In the last 3 weeks my family has been affected by two bouts of chicken pox. The first it was possible to base myself from home. The second it was not, so thankfully my sister flew over to help. That help led me to this article on extended families.

WHATIFPA is about how to make people's lives more effective giving them more time in their day to be a healthier and happier you. In the journey to get there it is interesting to look at different cultural mindsets that could make the ‘to do’s’ in life easier.

The Extended Family Trends

The extended help of a family member is a feature in many cultures: Asia, Africa, Europe and the US. In the US, extended families have been increasing because of different socio-economic pressures. As of 2008, a record 49 million Americans, or 16.1% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data. This is a trend reversal from the post war era where the impetus was to get out of the family home. The American public in 1940 had a quarter of the population in one abode; by 1980, this changed to 12%. Of the 49 million Americans living in a multi-generational family household, 47% live in a household made up of two adult generations of the same family (with the youngest adult at least 25 years of age); another 47% live in a household with three or more generations of family members; and 6% are in a “skipped” generation household made up of a grandparent and grandchild, but no parent. Factors for these changes include: economy, median age of marriage, immigration, social changes shaped by the baby boom. The social and economic ties appear to have become more prevalent and driven the rise of the extended family.

Extended family 1

So what are the Financial and Social Ties?

Financial Pressure

Recently the US has seen an increase of extended families in order to alleviate increased financial pressure due to the recession. In 2009 more than 1:5 households were multi-generational with the return migration of 25-34 years olds (Pew Research).

Extended Family 2

This financial reasoning is not new. “Without public debate or fanfare, large numbers of Americans enacted their own anti-poverty program in the depths of the Great Recession: They moved in with relatives. This helped fuel the largest increase in the number of Americans living in multi-generational households in modern history,” say Rakesh Kochhar and D’Vera Cohn, authors of ‘Fighting Poverty in a Bad Economy Americans Move in with Relatives.’ In other cultures: Hopi Indians of North America, Trobriand Islanders off eastern New Guinea, some tribes in Central Africa there is the matrilineal system where inheritance is passed on through the mothers lineage. This provides a society where women have a structure for property and politics. In parts of Nigeria there is the polygynous family system where families including many wives live as one unit or compound. In these cultures there are rules that govern the sharing of resources and food. There is a group think where every individual is seen to benefit the group, and the sum is greater than its parts. The saying 1 +1 = 3.

Balance Pressure

Within that group Pew Research identified parents of young children — stressed, over-extended and sleep-deprived parents who may have confused children and resistant spouses in tow.

Extended Family 3

Although extended families can bring balance, it is not without its challenges the Washington Post interviewed extended families who impacted by the loss of personal space. Coping mechanisms included: “Get up and out in the a.m. to feel productive and a ‘part of the world.’ Join a job search group, exercise with people (not just solo runs) and use evening private time to enforce some family autonomy. These tips worked for me, I stayed fit and got extra rest as a benefit. It helped, it really helped” Washington Post 2011.

Extended famly 4

Social Development for Adults and Children

Some of the benefits are the shared labour, socialization of children, and support for the elderly. At one point it was believed that extended family structures were the barrier to economic growth. The social side was examined from a western perspective that women were likely to marry earlier, and have more children which hindered social modernization. However, now we see the reverse trend in the West to overcome social and economic challenges (Castillo, Wiesblat, and Villeral 1968). The policies, politics and the education system in the West have influenced individualism over collectivism. If you refer to Hofstede’s 1984 work on cultural differences and the recent work in the GLOBE study across 62 countries, this collectivism versus individualism is a key distinction between the east and west. In the UK during the Thatcher years the policies drove a more individualistic attitude. These may have driven the value changes in direct opposition to extended family life since they emphasize individualism over collectivism (Parsons and Bales 1955). Despite this view extended family households remained prominent in Taiwan (Stokes; Leclere; and Yeu 1987), Japan (Morgan and Kiyosi 1983), India (Ram and Wong 1994), China (Tsui 1989), In Africa, studies have shown a positive impact on modernization (Silverstein 1984). In the West we see a reverse trend that realizes the benefits under the social and economic conditions that we face. Research in the US also proposes the benefits on younger relative’s education attendance and academic achievements Department of Economics Working Paper 2006 and Jaeger, Mads Meier 2013. Social utility is seen as a benefit, because the individuals have an opportunity to gain multiple perspectives from different generations that give an insight of alternative choice Manski (2004).

Learning from Experience

Whilst my family lives in a different country too our parents and siblings, whenever Grandma (of glamma as she likes to be called), Papa or Aunty and Uncle are around I cannot deny the huge leaps forward the children take, and the social benefits felt in the family. This probe into a possible alternative life due to an episode of the chicken pox, perhaps provides a possible solution to some that would consider living as an extended family.

Castillo, g. t.; wiesblat, a. m.; and villareal, f. r. (1968)."the concept of the nuclear and extended family." international journal of comparative sociology 9:1–40.
Hofstede, G. (1984). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Jaeger, Mads Meier (2013) Feb 6. The Extended Family and Children's Educational Success American Sociological Review 77(6): 903-922
Manski, Charles. 2004. “Social Learning from Private Experiences: The Dynamics of the Selection Problem.” Review of Economic Studies 71: 443-458.
Morgan, S. P., and Hirosima, K. (1983). "The Persistence of Extended Family Residence in Japan: Anachronism or Alternative Strategy?" American Sociological Review 48:269–281.
Parsons, T. and Bales, R. F. (1955). Family Socialization and Interaction Process. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Pew Research Report The Return of the Multi-Generational Family
Pew Research report ‘Fighting Poverty in a Bad Economy Americans Move in with Relatives" t "_blank
Ram, M., and Wong, R. (1994). "Covariates of Household Extension in Rural India: Change Over Time." Journal of Marriage and the Family 56:853–864.
Robert J. House (Editor), Paul J. (John) Hanges (Editor), Mansour Javidan (Editor), Peter W. Dorfman (Editor), Vipin Gupta (Editor). Culture, leadership, and organizations: the GLOBE study of 62 societies (1st ed.). SAGE Publications. 29 April 2004. ISBN 978-0-7619-2401-2
Silverstein, S. B. (1984). "Igbo Kinship and Modern Entrepreneurial Organization: The Transportation
Stokes, C. S.; LeClere, F. B.; and Yeu, S. H. (1987). "Household Extension and Reproductive Behavior in Taiwan." Journal of Biosocial Science 19:273–282.
Tsui, M. (1989). "Changes in Chinese Urban Family Structure." Journal of Marriage and the Family 51:737–747.
The Washington Post (Oct. 4th 2011) . Pew Research Center says more extended families living together to survive financial gloom

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