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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Nuclear Family Argument

There is much debate currently about a child’s right to know and be raised by their biological parents, in particular over the nuclear family construct debate. Many people opposed to the above notion claim that the nuclear familial construct is no longer the norm and that alternative familial arrangements have long been established through the history of mankind. The so called “It takes a village to raise a child,” argument.

So lets take a look at the it takes a village to raise a child situation. Typically in history, families were constructed of an extended family. This would have been very typical during hunter gathering times, as a larger family or perhaps even co-operating families would have had a greater chance of being able to hunt and gather resources and therefore survive. In this situation the core of the nuclear family still exists in that there would have been a natural father and mother which would have still been important to the child and the child would have had constant access to them in this situation.

There is excellent scientific evidence of the existence of the nuclear family prior to modern civilisation (in middle Stone Age times). These nuclear families, or at least the importance of these biological connections were recognised at least 5000 years ago, perhaps even longer as it is difficult to get archaeological evidence before that date and written records certainly don’t exist.

When man became more civilised due to farming and herding which allowed for the accumulation of food, towns and cities were able to flourish, allowing for the village construct to occur. Perhaps it could be argued that the village construct is a function of modern or civilised man and should therefore be the default position. Extended families certainly existed in this instance, leading to the “it takes a village to raise a child” debate. I am yet to see evidence that even in the village scenario where many people are involved in the raising of the child that the biological connection was devalued or obsolete. Once again the core of a nuclear family (the biological parents and children) still exists within the village scenario.

If the notion of biological parentage is unimportant then I would postulate that mankind would have evolved to a position where the child is not dependant on the parents or adults for so long. In a non-biological focused familial construct there would be no impetus for the adults to invest so much time and resources in the raising of offspring of other people. From an individual perspective there is nothing to be gained from investing so much time in another person’s child as opposed to your own. The selfish DNA argument. It is only in modern civilised society where resources are much more freely available that it has been possible and socially or morally desirable to invest in the raising of another persons child. Even still if that was the position then no-one would be driven to have children of their own, and donor conception would not exist.

Biological connections have been important to mankind for at least 5000 years, and given the bonds seen in Chimpanzee society between biological familial members we could argue that the biological connection has been important ever since we existed. (Chimps use extended families however biological connections are often closer as evident by biologicals taking the caring role of infants when the mother dies.) That would be my evolutionary view. Alternatively in the biblical sense, if we are to take a Christian held view, Jesus was the son of God, not the son Joseph (the Immaculate Conception) showing the importance of where we come from.

So while I can see the point of the argument that it takes a village to raise a child in regard to others having importance in a child’s life, this position does not appear to negate the importance of biological connections or the nuclear family and therefore should not be used as a means to justify severance of these connections. This is not a statement to devalue alternative family arrangements rather that the importance of the biological connection and the nuclear family is difficult to negate with the village argument.


Nilk said...

Hi, Damian, just to confuse your readers, but in the Catholic Traditions, Jesus is not the Immaculate Conception - His Mother is.

Cheers, and keep up the excellent work.

damianhadams said...

Fair enough. Thanks for the correction.

Nilk said...

It's an easy mistake to make, so no worries. I only learned it myself last year.