Is the Traditional Family Structure at Risk?
Around the world, in rich and poor countries alike, the structure of family life is undergoing extremechanges, a new analysis of research from numerous countries has concluded.
“The idea that the family is a stable and orderly unit in which father serves as economic providerand mother serves as emotional care giver is a myth,” said Judith Bruce, a leading author of the study.
“The reality is that trends like unmarried mothers, rising divorce rates and smaller households are notunique to America, but are occurring worldwide.”
The report was released Tuesday by the Population Council, an international organization based inNew York that studies issues related to child bearing. Its graphs combine information obtained from avariety of population and household studies from dozens of countries.
A summary of the major findings:
— Whether because of abandonment, separation, divorce or death of a spouse, marriages aredissolving with increasing frequency. In many developed countries, divorce rates doubled between1970 and 1990, and in less-developed countries, about a quarter of first marriages end by the timewomen are in their 40s.
— Parents in their prime working years face growing burdens caring for children, who need to besupported through more years of education, and for their own parents, who are living longer.
— Unmarried mothers are increasingly common virtually everywhere, reaching as many as a thirdof all births in the north of Europe, for example.
— Children in single-parent households — usually families with only a mother present — are muchmore likely to be overtaken by poverty than those who live with two parents, largely because of theloss of support from the fathers.
— Even in households where fathers are present, mothers are carrying increasing economicresponsibility for children.
The theme that families are changing in similar ways, even in very different cultures, should bringabout new thinking on social policy, experts say, and in particular an increase in the importance offamilies in the agenda of governments.
The Population Council report says women around the world tend to work longer hours than men,both at home and on the job. In studies of seventeen less-developed countries, women's work hoursexceeded men’s by 30 percent. Data from twelve industrialized countries found that women employedin regular jobs worked about 20 percent longer hours than regularly employed men.
Women's economic contributions also are becoming increasingly important.
In Ghana, the report said, a third of households with children are maintained primarily by women.
In the Philippines, women were found to contribute about a third of households’ cash income, but 55percent of household support if the economic value of their activities at home, such as growing food orgathering hay to feed the family donkey, is included.
In the United States, a survey released earlier this month found that nearly half of employedmarried women contribute half or more of their family’s income.
While the reasons for entering the work force may vary from country to country, womeneverywhere are finding that to give their children an adequate life, getting a job is no longer optional.
High rates of inflation may raise prices to the point where women are forced to earn moneythemselves.
“In traditional Bangladesh, a woman may need to get a job weaving textiles because her husbandwas much older, and died while the children were still young,” Ms.Bruce said. “In Africa, an eighteen-year-old woman might need a job because she had a baby before marriage and has only a casualrelationship with the father, or she might have a husband who goes on to another marriage andsupports the children of that union.”
“In Asia,” she added, “the husband may have migrated for better economic opportunities andstopped sending money after a year or two. And everywhere, parents are finding that there are fewerjobs that pay enough to allow a family to scrape by financially.” Even among rural people in less-developed countries, she said, the need for currency is becoming more urgent.
“Parents all over the world have an increasing awareness of the importance of learning, and thattheir children will need to be able to read and write and use numbers,” Ms.Bruce said. “That meansthat instead of working with them in the fields, their 6-year-old is in school learning the alphabet andhow to add and subtract. As there are usually no scholarships, the money to pay for school fees,uniforms, transportation and supplies must come from the parents' purse.” The fact that manydeveloping countries must trim money from public education as part of their debt-reduction planscreates further pressure on families, she said.
One apparent exception to the general trends is Japan, where single-parent households andunmarried mothers have remained relatively rare.
The Population Council report found that while most countries have done extensive research onwomen as mothers, men as fathers have been virtually invisible to researchers. But studies have foundthat although fathers' income usually exceeds mothers' income, women usually contribute a largerproportion of their income to their household, while men keep more for their personal use, such as forentertainment.
Collecting child support (money paid by divorced fathers to support their children) is also difficult.
Among divorced fathers, three quarters in Japan, almost two thirds in Argentina, half in Malaysia andtwo fifths in the United States do not pay child support, the report said.
Words: 908
New Words
undergo vt. 经历,经受,忍受
conclude v. 1.推断,得出结论 2.结束
orderly a. 整齐的,井然有序的
council n. 理事会,委员会
graph n. 图表,曲线图
finding n. 调查(或研究)的结果
dissolve v. 1.(使)结束,(使)解体 2.溶解
burden n. 重负;(责任、义务等的)重担
vt. 加负荷于;使挑重担
north n. 北方,北部
a. 北方的,北部的,向北的
ad. 向北,朝北
overtake v. 1.突然降临于,意外侵袭 2.追上,赶上,超过
theme n. 题目,主题
agenda n. 议程
maintain vt. 1.支撑;赡养,抚养 2.维持,保有
contribute v. 1.捐献,贡献 2.投稿 3.有助于,促成
hay n. (用作饲料或覆盖的)干草
donkey n. 驴
vary v. (使)不同,更改,改变
adequate a. 足够的;令人满意的
optional a. 可任意选择的,非强制的,随意的
inflation n. 通货膨胀
weave v. 1.编织 2.编造,汇编
textile n. 纺织品,织物
casual a. 1.漠不关心的,不经意的 2.(衣服等)非正式的,随便的 3.偶尔的,偶然的
▲migrate vi. 1.移居,迁移 2.迁徙,定期迁移;洄游
scrape v. 1.勉强维持 2.刮,擦
n. 1.刮,擦;刮擦声 2.(因愚蠢行为而造成的)困境
currency n. 1.货币,通货 2.流传,通用
urgent a. 紧急的,急迫的,紧要的
alphabet n. 字母表
subtract v. 减去,扣除
scholarship n. 1.奖学金 2.学问,学识
purse n. (女式)钱包
trim vt. 1.削减,减少,缩减 2.修理,修剪
invisible a. 看不见的
entertainment n.;招待 2.娱乐活动,文娱节目
Phrases and Expressions
serve as 担任... ...;作... ...用,起... ...作用
be related to 与... ...相关,与... ...有联系
dozens of 许多,数十个
by the time 到... ...的时候
care for 照看,看护
bring about 使发生
in particular 特别地,尤其 特别的
to the point 达到... ...的程度
go on to 转入
scrape by 勉强维持
instead of 代替,而不是
Proper Names
Judith Bruce 朱迪斯·布鲁斯
the Population Council 人口委员会
Ghana 加纳(西非国家)
the Philippines 菲律宾(东南亚国家)
Bangladesh 孟加拉国(南亚国家)
Africa 非洲
Asia 亚洲
Argentina 阿根廷(南美洲中南部国家)
Malaysia 马来西亚(东南亚国家)