AhlulBayt News Agency

source : Khamenei News

16 May 2024

5:12:33 AM

Trivialization of marriage and family formation in West

A recent wave of media campaigns across the West is urging citizens to consider larger families. From the latest Barbie iteration that now embraces motherhood, to Hollywood actresses proudly showcasing their pregnancies, there's a notable shift. Yet, this newfound celebration of family seems to be a reactionary measure to address the profound erosion of marriage and family values over the past few decades.

AhlulBayt News Agency: Mojtaba Darabi, researcher and journalist

A recent wave of media campaigns across the West is urging citizens to consider larger families. From the latest Barbie iteration that now embraces motherhood, to Hollywood actresses proudly showcasing their pregnancies, there's a notable shift. Yet, this newfound celebration of family seems to be a reactionary measure to address the profound erosion of marriage and family values over the past few decades.

Since the Great Recession, the United States has seen a significant decline in birth rates, dropping nearly 23 percent from 2007 to 2022. The average American woman now has about 1.6 children, a stark contrast to the 1950s when the average was three. This figure falls well below the "replacement rate" of 2.1 children per woman, necessary to maintain a stable population.

The trend is not confined to the United States. In Italy, the mortality rate outpaces births, with 12 deaths for every seven babies born. Also in South Korea, birth rate has plummeted to 0.81 children per woman.

"Even the richest, savviest, most committed governments have struggled to find policies that produce sustained bumps in fertility," says Trent MacNamara, a history professor at Texas A&M who has extensively studied fertility rates, in an interview with Vox.

The declining birth rates across Western countries are presenting a formidable challenge, as aging populations and shrinking workforces jeopardize economic stability and growth.

At the heart of this issue lies the weakened foundation of the family, increasingly fragile under the pressure of various societal changes.

One clear sign of this fragility is the sharp decline in marriage rates coupled with a rise in divorces.

In the United States, the marriage rate has seen a dramatic drop since the 1970s. In 1920, the rate peaked at 92.3 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women. By 2022, it had plummeted to 31.2 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women, marking nearly a 60% decline since 1970. Europe mirrors this trend, with the marriage rate in the EU decreasing from 8.0 per 1,000 people in 1964 to just 3.2 in 2020.

On the other side of the spectrum, divorce rates have surged, tearing apart families for decades. In the US, the current divorce rate is 16.9 per 1,000 married women, nearly double that of 1960. Nearly 50% of all marriages in the United States now end in divorce or separation, placing the country sixth worldwide in divorce rates. Alarmingly, there is one divorce every 42 seconds in America. Today, 15% of adult women in the US are divorced or separated, a stark increase from less than 1% in 1920.

Europe is experiencing similar trends. The divorce rate in the EU has doubled since 1964, rising from 0.8 per 1,000 people to 1.6 in 2020.

Understanding the nearly continuous upward trend in divorce rates across Western countries is a complex question that has puzzled intellectuals for years.

Western societies have undergone a significant cultural transformation, emphasizing individualism and personal fulfillment over traditional family roles.

This cultural evolution places individual desires and career success at the forefront, often at the expense of family cohesion.

Cohabitation and single-parent families have become more common, reflecting a societal shift towards non-traditional family models. Child-free lifestyles are no longer stigmatized but celebrated as valid choices. These changes challenge the traditional notion of marriage and family as essential to personal fulfillment.

Economic factors play a critical role in reshaping perceptions of marriage and family.

The modern economy, often hailed as a golden prize brought by the West, demands excessive diversity and volatility, conflicting with the stability essentially associated with family life. Young adults, burdened by financial instability and high levels of debt, often delay or forego marriage and family planning.

The necessity for dual-income households to achieve economic stability further complicates the decision to marry and start a family.

The cost of living in urban centers, where job opportunities are plentiful, makes it difficult for single-income families to thrive. These economic pressures contribute to the perception that marriage and family are financial burdens rather than sources of support and stability.

Legal and social reforms have significantly altered the traditional view of marriage. The evolution of marriage laws to include greater “gender equality” and the recognition of same-sex marriages has been a fatal blow to family institution.

These changes signify a departure from the concept of marriage as the sole recognized familial structure. Divorce reforms have made it easier to dissolve marriages, reducing the permanence traditionally associated with the institution.

The recognition of cohabitation and other non-marital relationships as legitimate family forms has reshaped the concept of family, offering alternative options in personal relationships. Under the guise of promoting individual choice and freedom, these changes have shaken the very foundations upon which traditional family structures were built.

The rise of digital technology and social media has transformed interpersonal relationships. Online communication and expansive social networks provide alternative sources of support and companionship, diminishing the traditional roles of family and marriage. Social media platforms celebrate individual achievements and lifestyles, often showcasing child-free or non-traditional family models as desirable. This digital revolution allows individuals to seek fulfillment and connection outside of traditional familial structures, further undermining the perceived importance of marriage and family.

Research indicates that modern technology contributes to decreased sociability, diminished interest in interpersonal connections, and a sense of detachment from reality. Why bother with the complexities of courtship, the effort to appear attractive, or the pursuit of committed relationships when online pornography can satiate one's desires or an AI companion can alleviate feelings of loneliness?

The feminist movement has provoked a critical examination of traditional marital roles, shedding light on what it perceives as gender inequalities. The push for so-called gender equality has led to a reevaluation of marriage and its relevance in modern society. As women gain more educational and professional opportunities, the economic and social incentives for marriage diminish.

The exploitation of women in certain professions, where their appearance is treated as a commodity to lure customers, not only strips away their dignity but also fuels societal issues like increased divorce rates and family breakdowns.

Statistics underscore this correlation, revealing that professions where women are predominantly employed for their physical appeal tend to have elevated divorce rates.

Consider, for instance, the following professions with the highest divorce rates:

1. Dancers – 43%

2. Bartenders – 38.4%

3. Massage Therapists – 38.2%

4. Gaming Cage Workers – 34.6%

5. Gaming Service Workers – 31.3%

These figures shine a light on a deeper societal issue, revealing how Western civilization has not honored the essential role of women as mothers and the backbone of family foundation. Women have endured degradation and objectification, reduced to mere objects of pleasure in a culture fixated on consumerism, promoted by the West.

The shifting landscape of cultural norms, economic forces, legal reforms, technological progress, and changing gender dynamics, all designed by Western civilization, has profoundly impacted the traditional family structure. From the exaltation of individualism to the reshaping of familial responsibilities, these factors have marginalized the sanctity of marriage and family cohesion.

This pressing issue was eloquently underscored by Imam Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, two decades ago.

In his remarks from June 19, 2004, Imam Khamenei aptly critiques this phenomenon, highlighting how Western civilization has trivialized the sacred bond of marriage and family formation. In contrast, Islam prioritizes the sanctity of marriage, advocating for the selection of virtuous partners and nurturing familial relationships based on mutual respect and devotion.

The great misstep of Western civilization towards humanity lies in its trivialization of marriage and family formation. This civilization reduced the sacred bond between a husband and wife to mere transactions, akin to changing clothes or changing a business in a marketplace,” he said. “The West did this to both men and women. They pitted feelings, emotions, and instincts inherent in both men and women, which are easily stirred, against the family. Consequently, each party finds irritation or obstacles arising, and they begin to perceive faults in one another. Alternatively, if something else captures their attention, the family unit becomes threatened.

Contrastingly, he said, Islam stands firm in its commitment to fortify the institution of family. “It emphasizes the importance of selecting a virtuous and righteous spouse and advocates for the preservation of this sacred union.”

(The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of ABNA24.com.)