The Collapsing Building Block of Society
Without love, will a family contribute to the suppression of meaning and purpose?
The family unit as the primary societal structure plays a vital role in the care of children. Care includes the provision of things necessary for welfare, protection and maintenance. The family is supposed to take care of children by making sure their meaning, that is expressed, doesn’t lose its significance.
Structures are organized and interrelated. Interrelatedness in the family comes from the fact that the unit is a relationship. Its organization is from a set of rules at its structure, derived from the relationship. If there are rules embedded in it, then the family in itself has information. The rules embedded express themselves in the structure as the nature; the environment the family provides.
The environment creates a complex structure where one part of the system affects the other(s). This is the premise that drives family system theory which suggests; individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another but as part of their family, as the family is an emotional unit. The person who presents with an issue, for instance, depression, is a “symptom” of an overall family “disease”, like emotional abuse. The environment or nature is therefore emergent from the existence of the family.
The environment and the nature of relationships in it; shape a child. It would mean that if the relationships have an issue, the environment will have an issue(s), and the reverse also holds. For instance, if caregivers themselves have a challenge with valuing one another, it will show up in the environment, trickling down on individuals that make up the unit. If a child has an issue with value and esteem, it can be related to dysfunctionality in the caregiver relationship.
Relationships involve a state of connection or behaviour towards one another following a set of unwritten codes. For a healthy relationship to be maintained you need to regard one another in ways that are not harmful to the connection. There is a responsibility element on either side of a connection, to value each other’s individuals’ differences while respectfully manoeuvring the shared spaces of interaction(s). The value should be constant and based on genuine, deep regard for one another. To establish a healthy connection there is a responsibility of making sure you do not infringe meaning on others and that your meaning is not infringed upon. This is what is called healthy boundaries.
So how do we ensure that we form healthy boundaries? We need a guide that makes sure we express ourselves but don’t affect the expression of others in relationships. The guide would have to promote a selfless nature on either side, and the only thing that can do this is Love.
Most people can argue they practice love, but in truth, they lack a crucial element of its basic nature. The reason is that love is selfless and the love promoted in the current culture is a love that has a self-seeking element. Taking care of children is a service that utilizes power and authority to lead to the discovery and expression of purpose and meaning. Caregivers that do not provide an environment that promotes discovery using authoritarian or laissez-faire methods often lead to dictation or suppression of meaning and purpose.
The family unit is a relationship, and if the relationship isn’t guided by love it will slowly but eventually collapse, losing its meaning and purpose. The evidence for this will show itself in the environment, thus showing itself in a child raised in that environment. If such a child does not heal, it has a trickling effect into adulthood, often resulting in emotional or behavioural issues. There has been an increase in child behavioural and psychosocial issues in recent times, which reveal the problem further.
Available evidence indicates children raised in neglectful environments are at a higher risk of substance abuse than their counterparts. In 2009, a study aimed to identify the prevalence and correlation of substance abuse among school-going children in six African countries (Kenya, Namibia, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe). The study indicated a prevalence rate of; 12.6% tobacco use, 6.6% risky alcohol use, and 10.5% illicit drug use in a sample size of 20,765 school-going children (13-15yrs). Drug use was associated with school truancy, mental distress and lack of parental support.
In the U.S alone, 7.4% (4.5million) of children aged 3-17yrs have diagnosed behaviour problems, mainly associated with dysfunctional homes. 7.1% (4.4million) of children (3-17) have diagnosed anxiety mainly linked to violent, abusive and unpredictable family environments. 3.2% (1.9million) have been diagnosed with depression in which causes range from multiple factors, including the home environment.
Self-harm is any behaviour where one causes injury to oneself to cope with distressing thoughts and feelings. Self-harm often includes cutting, burning or consuming non-lethal overdoses. Children from traumatic environments and where primary caregivers or siblings don’t offer support often develop non-suicidal self-injury. The known rates of non-suicidal self-injury in the U.S as of 2012 were between 7-24% in samples of early and older adolescents. In the U.K between 2013-14 and 2019-20, the rate of self-harm hospital admissions doubled between minors aged 9 to 12 years. As of 2015, at least two children in every secondary school classroom self-harmed at some point in their lives.
An environment with a lack of self-regard, support and catering of basic emotional needs is associated with a high rate of suicide in children. According to the WHO mortality database, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among children aged 15-19yrs. One of the possible explanations for the high suicide rates presented in a study done in 2012 was a breakdown of family structure. Other studies also indicate that suicide is underreported, masked by other reasons for death.
The risk factors linked to self-harm and suicide overlap with many risk factors for body dissatisfaction in children. In 2016, a study finding indicated that children under the age of 6 were experiencing body dissatisfaction. The proportion varying between 20-70%, depending on the method of measurement. One of the main factors in the protection against body dissatisfaction was the positive caregiver relationship. There has also been a direct correlation between parental figures who have an issue with body dissatisfaction and children developing a similar problem. Reasons attributed to this include body shaming, criticizing and unfavourable comparison resulting in distortion of body image.
The family is considered the primary societal social unit, and in current society, the number of children and teens believing that reality has no meaning is steadily rising. Another belief is that reality is purposeless and irrational and that there is a conflict in finding value and meaning in life. School shootings, especially in the U.S, have been blowing up headlines since 2009, though there were reports as early as 2000 where a 6yr old boy shot another 6yr old, his classmate. We even find school shooters that go with the intention of not only killing others but killing themselves in the process. Sadly, with such beliefs and other issues, they disregard life, even their own as meaningless.
The family unit is losing its meaning and purpose and, in some places, has already lost it. How do we expect consequences not to express themselves through our children?
There have been multiple reasons and explanations for all the listed statistics plus others on children’s issues. In a world full of reasons and explanations, how are we to understand the issue? Our children are suffering, and eventually, so will their children if we do not recognize that the problem is simple, a lack of holistic love in the family unit. The one that has a selfless nature; Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way (not self-seeking); it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing (evil), but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
With the current trend, things will get worse if we don't embrace the values of love. Society plays a role in creating its malicious people.
If the family unit is collapsing or has collapsed as a basic structure of society, will society, in itself, not follow suit?