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Family groups - families - Are families under threat?

Are families under threat?
Do longer working hours, absent parents and divorce mean that the traditional family is under threat?

The United Nations says that the changing social structure, together with an ageing population, presents a challenge to both families and governments.
Migration and HIV/Aids are other major trends that affect families worldwide.
Do you spend enough time with your family? What happens when normal family life is disrupted by migration, famine or war? And how good are we these days at looking after our older relatives? Send us your comments and stories.
We'll be discussing families in our global phone-in programme, Talking Point, on Sunday, 1st August. If you'd like to take part in the discussion, please send a phone number with your comments. This will not be published.

Your comments
Whatever choice you make, to say that parents in the 60s had all what we expect to have today and more is pure self-deception. Once my parents had their children, both worked reduced hours to care for us children themselves. Can't afford that you say? Or just don't want to give up your lifestyle? Our parents also didn't expect to have a car or big home, didn't go out but gathered at home, babysat in turn with friends, went camping instead of hotels. Now 60, they are still not wealthy but have a happy family.
Maia, Sweden
I am the head of a family of five. I was born and bred in Africa at a time when old age and traditional extended family were revered. During my childhood days it was my grandmother (not my father) who was head of our family. My aunt and uncle were as important to us, the kids, as our mother and father were. Also, there was no difference between my biological brother and the children of my aunt and uncle. We were all brothers and sisters. In fact it was long after, that I came to realise that the children of my aunt and uncle were my cousins, and not by brothers and sisters; that I was not another child of my aunt and uncle, as our parents made us believed, but their nephew. Things have changed nowadays. My wife and I (together with our three kids) now live in New York, USA. Our children are not privileged to stay with an aunt, an uncle or a grandparent. Even if they are, the desire to meet the everyday need would have distance those extended relatives away from them. In Africa, too, the younger generation no longer admires family values.
Aroun Rashid Deen, New York , USA

Women simply don't really need men

Steve, UK
Families just don't really have a function anymore. Women simply don't really need men, it's as clear as the day is long. Without that need, all that remains is the fantasy bit. They served society very well, as did extended families before them. Times change.
Steve, UK
The United States and Europe doesn't seem to give much importance to family and relatives as Asian countries do. I don't see a threat to families in Asian countries in the near future.
Mary, India
I stay four hours non-stop drive away from my family. I visit mostly at the end of the month. My time with my family is very short and divided. Given this little time you cannot intimately attend to the needs of everyone. Each individual requires special attention which given the time, may not be possible. This distresses the family when they begin to think you are not responsible, caring and just becoming individualistic. For famine and war, it is death and life: every man for himself. Your brother runs East, your sister goes West and you run South. You may meet again or never at all. Your child may see you killed before its little eyes and run as far as strength can afford. When situations turn as these: people chasing jobs, success, life and the rest, no one has time for the ageing. Our older relatives need our special attention and presence more than the sandwiches, sugar, candles and cakes we post them. They terribly need us but who has time for them? All we do is send them the items they want. They need us more, but the pressures of life today makes us no good, actually worse criminals to our older relatives.
Paul Mayende, Kampala, Uganda
What, exactly, is 'normal' family life. I am yet to meet one 'normal' family. Each is faced with their own problems, and they either function as a unit or they don't. Especially in Western cultures, the idea of tight family bonds is rare. We rarely rely on an extended family unit for economic reasons, and with the progress of women's rights a wife or daughter no longer depends on father or husband, which is a huge contributing factor to the declining importance of family. The whole concept of the family has been evolving for decades and I believe such a pattern will continue.
Roidh, Toronto, Canada

Everyone has choices, even if they think they don't

John, England
A few years ago I got into the habit of working 70 hour weeks, and not seeing enough of my family, so I decided to stop. I cut back my work hours to about 45 a week, and guess what? The world did not end. My business did no go under. I got a life back. Everyone has choices, even if they think they don't.
John, England
What a laugh! My mother never fails to make it clear that she can't wait for me to leave the house. I'll take work any day, over 'family.'
Nicole, Chicago, USA
There is always plenty for me to do when I get to work, however, if I don't turn in one day the company will not disintegrate. It is vital to remember that your children are not interested in board meetings, conferences or overtime - the benefit that your company will derive from your attention is of no consequence in comparison to the impression your love and attention will leave on your children. The cruel paradox is that nothing motivates an individual to work as much as the need to provide. I just try to manage my motivation in relation to those needs, as opposed to the wants.
Dan Brown, Cardiff, UK
Modern business requires a skilled and mobile workforce. Families don't move. I've chased my career across the UK and now to Holland - because if I hadn't then I wouldn't have it anymore. My work is wonderfully exciting and I'm privileged to be doing it - but it's cost me my marriage and most of my friendships.
Iain Howe, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Although I have been brought up in London, both of my parents are from overseas, and I have always been shocked at the differences in attitudes between them and my English friends parents. While my parents enjoy me and my siblings company, taking an active interest in our lives and encouraging us to stay at home, most of my friends parents can't wait to get rid of them. This does not promote the notion of an integrated family unit, and almost implies the children are a burden upon their parents. Simply, it is indicative of a society and media that is all about me, me, me.
Mark, London, England

I grew up in a one-parent family, and it was one of the most secure, loving family units anyone could hope for

Clare, Scotland
It depends what you mean by traditional family. I grew up in a one-parent family, and it was one of the most secure, loving family units anyone could hope for. Teachers at school told my mother on more than one occasion that I was better at coping with life than many kids from two parent homes. I think this shows that it doesn't matter what the make-up of the family is, traditional or otherwise. What matters is how much effort the people involved are prepared to put in. Most people don't want to make the effort now, they expect relationships to just work. It is the ultimate display of today's "disposable" society.
Clare, Scotland
To add another comment to the ones regarding the role of women. If a woman gives up work to rear children - assuming that her husband or partner is earning enough to support this - she cannot pay anything into savings for her old age, such as a pension scheme. I confidently expect there to be no state pension worth having by the time I come to retire (I'm currently 30 years old). If I do not pay into some form of savings, what can I look forward to when I am old? I cannot blithely rely on my husband to support me - we may divorce, he may die. But if I have children and continue to work, I am vilified by many sectors of society, as well as having to spend vast amounts of money on childcare of dubious quality. Small wonder that many women like me are finding the idea of childbearing so unattractive.
Georgie, Cambridge, UK
The modern world is all about being competitive. The more you are aggressive and arrogant and materialistic, the more you succeed. Under these circumstances there is no room for love, peace, family, affection or humanity. All of the above words does not exist in the modern world's dictionary. There is only one language, one religion and one feeling and that is money.
Seetharaman, Houston, TX, USA
In Russia these days quite a few people are living below or around the poverty level and what that means is that they simply cannot afford families and in the past decades having a family has become a kind of a privilege, something that only the wealthy can afford, and it's not just because people are poor, like in the 19th century, 90% of the people here were just as poor or even poorer than today yet they still had families. The problem actually stems from the mass culture, soap operas and Cinderella bases films which all follow the same pattern: a poor girl with good looks gets noticed by a rich handsome man who first showers her with extravagant gifts and then they get married and live happily ever after, so the stereotypical family that gets drummed into people's head by TV, is an affluent husband and a faithful beautiful wife who live in a big mansion like house and drive Mercedes. That's what people want and naturally nobody wants to have poor families where you have to struggle from pay day to pay day to make ends meet.
Igor, Smolensk, Russia

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