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Family Strengths

Family Strengths And Universal Values

Individuals and families are all unique, and yet there is an apparent paradox: human beings are all also quite similar. Countless people from countless walks of life—novelists, poets, sociologists, anthropologists, singers and songwriters, economists, psychologists, and educators—have remarked upon this.

In the 1930s, cultural anthropologists assumed that every culture was unique. However, over several decades sociologist George Homans (1974) amassed empirical data that contradicted this belief in cultural uniqueness, arguing that certain societal institutions appear in every culture because of the universality of human nature.

Anthropologist Colin Turnbull (1983) devoted his life to studying the nature of human cultures around the world and challenged age-old Western assumptions about differences between so-called "primitive" societies and "modern" societies. Turnbull concluded from his work among the Mbuti of Zaire, the Hindus of Banaras, and middle-class Westerners that the experiences of love, work, loneliness, growing up, and growing old are universal. He concluded that behind all the different FIGURE 2
Designed by Amie DeFrain.
rites, customs, and religions, people in various cultures live in the same eternal, immutable human cycle, governed by the same laws.

Kenneth Boulding (1985), an economist, philosopher, and general systems theorist, wrote that human betterment is the end toward which people, individually and collectively, should strive. Betterment is an increase in the "ultimate good." Four great virtues make up this ultimate good: (1) economic adequacy—wealth in contrast to poverty; nourishment rather than starvation; adequate housing, clothing, health care, and other essentials of life; (2) justice—in contrast to injustice; equality rather than inequality in access to work, education, and health; (3) freedom—in contrast to coercion and confinement; and (4) peacefulness— in contrast to warfare and strife. Boulding proposed that these great virtues may be considered universal values.

Figure 2 combines Boulding's universal values with the Family Strengths Model. From a global perspective, the ultimate good and the strengths that create human happiness in the most intimate institution, the family, are remarkably similar. The human tendency to focus on differences rather than similarities can be divisive and lead to devastating strife. A broader, global perspective emphasizes our common humanity as "citizens of the world." In the words of novelist James A. Michener (1991, p. 249), "We are all brothers [and sisters]. We all face the same problems and find the same satisfactions. We are united in one great band. I am one with all of them, in all lands, in all climates, in all conditions. Since we brothers [and sisters] occupy the entire earth, the world is our home."


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Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesFamily Strengths - The Family Strengths Perspective, The Qualities Of Strong Families, Family Strengths And Universal Values