Problems in Family Life
IN THE families that you know, how do the members get along together? Do the husband and wife show genuine love and concern for each other? Are the children well behaved and happy? What is the situation in your own family?
Although some families enjoy a happy life together, many do not. What goes on in many families gives reason for deep concern. As the Los Angeles Times reports:
“In virtually every block, in every borough, town and suburb, couples are kicking, elbowing, slapping and punching. The rich and well-bred fight just as much as the poor and uneducated, and the choice of weapons ranges from beer cans, bottles and bread knives to frying pans and pieces of furniture.”—October 18, 1973.
Most aggravated assaults, and many deaths, stem from these family wars. Why, one out of five police officers killed in line of duty in the United States is reportedly slain while responding to a marital dispute!
Most family quarrels are not evident outside the home. Yet they are, nevertheless, extremely damaging. So much so that problems in the family have become a concern to the government. In commenting on reports before a Senate panel, the Akron Beacon Journal reported: “The American family is coming apart at the seams.”
Is it really that serious? Look at the following divorce figures.
Disintegration of Marital Ties
In 1962 there were 413,000 divorces in the United States. Ten years later that number had more than doubled, rising to 839,000! And the breakup of families is gathering momentum.
In the first nine months of 1973, there was a 9-percent increase in divorces over the same period of 1972. At that rate of increase, over 2,000,000 Americans will get divorced during 1974!
Presently there are two divorces for every five marriages. But in many states divorces number more than half the marriages! Here are the figures, taken from the 1974 World Almanac and Book of Facts, for the year 1972:
STATE MARRIAGES DIVORCES
Alaska 3,682 2,096
Arkansas 24,949 13,762
California 173,563 111,162
Florida 81,322 51,688
Oregon 18,824 12,435
Washington 40,814 20,702
What are the consequences of such a staggering divorce rate? For one thing, about one out of every four children lives with only one parent, nearly twice the number who were doing so ten years ago. The effects are far-reaching and tragic. Reports a first-grade teacher in Massachusetts:
“It is very difficult to have a classroom situation in which the kids all sit down and do something together, which you could do if not five, then ten years ago. The children today tend to be very much more upset. The teacher has to be very understanding of the problems that the children have to deal with at home.”
In other countries the situation is similar. Beneath its heading “Family Life in Danger,” the London Daily Mail reported:
“The extent of marriage breakdowns in Britain, with 110,000 divorces in 1971—double the rate for 1968—is now a major social problem, says Dr. [Jacobus] Dominian. It supersedes alcoholism, serious crime, VD and sexual offences.”—June 18, 1973.
In Indonesia nearly one third of all marriages end in divorce. Australia experienced a 20-percent increase in number of divorces in a recent year. In Egypt, where polygamy is practiced, there were 700,000 divorces in 1970 compared to only 325,000 marriages.
Figures Tell Only Part of Story
Many marriage mates simply walk out. They do not even bother with divorce. The New York Times said of this situation in the United States:
“The number of wives running away from home, or walking away from marriage, has risen dramatically over the last 10 years.
“Detective agencies that specialize in tracing missing persons report that the ratio of disappearing wives to husbands, particularly in large Eastern cities, has risen from about 1 in 100 a decade ago to more than 1 out of 3.” Another source says that by 1973 the ratio was about even.
Millions of other couples stay together, yet their relationship is very poor. “Even physical divorce between husband and wife without a court declaration is not uncommon,” explains U.S. Circuit Judge Marvin J. Sternberg. “They live separate and apart, sometimes even in the same house, sometimes even in the same bedroom, but their emotions, actions and conduct towards one another indicate they are separate and distinct.”
In such marriages the partners often get emotional and sexual satisfaction from others. It is estimated that three out of five husbands and perhaps as many as one out of three wives in the United States have had extramarital affairs. Adultery by mutual consent—called “swinging”—has also become popular. Some eight million Americans are believed to be occasional “swingers.”
This lack of respect for marital ties has had tragic effects, particularly on the young.
Youths in Trouble
The mockery that their elders have made of marriage has caused many young ones to cast moral standards aside altogether. “Do your own thing,” or, “Get it while you can,” is their motto. The New York Daily News explains:
“Sexual relationships without marriage are now broadly recognized by parents, colleges and the public generally. There is a sort of quiet tolerance of immorality, as if it would be futile to stem a new irresistible tide.”
Reflecting this rising tide of tolerated immorality are the millions of young women getting abortions. Other evidence of it is the increasing number of illegitimate births. In 1970 California set an illegitimacy record of 46,600. Nation wide in 1969 there were more than 200,000 girls under eighteen who became mothers.
In Sweden, one in every five babies is born out of wedlock. Every eighth New Zealand baby is illegitimate; one in ten births is out of wedlock in Canada, and one birth in twelve is illegitimate in Australia. The London Daily Mail reports: “A third of all teenage brides were pregnant on their wedding day.”
And what is going on in families that are not divorced? For one thing, many parents have little or no control of their children. Often there are constant arguments regarding behavior. Or there may be silent resignation, with parents and children each going their separate ways. Millions of families desperately need help with their problems.
Indicating this, a widely known psychologist last year observed: “During the hour that I’m on radio each morning, New York’s station WMCA is deluged with an average of 5000 calls. Most are from women—about marriage problems.”
Perhaps you are not among those thousands who have phoned, but you, too, may appreciate help with family problems. There are many things that wives, husbands and parents can do to improve the situation in the family, and these are discussed in the succeeding articles in this magazine.
[Chart on page 3]
DIVORCE INCREASE IN U.S.A.
1960 - 393,000
1965 - 479,000
1970 - 715,000
1972 - 839,000
[Chart on page 4]
RATIO OF ILLEGITIMATE CHILDREN TO BABIES BORN
SWEDEN 1 in 5
NEW ZEALAND 1 in 8
CANADA 1 in 10
AUSTRALIA 1 in 12