In addition to adjusting to gradual cultural change, families also interact with the global environment when specific events occur around them. These events may range from economic fluctuations to weather to wars and ethnic conflicts. Again, families are affected by the events while also being actors in them. For example, the collapse of the communist systems of Eastern Europe influenced many aspects of family life in those countries. How those economic reforms were enacted, however, was influenced by culture. The economic reforms were colored by conventional views of gender roles in Ukraine, so that women were left with few choices and few resources (Lakiza-Sachuk, cited in Skalnik et al. 2001). As a result, women began refusing to carry second and third children until better times. International economic events had an unintended impact on family planning and population growth.
Wars have a devastating effect on families. Instability and poverty dominate the lives of people in any war zone. If the war is a communal conflict or civil war, it divides families, and brothers and sisters may take opposing sides. The breakdown of the public sector, including schools, manufacturing, police, banks, and health services, means that families need to assume many new roles to replace those institutions. They also experience monumental internal stressors and losses when dealing with weapon threats, sending family members to the military, and experiencing deaths of loved ones (Milic 2001; Skalník 2001). In ethnic conflicts, it is possible that the family itself was the source of the prejudice and hatred, however. Again, families both respond to wars and become actors in the course of events.
Families do make choices as they react to events such as war, and all individuals in a society do not respond in the same way. Women and mothers have been given special attention in some of this research. Researchers have found that some mothers may focus on the safety and well being of their own children, possibly at the expense of the well being of others, while other mothers focus on the welfare of all children (Azmon 2001).
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