Families Matter

Why Societal Origin and Family Structures
Are Important


mother and daughter

INTRO III

How does all this affect you and your parenting?

To begin: Ask yourself two questions.

1  Was I raised by parents who have overcome as much of pack loyalty as possible? What about my spouse and that family?

2  In what type society are we raising our children; pack encouraging or discouraging? How important is family harmony and support to our family and extended relatives? Is our family-view confirmed by the larger community and culture in which we live?

We hope to show that the answers to these and other questions will have serious implications for many parents.


We have applied this larger picture approach to the current poli-economic theme of “globalization” and employed a wider lens to modify assumptions about:

i. Parenting

ii. Human development

iii. Psychotherapy

iv. Macroeconomic and governance policy development

Questions to be answered:

 Do the current socio-economic and political issues of the country affect what goes on in therapy? Does it matter whether therapy is taking place in a blue state or a red?

My work was mostly for the benefit of children. Are the educational curriculum and behavioral expectations of red and blue states different? Do definitions of respect, decorum, ethnic affiliation, personal boundary and freedom definitions differ across the country or across different countries and cultures?

Are the ethics, schools, jobs and eco-political factors in small and medium sized cities different than in our mighty, urban megalopolis’s such as NY, LA and Chicago?

Do the definitions of marriage and intimacy have different meanings in different cultural groups?

Have the corporate needs of globalization and the mass immigration and population movement of the last thirty years affected our view of ourselves and our civic entitlements and responsibilities?

Are these questions relevant to the practice of diagnosis and therapy?

What is social cohesion? Why is it necessary and how does it happen? Does it affect what happens in the therapy room, the bedroom or the family home and table?

If certain governance and economic rules are changed, will society and families follow? For instance, if the Chinese government supplies universal health care and old age pensions for the first time, (as has been proposed) what are the chances of Chinese savers, families and individuals, becoming a country of spenders in the next five years?

Of course, this website is for all those interested in understanding more about the relation of cultural patterns to children’s development and adjustment. On one hand, we explore the “historical/political-economy” factors that contribute to the structures of a society. On the other hand, we use family systems theory to connect societal and cultural dimensions to both the parenting process and individual development.

Finally, we show the “circular self-perpetuating interactive patterns” that parenting shares with all components of large societal systems.

WOW!

 Isn’t that a mouthful? It needs slow digestion, doesn’t it?

 It surely requires serious changes in assumptions and outlook from the traditional psychotherapy, mental health, self-help and social science literature.

Forty-plus years of clinical practice helping individuals and families and the last 15 of those years, specializing in treating parents for their children’s sake, has taught me a few things. Having raised five children has taught me more. The questions and answers generated during those years will be reflected on this site for your consideration. Because of a distinct road I’ve travelled in my personal and professional life, certain hidden and long term patterns of family life have come to my attention. Consequently, the concepts and dimensional relationships discussed here may at first seem remote; in any case, the immediate and short term solutions to everyday parenting dilemmas such as how to handle bedtimes, feeding schedules, and homework are not really a focus here.

Any clinician following a “systems” orientation (that’s me) will rather focus on more complex multigenerational and interactive concepts. In my work, there was always a clinical picture and clinical challenge of how to be most useful and effective with my real patients, the children; even while working exclusively with the parents. There was always prudent exploration of new methods; of new ways of thinking and proceeding.

Eventually some approaches although not popular, proved to be quite effective. Once the “what” and the “how” became clear, constant elaboration followed; until a stable protocol could be established. This obvious superiority of result led to the question of understanding the “why” of why it worked. The why became harder to explore than the actual treatment method. In fact, Dr. Murray Bowen, the founder of “family systems theory”, experimented with this method as early as the 1970s. However, I don’t think he followed up into the full “why” of its efficacy. The constant interplay of several dimensions simultaneously (systems, history, political economy, governance, societal institutions, multigenerational factors) may confuse even experienced therapists and readers.

For our purposes, “politics” refers to the accumulation and distribution of power by the larger group over the single citizen.

“Economics” refers to the accumulation and distribution of possessions, goods and the means of production and livelihood. (We do not include “money” because it is nothing more than a way to value the means of livelihood.)

“Geopolitics” is the distribution of power between national entities.

Even casual thought about these terms produces the conclusion that they are practically and theoretically connected to each other. But are they related to “parenting?” Yes. And yet all these, including parenting, are usually taught and practiced as separate disciplines. More amazing to me, the understanding and interaction of societal dimensions are almost never related to the more personal, family and individual related disciplines.

For instance, how many family therapists are conversant with the societal histories that formed our political and macroeconomic environment? Can we understand our current social environment without this poli-economic background?


If we believe in ever greater systemically related circles, can we understand the smaller circles without the “whys” and “wherefores” of the greater circles? For instance, are there differences in family structure and functioning between societies that historically have tolerated “the black-market” in their currencies (southern and eastern Europe, south and central America, Africa, Asia) versus those societies that have fostered a hard currency regime (Scandinavia, US, and northwestern Europe) over generations?

What differentiates the societies and citizens on this dimension? How many therapists understand the connection of historical currency markets and fluctuating interest rates (  versus the gold standard) to the interpersonal patterns of corruption tolerance and wealth and/or poverty of their patients? Without this understanding, can they relate a family’s dilemmas to their generational pattern background?

Mother and Daughter

Is knowing the multi-century history of British rule in Ireland useful to helping a child of a second or third generation Irish family on Long Island, NY, USA? What about a family made up of mixed Irish and Italian heritage? Our answer is again, “Yes.”

Are there geopolitical factors that are intimately connected to the histories of Poland that have in turn influenced Polish family structure and parenting processes?  Does it differ from Rumania? Yes.

Is Tony Soprano a rogue or was he predestined, before his birth, to live out the blueprint of the repeated Sicilian political nightmares of the seventieth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries ? Constant tyranny and alien occupation always evokes, over time, distrust, rebellion and an eventual disregard of loyalty and fealty to the distant federal government and its civic ideals. Everything becomes local. Violence is often a last characterological resort.

Over thousands of years, certainly before the Roman era, Semitic peoples have wandered and settled in Europe. Traders, craftsman and farmers settled into what became temporary locations. During the last 1000 years these settlers became involuntary wanderers; settling for generations and then needing to move because they remained "outsiders" and were expelled. For the last 600-700 years many settled in the shtetls of Eastern Europe. In that time those circumstances forged a typical parenting pattern and family structure that included "the Jewish mother" and "the Jewish father". Is there today a similar pattern in America that helps define and explain " the Jewish American princess"? Are we bigots to describe these terms and try to explore them? We hope not. 

Is the Jewish mother different from the Irish mother? Is Scandinavian parenting different than Italian and Sicilian parenting? We will explore such questions. Not only about definitions but also about the universal circular antecedents and causes of these diverse patterns of Fromm's "national character". Please see the "knowledge and bigotry page" for further thoughts on our view of political correctness.

Please see THE COURSE  in the Menu at the bottom of this page or go to:

http://www.parentingandsocieties.com/The-Course.html

for further illustrations.

Elizabeth Carter and Monica McGoldrick have described much of these different ethnic patterns. We believe we’ve gone somewhat further in that we are proposing causative historical connections and hypotheses from multiple dimensions.

Because we see all significant human processes through a systemic lens, we will proceed in a nonlinear mode of explanation. This necessarily involves redundancy as we describe the same phenomena from different points on the circular- spiraling points of the system. Please excuse the redundancy!