THE FUTURE OF THE FAMILY
If one looks at the divorce rate and dwells on the gloomy strictures of the marriage critics it ia easy to wonder whether the family has a future. But there is firm evidence that marriage and the family are not dying. The one-divorce-to-two-marriages ratio is misleading since it implies that half the people get divorced, which is untrue. At current marriage and divorce rates, demographers estimate that fewer than two persons in five who marry will become divorced (l7 or 38 percent), some of them to be divorced several times, while more than three-fifths of first marriages will last until death [Glick and Norton, 1979; Leslie, 1982, p. 555). And most divorced people remarry, showing that it is not marriage which they reject, just their former partners. Table 10-5shows how very few of a national sample of married people were seriously dissatisfied at the moment of survey (although for. many, it is a second or third marriage with which they are "satisfied"). While many become dissatisfied with a particular partner, few regard marriage as a trap: The idea that most marriages are wretched is a myth, possibly kept alive by marital failures who find comfort in the idea that everyone else is as miserable as they are.
While a few sociologists doubt that the family has a future [Keller, 1971], most .sociologists disagree. It is noteworthy that in the
Israeli kibbutz, after more than a generation of successful communal living, including a deliberate effort to abolish the family as a
functional unit, the recent trend has been toward increasing the-functional significance of the family [Shepher, 1969; Talmon, 1972; Mednick, 1975; Gerson, 1970]. All evidence thus indicates that the family, however often its death may be listed in the obituaries, is nonetheless here to stay [Bane, 1978). It is even suggested by some -scholars that the. family is assuming greater importance in modern society. The inadequacy of work as a source of major life satisfactions for working class people and the loss of the primary community as a source of roots and identity leave the family as the greatest source ot emotional satisfaction [Kornblum, 1974]. The really important question is not "Will the family endure?" but, "How will it change? Some believe that the computer revolution will transform' the family, ~ith a greatly increased fraction of all work, shopping, play, and everything else going on at Horne before the computer terminal [Frederick, 1983, P: 21], "Productivity climbs when computers allow employees to work at home," reports' the Wall Street [ournal (May 3, 1983, P: 1), but workers miss their primary group contacts with coworkers, It is too early to predict the effects of the computer-revolution upon the home, , One family historian believes the the nuclear family is crumb lit g and will be replaced .by the "free-floating' couple, less tied to children, close friends, or neighbors than in' ' the past [Shorter, 1975, p. 280], In contrast, to this, two-major family theorists have predicted that, the next few decades rosy see a return to 'a more highly structured, traditional, and less pennissive family than that of today [Vincent, 1972; Zimmerman, 1972], In fact, a rapidly growing movement called Toughlove is encouraging parents to be firm and strict in enforcing rules within the family [Leo, 1981]. A prominent sociologist [Etzioni, 1982] claims that the nuclear family will survive because ,"no complex ,society has ever . survived without a nuclear family." There is little doubt that the family will survive, but the directions 'of family change cannot confidently be predicted.