Big Business and Small Families

As family structures change Big Business is finding it difficult to tune its messaging

More nuclear families are forcing Big Business to tune its messaging
More nuclear families are forcing Big Business to tune its messaging

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]hroughout the Sixties and Seventies advertisements in Print and Visual media in the west projected “happy” families consist of Husband/ Wife, one Boy, one Girl and maybe a dog. Happy family will not have mother-in-laws or sisters-in-law leave alone aged parents. Destruction of joint families was a major aim of Big Business so that they can have more houses/ more Air Conditioners/ more Microwaves and more consumer goods sold.

In an eight member household they may use one fridge but two four member households will use two refrigerators. The amount of larger markets generated by the big companies in shrinking family size is unimaginable. The project could succeed since slowly family centric civilization was converted to sex centric civilization. All activities/ serials/ stories/ films were becoming “sex” centric and it helped in a way in reducing the size of the family since relationships were projected more “unicentric” than “multicentric”.

Hence a major challenge faced by Western societies and Big Business is – how to replace “traditional family” units with newer forms of organisations?

But every such development has within its own womb its own seeds of destruction.

In 1971, there was a shift in attitudes, as Americans’ “ideal” family switched from four kids (19%) to two kids (38%), with a mean saying 2.9 kids was ideal.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]B[/dropcap]ack in 1936, the mean ideal number of kids was 3.6, with 22% saying four children; 32% saying three children; and another 32% saying two children. Fast-forward from the 1930s to 2013, the most recent data available, and you get a different picture, with 2.6 as the mean ideal.

What’s behind the dramatic shift? Likely a number of factors, beginning with the wide availability of the birth control pill in the 1960s; the growth of women’s participation in the workforce, which surged in the 1970s; and, of course, the increasing cost of raising kids. Link: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/08/ideal-size-of-the-american-family/

Key takeaways:

  • The number of people per household declined significantly in the U.S. from 1960 to 2015.
  • The average American household in 2015 consisted of 2.54 people which was 3.33 in 1960.

Basically one can call this as Post–contraceptive civilisation.

Table 1. The collapse of family life: Most children in US born out of wedlock [2013]
Births outside wedlock in the US in the year 2013
Country Percentage Age of the mother is 10-19 years
U S 41% [53% for under 30 yrs.] 7%
Out of which
Blacks 73% 11%
Latino 53% 10.50%

Table 2. Most children will be born out of wedlock by 2016—in UK-because of the decline in marriage, according to official figures.
Births outside wedlock in Europe in the year 2014
Country Percentage
U K* 48%
Denmark 52%
Norway 55%
Sweden 54%

Note: *-UK Data is 2012

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]W[/dropcap]e find from the above tables 1 and 2 that the number of what were earlier called “bastard” children are on a phenomenal rise — nearly half — and New York Times calls this as the “New Normal”. The ability of Americans to coin new terms to explain old issues is very interesting.

This has given rise to single parent — actually single mother—families. The situation among blacks is catastrophic with more than 70% of kids raised by single mothers. Unfortunately many of these kids get into drugs etc. and also cause social tensions in their ghettos.

Also observe that 7% of the births are to children in the age group 10 to 19 years. In one corner of India in a village if a child marriage takes place so much hue and cry to make it appear as a regular/ normal phenomenon in India. In USA 7% [among blacks 11%] of births are to children that are for the most part, illegitimate.

The collapse of family has bewildered Big Business since an alternative form of social blocks have not come into existence. Business wants a functional society having basic building blocks like family/ community etc. One individual directly dealing with the State through courts may be liberal paradise but business nightmare since families buy products.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]H[/dropcap]ence attempts are made to create alternate units of social blocks and herein comes the LGBT groups. They are small in number but reasonable big in influences since many big business executives have adopted that life styles.

A report published in April 2011 by the Williams Institute estimated that 3.8 percent of Americans identified as Gay/ Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender: 1.7 percent as Lesbian or Gay, 1.8 percent as Bi-Sexual, and 0.3 percent as Transgender. Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_demographics_of_the_United_States

Such a small proportion but they cast a long shadow over Big Business and industry. It is more recognised nay even fashionable in some segments of American society to identify with these groups. It is presented as an alternate and acceptable life style.

Obviously it is the antithesis of earlier ideas of marriage and family. But from a joint family to a nuclear family [husband/ wife and 2 kids] to neutron family of single mother to perhaps proton family of no parents only kids — it is a long journey.

There is clamour for LGBT “couple” to adopt children since two women or two men as of now cannot procreate. Also efforts are on to store semen or use tissue culture to procreate. These are for the future.

Hence a major challenge faced by Western societies and Big Business is – how to replace “traditional family” units with newer forms of organisations?

Will they succeed? Are we to use same path to finally converge or maintain our family structures?

These are fundamental questions – which alas we do not want to even discuss. Ignorance is bliss!

Views Personal.

Bibliography:

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_01.pdf (Table 15 & Table 26)

  2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2103235/Most-children-U-S-born-wedlock.html#ixzz3UFUgoKmn

  3.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10172627/Most-children-will-be-born-out-of-wedlock-by-2016.html

  4. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&plugin=1&language=en&pcode=tps00018

  5. Http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&language=en&pcode=tesem140&plugin=1

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Prof R. Vaidyanathan

Cho S Ramaswamy Visiting Chair Professor of Public policy[CRVCPPP]

Sastra University

An expert in Finance and a two times Fulbright Scholar, Prof. R Vaidyanathan is a much sought after author, speaker and TV commentator on all items related to Money and Finance.
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3 COMMENTS

  1. The idea of ‘family’ and saving habit are the two things which has saved India through millennia of trials and tribulations.
    Somehow the recent generation Indians are increasingly selfish and self centered with a misplaced fear of financial insecurity with an obsession to enjoy life alone. As a result they are moving away from full family to nuclear ones ,not finding peace/contentment even there.
    Only future can tell about the fate of India/ns consumed with work shirking,middle-man mentality, greed, self, corruption, tensions and the like, what good the change will bring to them.
    However to bring in acceptability of L G B Ts out to avoid the drudgery of family life should not be entertained in the name of freedom and liberty.These relations are grouped under sexual perversions in medical jurisprudence and must remain so with legal discouragement for the good of the society as a whole.

  2. A really wonderful insightful article Dr Vaidyanathan. In view of this article, it appears that the repercussions and inferences to an Indian context needs to be ascertained and explored. With increasing FDI across multiple sectors – there is bound to be a certain interference and lobbying from these Western Bodies in pushing forward their agenda – akin to what they’ve executed in the western world. With our young population increasingly adopting a credit fuelled lifestyle – there is a greater chance than usual that this pivoting to unicentric family will further aid the agenda of big businesses.

    With India still being a part nuclear/joint family – the family structures will see foregoing change. The question is how do we contend this and more importantly do Indian “policy makers” actually recognise this problem. The greater risk in calling this out (LGBT and their representations in influential position in boardrooms and their subsequent influence) is in getting smeared with being labelled intolerant or pushing Hindutva. Afterall, it is the new flavour in town these days!!!

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