Table of Contents
Social reforms and diverse constellation of political interests have collaborated to wreck the marriage and family institution. The implementation of these wide range sets of policies helped to usher in a new landscape in family and marriage institutions. The set policies possessed elements of cultural consequences such as the erosion of social and cultural values. The implications of these social reforms to the society presented a new challenge and dynamic in family and marriage. The reforms or policies came as a result of ideological political interests. Decades of changes in social reforms or policies has seen a subsiding in social values.
Since 1960s, politics on social reforms targeting the family has really contributed on erosion of the once pride of society; traditional family. For instance, 1990 saw a new course in steering the future of marriage and family. This new phenomenon would mark the beginning to what was referred to as the new synthesis on family. This came as a backdrop of political debate on the future of the family and marriage as an institution. The political debate ensued as a result of different camps holding divergent opinions and point of view regarding the stability of the family institution. This triggered ideological battle between the left and right divide in congress.
The conservative raised concerns over the rising numbers of divorce and children bored out of wed-lock. They subscribed to the school of thought that all these were as a result of breakdown in societal values. Conservatives, on the other side, were all echoing from the same script regarding emancipation of women from their traditional roles and exposing them to the equal treatment, both at home and at workplaces. The debate was highly polarized as each side held their ground regarding the issue.
However, both camps embraced that family change were linked to cultural and economic conditions. The republicans under the President Bush felt that in order to bring reinstate the lost glory of marriage and family as an institution, marriage need to be strengthened through support.
During his tenure, President Bush proposed a welfare funds to finance public and private pro-marriage campaigns and initiatives. Most of the congressional democrats questioned the republic or other, the government’s ability to resuscitate the dignity of stable marriage. The democrats believed that if the government was serious about addressing the ills facing the marriage and family institution, they would have increased funding for programs such as child care, healthcare for all employees, pre-school and post-school for children and more generous leave policies for parents who are working. This would have helped parents to spend more time with their families.
Pragmatic ideas and initiatives are needed to salvage the collapse of marriage and family institutions. This clearly shows how the government has failed in addressing the essence of the problem besetting the United States society. The result of the negligence by the government has seen record high divorce and a dramatic increase in cohabitation. This signifies a fall in the pride and dignity of marriage. The truce on cultural suggests family is losing the grip and glory, as the cradle of a society.
Divorce in a family and marriage has its dire ramifications. In the macro-economic level divorce has been known to create a substantial public costs in terms of tax paid by taxpayers. The huge chunks of the taxpayers money is used to fund various welfare expenditures such as child support, higher day-care subsidies, increased Medicaid and Medicare costs, among many other programs.
The demise of the traditional marriage was transformed by the irrevocable changes in the economic and social landscape. When the economy exhibited growth and expansion in 1960s, this saw women roles in the society changed. Women joined the labor force and the result is a complete of economic independence. The social change culminated the Proliferation of birth control pills.
The cultural wars saw the gradual rise on same-sex marriage. The same-sex marriage such as gays and lesbians demanded same economic benefits and social legitimacy as the heterosexual marriage. The government witnessed the demise of the ‘traditional’ marriage. The government had the power to prevent the crumbling down of family, if they did invest in viable social programs with direct impact on salvaging the breakdown of family and marriage. Fracturing of the family and weakening of the marriage institution comes with an expensive price to be taxed to the society.
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The huge amount of government spending is channeled to programs which are as a result of family dissolution. It is said that the government funds 65 different social programs. A rundown of each program spells out that the need of each program is either created or perpetuated by the fracturing of families and marriages.
This means in order for the government to stem the growth of these programs, the government has to employ radical approach in order to reduce the taxpayer’s spending on these programs. The essence of all these social programs takes us back to their genesis. In 1935, under president Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the Social Security Act of 1935, the Act, was to ensure the establishment of social programs to support individuals and families. The Act came to pass against heavy debate and divergence of opinions along thinking lines of conservatives and liberals.
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Aid to Families and Dependent Children (AFDC), these programs virtually led to established of the modern day welfare programs. The thinking lines between conservatives and liberals in terms of assisting children and families were always not easy to identify. Generally, the conservatives believed that the government should not be involved or less involved, in family matters. Regardless, the government has always been involved in family matters in areas ranging from family support, to tax programs, to promoting marriage, to abortion. The conservatives have always echoed that the chief visible cause of family fragmentation has been the government’s welfare system. This has been widely supported and subscribed to be true by various circles in sociology field. The conservatives did propose the solution to breakdown in family values, is to revitalize and re-institutionalize marriage.
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Contrary to conservative views, liberal views places more focus on utilizing government to help families. An approach which has perpetuated the problem facing marriage institution, breakdown on family values, high divorce rates, single-parenthood, and heavy dependence on welfare programs. In fact, measures have been enacted to help married where wives are employed outside the home, and single parent, rather than, help breadwinner-homemaker married couples. All these are manifestation of the workings of liberal thinking.
Issues surrounding heterosexual and same-sex marriages also abound in social and government circles. The issue can as well be divided to conservative and liberal lines of thinking. In 2006, Congress passed legislation on welfare reform; the reform included a program that provided the states with significant financial incentives to promote heterosexual marriage. The legislation passed against a backdrop of heated debates and sharp divisions. However, the increase debate on same-sex marriage was to continue.
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Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996, is an example of government action intended to reinforce a particular definition of marriage and, thus, family. The ambiguity of this legislation lives a lot of room for further fragmentation of the family. How such developments will impact the future of the family is yet to be known. However, there is a reason to believe that the ongoing changes, and in view of some challenges to, the traditional American family and marriage. Needless to say, it is clear that the definition of the family will not return to its fountain glory of its yester years.
In the past sixty years serve as a reference point of the awaited changes and transition yet to come. However, it also could include different ways to look at the overall definition of family in terms of heterosexual, same-sex marriages, single-parent homes among many others. This will further accent the differences between the conservative and liberal philosophy. The change in values and as United States continues to be more and more diverse society, culturally, socially, economically and religiously. The divergent opinions, views, and philosophy will influence the future directions and definition of family and, thus, the aspects of America lives. This means the ball is in the court and floor of Congress to shape and define the destiny of one of mankind’s crucial institution.
It is during the vagaries of electoral politics that a struggle ensue over whose ideologically defined values should guide the American politics and public policy is widely considered as the source of nearly all domestic political conflicts. Less present or less controversial in public debates or public policy debates is the definition of “family.”
The bizarre aspect is that a majority of social welfare and labor policies in the United States incorporates at least a handful of provisions that either rely or recognize alternate definition of the family when delineating eligibility for benefits. This suggests that it is becomes critical to define “family” in such a way that meets and or reflects the realities of the modern life. This consequently explains why policymakers operate on outdated, archaic ideological definitions of family. This also depicts the fact that the same policymakers, who are at the realm of making crucial decisions for America, will have a high tendency of making radical mistakes as they will design policies which are inconsistent with contemporary social structures. Owing all the mistakes to misconstrued ideological connotations of the term, “family,” thus, predisposing the society to institutional corruption, as far as family and marriage is concerned.
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These policies will be inevitably ineffective, and in the worst case scenario, produce undesirable social outcomes. Piven and Cloward (1987) note that, “the social welfare state is a secondary institution serving the needs of primary institutions; government and the economy.” Social policy must promote and safeguard both economic and social aspect of the society. This also means that if the goals and objectives are in service of primary institution, then perhaps family can be considered as a family institution, as well.
In order to transform public policy approach on family, we must first define family to which social welfare is in service. This suggests that defining “family” critically not just for the formation and implementation of public policy but for an understanding of evolution of traditional ideals of American society and the entire economy.
Formal English-language definition of family connotes binding ties by blood, adoption, and marriage. “Policymakers have also included technical considerations such as pooling and distribution of income and resources across individuals and households.”(Hill, 1995; Smith, 1993).
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The “family” can be considered to as social and economic construct. This suggest that it is has a vital role to play in the civil society and the free market economy. The government employs social policy to delineate benefits to the “family,” according to its ideological connotations, and not for family, as the foundation of a society. The government does not invest holistically to the family as a solution to the social ills but it misappropriates its attention to factors contributing to catalyze the fragmentation of the society.