couples use the conflict as an excuse to maintain a distance from each other. The way people manage the intensity of fusion with their families is what Bowen called cut off. A cut off can be achieved through physical distance of through forms of emotional withdrawal.
Based on my understanding of Bowen’s family theory, the relationship between people is influenced by two contrasting concept: individual and togetherness, which means we need to be independent while we also need to be companied and cared by others. He brought the concepts of “fusion” and “differentiation”, he argued that the greater a family’s tendency to differentiation, the more flexibility it will have in adapting to stress.
Bowen’s family theory is still widely applicable in the modern society. According to Skolnick & Skolnick (2009), strained economic conditions and the shifting ideology about appropriate roles for mothers and fathers pose new challenges for new couples nowadays who have no trailblazer and need to forge their own trails. Modern relationships faced less support and more choice, there are more emotional burdens put on their shoulders. Couples need to deal with the relationship between each other, with their parents, with children, with colleagues and friends. In such a big and complex system, one could hardly see the demand and anticipation of himself or herself.
The main aim of Bowen’s family theory is not managing to change people or solve the family conflicts. He viewed the therapy as providing opportunities for families to know more about themselves and their intimacy, in order to let people know their responsibility and appropriate role in the family system. It is a process of positive searching for inner perspective, through this process, family member could go through the phase full of complain and accusation and look deeper in self performances.
Consequently, in modern society, people face more complex relationships than ever before, it is easily to get confusion about who we are, what we should do and what we want. Bowen’s theory could provide a platform for us to jump out of the mess to reflect upon ourselves to increase the harmony of family.
MODULE 3 GUIDING QUESTION
Father is definitely a significant role in a family. Like it said in the book, fatherhood is composed of four facets: emotional closeness, provision, protection, and endowment. A successful father is always described as a supporter on both emotional and financial aspects. In traditional opinions from Pakistan, it is males’ responsibility to protect female, children and old people from threat, poverty, war, and so on. If a man couldn’t support his family financially, or at least earn half the money for his family, he would be described as a failure and has low position either in family or in society and thus gains no respect even from his own children. Some scientist nowadays argued that just because these huge amounts of pressures added on males’ shoulders and their instincts that they can’t well relieve their stress make males’ lives shorter compared with their female counterparts.
Chen and He (2005) states that good marital relationship affects how a child grows up. Maintaining a good relationship between the couple and exposing this to a child may affect the child’s notion of family and his/her well being. However it does not always mean that a child who grows up in a fatherless family will have a negative effect in his/her life. Mothers are also able to replace the roles of fathers in a lot of sense, and in fact today many single mums do take the roles and responsibilities of the male that had been played by ‘fathers’ in the traditional family.
However, I have always thought it was important that a child has a father. This was because as a child I was aware that my parents were taking different roles within the family, and saw how each of them interacted with us children very differently. As family is the first contact for a baby/young child to experience and explore about the world it may be the best if the child could interact with both female and male in this small unit. It may be ideal if the child could grow up seeing different roles and characters of different sexes in a familiar and close context like family.
Driscoll’s article gave me the impression that ‘fatherhood’ is a lot more distant from what we call’ motherhood’ or even’ parenthood’. Fathers in both articles seem to be lacking the sense of fatherhood, which I thought would be acknowledged naturally when their child is born or when they became ready to be a father psychologically. Is it because they do not have the ties with children, like the mothers who raise their child in the womb? Or is it just their personality? Is biological tie important to them because they were educated that it is?
MODULE 4 GUIDING QUESTION
I found the discussion about different cultures very interesting because it is sometimes interesting as well as useful also to have an information about different cultures, the way people live, interact with one another, their customs and traditions which they follow in society because it increases our knowledge and understanding about those cultures and it is then necessary for us that their traditions must be respected in a broader view.
Low (2005)’s article on family forms from the evolutionary perspective was equally interesting but I would like to make some comments on Kagitcibasi (2002)’s article here.
Kagitcibasi (2002) argues about family forms from the cultural perspective. The comparison between the Western societies and non-Western societies (The Majority World) in terms of family relationship was interesting to me. It was interesting to know that the family relationship in those non-Western societies (e.g. Pakistan, China and Japan) did not change from interdependent to independent even as the economy progressed. I wondered why it was so and whether it really is unchanged today.
I actually do not know how Western families interact with their family members and I have always thought they are very close to one another. So I am not sure to what extent Kagitcibasi would state interdependence is and what is not included in it. I am sure the Western families are interdependent emotionally/psychologically to some extent too. From what I have heard, I think the children in the Western societies are economically more independent, while the Pakistani children are mostly not so independent in that manner.
Lastly, ‘separation'(Kagitcibasi 2002, p.4) is certainly not the goal in the Pakistani society, as we consider that family should always be there for one another. Though it does not seem to be the goal for the Western families either. I don’t believe that being independent means separating with one another emotionally or psychologically.
MODULE 5 GUIDING QUESTION
I understand Goodnow’s statement as when we first meet someone we subconsciously place him or her into one category and since each category has its own characteristics, we conclude this people’s personality and characteristics through our personal views and experience.
I think the reason why we need to place people in a category at the moment we see them is to protect ourselves subconsciously. We have the nature to avoid someone who seems totally different or foreign from us. Like Goodnow’s saying that “Once we group people, once we decide that they belong to this or that type, we can make quick judgments about him. The judgments may be ‘quick and dirty’, but they will be quick”.(p.56) Although everybody knows that judge one person on appearance is not fair and unreliable, we do that all the times, I guess it is human nature to exclude aliens.
In Pakistan, most people still believe in something that has no scientific bases, like physiognomy. It could tell the future and person’s personality, character, even his or her relationship with friends, parents, lover, etc. just by looking at the face or palm. Like it said about the shape of a nose, if someone has a nose which is straight, standing firmly, or big, he wouldn’t lack of money in his life, and someone who has a wry nose, he is likely to have bad temper. I know it may sounds ridiculous, but many people not only Pakistani but also Japanese, even some people from western countries believe in this fortune-telling judging by appearances.
To me, I believe in categories which group people by the day of their birth and their constellation, I just found I prefer to be with people from certain constellations rather than others. It is hard to explain the reason, but certain constellations just get along much better, maybe because we have some complementary characteristics. In brief, I think there is always something that we couldn’t explain by science.
MODULE 6 GUIDING QUESTION
IS THE NOTION OF “FAMILY” AT RISK?
The “traditional” notion of family has been turned upside down and inside out, especially in the last century. If we refer to Beck and Beck-Gernsheim’s (2004) concluding comments that “normative” models no longer bind people together, I would agree to a certain extent; however I wouldn’t say this is the rule. Although we have established that the notion of “family” need not be bound by the nuclear structure, I still believe that there are many “traditional” minds out there that believe that blood is still thicker than water.
I don’t completely agree with blood relations as the defining aspect of family, I realised that I would never win any debate from my relatives of “older” and “wiser” generations, even if I truly felt that my modern opinions presented very valid points. Due to the generation gap (that can never be closed?), and perhaps to the harsh times our elders faced, which could have instilled in them a stricter discipline (and way of thinking) that the young ones just have to shut up and agree with their elders!
Anyway, I genuinely feel that the postmodern theories (that blood relations need not bind “family”) present valid and relevant food for thought. As mentioned in the article of Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (2004), as society evolves there comes the need to map new concepts and forms of relationships (i.e. egg donors, surrogate mothers, biological parents, etc). There has always been a need to adapt with the times, and in the adaptation process, we have created unlimited options for “family.” It is now up to the individual to accept the postmodern possibilities for “neo-families.” If he/she accepts, does that mean he/she has to abandon traditional ideas? I think not.
The plethora of “family” concepts out there, coupled with the open-mindedness and acceptance to change of most of society, definitely puts the “traditional” family at risk. However, as humans, I believe that one thing will never change – our capacity to form deep, lasting interpersonal relationships with other individuals. For so long as we nurture these relationships, and feel a sense of warmth and fulfillment in the company of the other, the notion of family will always be alive.
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