Crisis & Transition

Crisis or Transition?

American families have always shown remarkable resiliency, or flexible adjustment to natural, economic, and social challenges. Their strengths resemble the elasticity of a spider web, a gull’s skillful flow with the wind, the regenerating power of perennial grasses, the cooperation of an ant colony, and the persistence of a stream carving canyon rocks. These are not the strengths of fixed monuments but living organisms. This resilience is not measured by wealth, muscle, or efficiency but by creativity, unity, and hope. Cultivating these family strengths is critical to a thriving human community. – Ben Silliman

Much has been written in recent years of the American family in crisis.  Unquestionably, we live in an increasingly complex world that requires families to face new challenges.  Greater geographic distances between family members, the need for two income earners to maintain a middle-class lifestyle, a growing number of divorces and blended families, and the demands of caring for parents while still raising children are just a few of the issues families must confront, especially in meeting the needs of aging relatives.  In addition, today's world seems to face more social problems - drug and alcohol abuse, a failing Social Security and health care system, high crime rates, and a general decline in personal responsibility and moral values.  How families - and society - respond to these challenges affects everyone, but especially those who are the most vulnerable and dependent for support and care:  children, elders, and seriously ill persons.

How well are we meeting these challenges?  In the popular press and in academia we have seen over the past two decades a polarization and politicization of the changes in family dynamics.  Some argue that the decline in the number of of "traditional" American families - working father, stay-at-home mother, and children - is the root of many of our social problems today (Popenoe, 1999).  Others argue that many of the changes in families, such as women working outside the home and the dissolution of unhappy marriages, overall are better for individuals as well as for other family members (Stacey, 1998).  Still others take a more neutral position that historically it is the nature of family groups to reinvent themselves in order to meet their current needs (Bengtson et al., 2004; Elkind, 1994; Kain, 1990).

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.