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Weakened Families And Kinship Systems

In the early 1900s, a U.S. social worker, Mary Richmond, referred to the family as "the great social unit, the fundamental social fact." She demanded changes in agency and government practices, action in regard to child labor laws, industrial safety regulations, and protection of working women, as well as administrative changes in industrial operations to strengthen family life. She constantly challenged people to ask themselves: "Have we at least set plans in motion that will make the children better heads of families than their parents have been?" Her challenge was based on a new recognition of "the overwhelming force of heredity plus the environment we inherit" (1908, pp. 76–79).

A century later, the world's traditional family and kinship systems continued to undergo profound changes. These changes were driven mainly by such economic forces as repeated failures in subsistence agriculture, the availability of relatively higher-paying jobs in urban factories, and new economic opportunities in neighboring and distant countries. Social and political forces also figured centrally in the changes affecting traditional family forms—for example, continuing high rates of population increase, an aging population, increasing numbers of women who need to work outside the home, and recurrent wars and civil conflict (Edwards 1997).

Most of these changes occur in an environment of shrinking social welfare and other support services to help families. Services such as childcare assistance and care for the dependent elderly become paramount in importance to a world of women who carry these responsibilities.

All nations value the family unit. Poor, undeveloped countries are not able to absorb the high costs, however, associated with weakened family and kinship systems.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaOther Marriage & Family TopicsPoverty - Definition Of Poverty, Global Poverty, Measuring Poverty, Welfare Response, Categories Of Dependence, Weakened Families And Kinship Systems