Looking At Functional Families – Politics Versus Evidence.

The family dynamic is a booming topic in today’s media. Politics often regurgitate societal whims. Each party is to state a stance either leaning towards “traditional family values” or the “modern family”.

We need to stop looking at popular family politics and start reviewing the science behind functional families. Encouraging the family unit is pivotal in promoting the well being of humanity. Our nation would benefit in allowing established research to supersede relational experimentation.

Psychology Today highlighted some leading professionals and research in the field of what makes families work, reporting “Family issues have long been held prisoner by politics” and that, Real family values must take into account the fact that programs and policies are always making and remaking the marital bed.”

Family is important because it is the only institution in contemporary society that is unabashedly committed to love and caring as its primary function.”

–Michael Lerner in The Politics of Meaning

Theodora Ooms, M.S.W., executive director of the Family Impact Seminar, a Washington-based think tank, wants to see research take lead in what we focus on when talking about the family.

Ooms says the goal is:

“To broaden family policy so that it is informed by all the facts, takes into account the needs of
all the members of a family, and supports the relationship that is the family foundation–without condemning those women (or men) who are raising children on their own.”

Marriage is the cornerstone of the “relationship that is the family foundation”. 90% of Americans get married. Unfortunately, divorce still runs rampant. So much of our legal and support system is geared towards helping families post divorce.

This energy needs to be used to help keep families together. Ooms says, “policy-makers have invested so little in finding out what, if anything, can be done to help marriages succeed.”

Having resources and education available by professionals to support the family unit and give each spouse tools to maintain a happy and healthy marriage should be our first line of defense against families facing dissension.

Marriage is not only the cornerstone of the family, it provides emotional and physical well being for both spouses. Linda Waite, Ph.D., a sociologist at University of Chicago, has done extensive research on the benefits of marriage and has found:

  • Married men drink less, live more safely, and live longer.
  • Especially for men, marriage supplies a crucial network of emotional support.
  • Married women have better health, and live in better material
    circumstances, than single or cohabiting women
  • Married couples have more money
  • They have better savings
  • Married couples are more efficient in their tasks because they each can do the ones they excel in.
  • Children do better in two-parent families
  1. Belinda Tucker, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and bio behavioral sciences at UCLA says that “to be pro-family is to be pro-job”. Work and family life are so integrally related. A happy work life leads to a better home life of less stress, more time, and invested relationships.

Dana Friedman, Ph.D., from a New York City consulting firm says, “business has an important stake in shaping family policy.” A Business Week survey found that “98% of top male corporate executives are married and have kids.”

A Johnson and Johnson study looked into the elements that help employees at work have improved family time and the results were, “control over work hours, particularly during a crunch time; a sensitive supervisor; and a generally supportive work atmosphere.”

Society needs to see the evidence that maintaining a happy, functional marriage is the key to a happy, functional family. Waite’s research and the like should be easily available and leading the direction of support.

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