Children and Youth in Limbo: A Search for Connections

By Nadia Ehrlich Finkelstein | Go to book overview

2
The American Family

The family is the unit in our society charged with the fulfillment of a number of socially desirable goals. The family must conceive, bear, and nurture children, provide some satisfaction for the primary caregivers, and assist its elderly members. Families are intended to be able to function "in sickness and in health"; their members must be more than just fair-weather sailors. Family members must, therefore, be able to give much of themselves and in turn to receive what they need.

The family is an organization that must have rules and structure. But different members have different needs at different times. It is not unusual for the needs of one member to be incompatible or even in conflict with the needs of another member at any given time. Therefore, the family must also have a great deal of flexibility so as to change and adapt continuously to the constantly shifting needs of its members as each individual and the group as a whole move through the life cycle. It must be able to plan for an ongoing, continuously changing, and thus unpredictable future.

The family can provide validation, acceptance, and a sense of wellbeing for all its members, and readily shift demands and expectations according to the life stage and capability of each individual member. The family as a stable institution needs the ability to deal with and mark such life-cycle milestones as birth, christening, circumcision ritual, confirmation, engagement, marriage, and, of course, death. It must have the capability to care for its members during times of illness, unemployment, and other socially inflicted hardships. At its best the family must be able to provide sufficient income to meet the most basic housing, food, clothing, recreational, educational, health, and incidental needs of all its members.

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