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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Whether family is a universal human social grouping

Famous 20th century American anthropologist George Peter Murdock wrote in a 1949 book:
The nuclear family is a universal human social grouping. Either as the sole prevailing form of the family or as the basic unit from which more complex familial forms are compounded, it exists as a distinct and strongly functional group in every known society. No exception, at least, has come to light.
He says "nuclear family", but he is really including extended families. He has been attacked ever since by feminists and academics who say that he ignored single-parent families, gay families, and others. For an example from Southern India:
Kathleen Gough (1959) has also described the Nayar society as contradicting Murdock's perception of the family. In her research, she found that the Nayar women did not have a husband who met the criteria of "common residence, economic co-operation and reproduction." Nayar girls are ritually married very early but have no duty towards their husband apart from that of attending his funeral. But the woman later has a number of ‘visiting husbands' who do not live with her, do not participate in the economic life of the household and need not assume responsibility for any child born.
Okay, there are other types of families that develop in other cultures. Has the Nayar society discovered a family structure superior to the nuclear family? If so, maybe we should reorganize our tax codes and other government policies to encourage that sort of family.

No, those family structures are not better. No one has found a family type that is better than the traditional American nuclear family.

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