Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Nuclear Family Was No Mistake

David Brooks, opinion columnist of the New York Times, wrote a thoughtful and somewhat provoking piece entitle The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake that appeared in The Atlantic last week. His article has received much attention.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Brooks' essential arguments were that the nuclear family is a relatively recent (in history) family form, that it has come to foster detachment and disconnect, that it may have damaged extended family connections, and that something new is emerging and encouraging wherein people forge families and close connections in the absence of nuclear families.

The Institute for Family Studies published a symposium of opinions on its blog, including rejoinders from a number of scholars from different perspectives, challenging, supporting, refuting, and discussing various aspects of the arguments Brooks raised. Several (Hymowitz, Cherlin, & Stanley) directly challenge some of the inferences about the nuclear family, noting its close ties to the most fundamental of human relationships, the pair bond. Most all deal with, and share, a major concern of Brooks--the decline of connection in our society.

Brooks has encouraged an important discussion for our times.

The rejoinders are relatively brief pieces. Here are links to them all.

Scott Stanley (University of Denver): When Wants Conflict with Needs: A Response to David Brooks

Andrew Cherlin (Johns Hopkins University): David Brooks is Urging Us to Go Forward, not Backward

Richard Reeves (The Brookings Institute): David Brooks Is Correct: Both the Quality and Quantity of Our Relationships Matter

Kay Hymowitz (Manhatten Institute): Yes, David Brooks, the Nuclear Family is the Worst Family Form—Except for All Others

Rod Dreher (The American Conservative): David Brooks Is Right—The Nuclear Family Was Destined to Die

Wendy Wang (Institute for Family Studies) & W. Bradford Wilcox (University of Virginia): What Do We Know About Extended Families in America? A Response to David Brooks