American journalist Marty Nemko considers family to be overrated, she says family is given too much importance: “Politicians, clerics, and just plain folks extol family as our most important institution. I believe family is overrated. So many people suffer inordinately from family. Millions of people don’t even speak with a family member. Millions more spend years and fortunes on therapists, trying to undo the ills that family perpetrated on them. All this shouldn’t be surprising. After all, unlike with friends, we are placed in our family of origin at random, with no say in the matter.
Fr Paul Galea from the University of Malta replies on how important the family is…
There is no doubt that the ideal family exists only in the textbooks. The criticism above is partly justified by the idealisation of the family. Although people have no choice as to which family they are born, it is inconceivable not to have one, and being deprived of one can be a much worse experience. Evolution has made it that the human offspring takes longer to be weaned and to start living independently. Ironically, the higher the standard of living the longer it takes to separate.
The argument that there are many who do not speak to members of their family or who spend fortunes to undo negative emotional experiences is a confirmation of the importance and relevance of the family especially in the development of the child. That something can go wrong at any stage of development is a misfortune that can happen also to the best of families.
What is more of concern behind such argumentations is the ideology that supports them. As contemporary society becomes more individualistic there is less appreciation of family ties. As the family becomes more variegated emotional bonds with strangers become more important than blood relationships. Furthermore, what we are seeing today is an anthropological regression as fathers become less and less involved in the life and upbringing of their offspring.
The biggest challenge to our families, however, is how to reconcile other interests with those of the family. Because of career and work people put family interests on hold, including procreation which follows a different schedule. The individual pursuit of happiness is severely challenged by the heavy toll that a family can exert. Dedication to a family requires an adherence to certain values and ideals. In their absence it is more convenient to underrate the importance of the family.
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