Yesterday David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist for The New York Times published an interesting piece entitled The Age of Possibility, in which he explores some recent research that shows an increase in single-hood across many nations, as well as a decline in fertility rates. Clearly these statistics have large national and global political and financial implications. This information is neither new nor surprising, so Mr. Brooks tacks on his two cents by shaking his fist at young adults these days before suggesting we wait to see whether this is a problem before passing judgement.
This is an interesting piece, but I am disappointed in the author from my perspective as someone who studies family and relational well-being. Although he hints at additional options, he only discusses single-hood and “traditional” 2 parent families. It would have been nice to see him not only look at smaller family structures, but also larger ones such as multigenerational microsystems (multiple generations actively working together as a single unit and perhaps living together), large and supportive step-families, intimate relationships consisting of more than two adults, and others.
I am not surprised that the author failed to address larger family structures and mindful single-hood, though, especially given this sentence near the end:
“They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice — commitments to family, God, craft and country.”
Way to restrict the definition of what counts as a family and what counts as commitment beyond the self, buddy!
Since demographers rarely ask about these “non-traditional” structures (which have always been around but rarely studied, valued, or recognized), when a person marks “single” on a survey they may just be marking “I don’t meet any of your other categories”. Who knows how many of these “single” folks aren’t also “enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice” — familial or otherwise? Furthermore, Mr. Brook’s dismissive wave toward those who are actually single makes his own biased opinions of adult single-hood as an irresponsible, immature and self-centered phase all too clear.
Go take a gander at the original piece and tell me what you think. I’m curious if any of these issues, or others, also stood out to you and what your take on them may be!