The family is probably the oldest vocation in the world and which has undergone tremendous changes through time and culture. The family is also a universal unit which cuts across the global cultures. The common history of families is that of a constantly changing in form, size, and composition due to the influence of the social, economic, and political factors. Also, various contested ideals and the efforts made by various ordinary humans to build their lives and that of their families amidst the challenges and constraints experienced at respective times and places in their localities. Owing to the differences in cultural characteristics of evident in different societies, the definition, composition, size, and form of families also vary significantly. In this research, the concept of family is researched extensively. The changes occurring in families due to the influences of various factors operating from within and outside the families. As a result, studies around families has been one of the hotly contested areas of research and knowledge in anthropological and social studies. The traditional family definitions differ significantly from the modern family characteristics, especially concerning the aspect of virtue within the context of the family.
The family has undergone critical metamorphic changes from the historical time through the present time. To understand how families differ through different cultures and times, we will divide the time into the pre-industrial period to post-industrial age and describe the changes that have occurred over time and across different cultures. Murphy and William (15-6) describes the pre-industrial family from the perspective of Weber’s concept of the elective affinity. Drawing from these concepts, Murphy and William (15) observes that the family system was organized around an autonomously organized married couples fully detached from their parental controls enabling them to respond effectively to the economic and social opportunities in their localities. Murphy and William (15referred to this family as a ‘conjugal family.’ Murphy and William (16) on the other hand looks at the conjugal family in its social contexts by highlighting the social functions performed by each member of the families involved.
The pre-industrial family was a very specialized and independently tasked union where every person had a distinct and special role to play to spur growth, development and continued existence. For instance, the conjugal family, comprised of the mother and father undertook a common responsibility in providing emotional support as well as child rearing as a joint task (Parsons and Robert 22). This role playing in family settings was a common denominator for all families across different cultures during the pre-industrial age. The homogeneity of the conjugal family was more evident in the African and Arabic settings compared to the western societies. Among the African and Asian pre-industrial family systems, the homogeneous conjugal family owed allegiance to the family tree which extended to the far relatives. A joint operation was always conducted to help the families keep their relationships and warmth together.
The post-industrial family, on the other hand, has undergone a series of transformations concerning its size, form social orientations as well as functionality. With the dawn of formal employment, schooling and hardening economic conditions in different parts of the world, a lot of changes have taken root in the families’ characteristics. Among these changes are the thinning family size, changes in role playing and social disengagements with the extended families unlike in the past. Employment and Social Development Canada, for instance, draws the differences based on the emergence of the single families headed and run by only one parent. For instance, only 31.9% of the Canadian families surveyed during the 2012 population survey was made up of married couples and children. The rest of the families comprised of single parents, all playing the roles of both mother and father at the same time (Statistics Canada). These have changed the role playing at the family level as each of the genders struggles to meet the motherly and fatherly roles. Coupled with the changes in working conditions, increasing responsibilities and the societies becoming more integrated, role playing has become the most transformed as both genders can perform the role formally performed by separate gender such as cooking and looking after the families. Moreover, the movement of labour in the industrial world has continued to widen the social gap between members of the same families breaking the social and family ties which were kept so strong in the past. Although this trend applies to all cultures as industrialization and flow of labour is a global common denominator, the breakage is higher in the western cultures compared to the less developed worlds such as Africa and Asia where these family connections are still valued and upheld (Venugopal).
From the Christian and traditional point of view, families exist primarily to instill morals and virtues by defining the ethical limits for children through nurturing. Children must be guided by all parents irrespective of their gender and association with the children. Different persons and families consider different virtues amidst them. For instance, a remote society in Papua New Guinea inhabiting the forested lands believe that betraying a friend to death is a sign of victory and a symbol of heroism. The Christian families, on the other hand, believe such betrayals are anti-Christian practices and must be shunned. The Christian family systems uphold family virtues such as compassion, hard work, creativity, honesty, love, patience, obedience, respect, forgiveness and generosity among others. These virtues are also entrenched in the Bible where they are described as the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Acts 5:19.
Also, according to Veith, God cares about us, He loved us and showed us compassion, a virtue we all must emulate and replicate to all people associating with us. For instance, Veith says maintains that it is liberating knowing that one needs not to worry about what would happen and that the future of humanity lies in God’s hands. Veith’s concern in this statement is reflected in the Bible through the book of Jeremiah 29: 11 saying that God knows the plans He has for us, the plans to prosper us and to make us the heads and not the tails. This virtue of goodness, love, and compassion is evident in Jesus’ death to save humanity. For Christian families, the virtue of love surpasses all virtues and incorporates all desired behavior attributes which every individual family member must emulate at all times. Moreover, these virtues are upheld and entrench in every Christian family everywhere. I also consider these virtues integral to the family as a vocation since families are a reflection of God’s existence with humanity. Regarding God’s existence in families, Veith points out that “each Christian has a vocation … we have a calling in our families” (Veith 16). This calling, according to Veith must be reflected in the Protestant work ethics which are espoused totally in the Christian virtues such as those described in Acts 5:19.
Various challenges have been attributed to the family as a vocation in the modern world. Although these challenges vary from one society to another, it is evident that families in every society experience challenges of their own. Asked about what constituted a family, participants in Ipsos Reid survey drawn from North America gave a variety of responses concerning the constitution of a family. 80% agreed that a typical family is constituted by father, mother, and children. 66% responded that a common law couple and the children can still qualify as a family. Still, 55% and 54% responded that families could be constituted by mother and children and father and children respectively. Grandparents raising children, common-law couples without children, and gays with children were also recognized as children by 50%, 46% and 45% of the participants respectively (Venugopal). Evident from these observations on what constitutes families, the emergence of new laws, political influences on policies formulations, changes in social and moral values, etc. are the major factors behind the changes in families systems across the world. Although these changes are immense in the more civilized societies such as the western countries, they are also experienced in the less civilized societies of Africa among others. Development in technology and faster diffusion of cultures through globalization and media are among the key factors which have spurred the spread of these changes. Backed by the local and international laws, these changes have taken root in different societies of the world. Together these factors have spurred the changes taking place in the families levels.
To conclude, the family is the oldest vocation that has existed since the advent of humanity. Definitions of the family is a hotly contested fact in the public domain owing to the different considerations that different societies and groups of persons consider as families. Also, the family is also one of the most changing vocations in the world sparked by a variety of factors. The changes can be traced from the pre-industrial to the post-industrial periods characterized by the changes in responsibilities, employment conditions and changes in the social and political scenarios. The families uphold virtues such as love, obedience, honesty, compassion, etc. which are also entrenched in the Bible.
Related: Divorce Effects on Families
Employment and Social Development Canada., Employment and Social Development Canada. “Indicators of Well-Being in Canada: Family Life – Divorce.” 5 July 2014a. Employment and Social Development Canada. 11 November 2016. <http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=76>.
Murphy, Patrick, and Staples., 1979. “.” 6(1):12–22. William. “A Modernized Family Life Cycle.” Journal of Consumer Research 6.1 (1979): 12-22. Electronic.
Parsons, Talcott, and Bales., Robert. Family Socialization and Interaction Process. London: Routledge, 1955. Electronic.
Statistics Canada. “Portrait of Families and Living Arrangements in Canada: Families, households and marital status,” 2011 Census of Population. 2012.
Venugopal, Arun., New York Leads in Never-Married Women. 10 December 2012. Arun, Venugopal. 11 November 2016. <http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/wnyc-news-blog/2011/sep/22/new-york-never-married-women/).>.