A Dramatic Shift in American Society

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A Dramatic Shift in American Society

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What's taking place in Western societies that has brought us so many serious problems? The difficulties our children face are a consequence of choices made by their parents and grandparents of the last two generations. Our choices have lasting effects, whether we are discussing individuals, families or societies. As God told Moses about the decisions of the ancient nation of Israel, if the Israelites chose amiss, their children would suffer "to the third and fourth generations" (Exodus 20:5). About 50 years ago many American families made a choice with lasting and unforeseen consequences. They moved away from the longtime model of a family structure involving sacrifice by parents for the care of children. Parents chose to pursue economic and personal success, placing their happiness before that of their children. Before World War II the American father was principally concerned with marriage and rearing children. His job was a means to the end of supporting his family- and child-centered goals. But, in the aftermath of the Great Depression and Second World War, materialism, sports and social life with other adult male friends outside the family became a man's principal measure of manhood, personal identity and success. Many men became only secondarily concerned with the details of their children's lives. The day-to-day details of their children's needs were delegated to their wives. This change in values led to a devaluation of the perceived worth of children. Later trends intensified the problem. Subsequent decades brought preoccupation with material success and rebellion against personal responsibility. Divorce and illicit sex abounded—with lasting hurtful consequences to the well-being of children. A generation later is it any wonder that youth problems are epidemic? Should we be surprised that many parents are largely unaware of what their children are doing or what is happening emotionally in their lives? No one escapes the consequences of the principle of cause and effect. We are well into a second generation of adults who, for the most part, have downgraded child rearing as a priority after material and professional success. In many cases parents have made choices that have seriously compromised their ability to be adequately involved with their children. Increasing tax burdens and household costs have also played a part, leading many couples to conclude that both parents must work outside the home to meet family expenses. GN

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