[LMB] OT: ish, the nuclear family

Damien Sullivan phoenix at mindstalk.net
Sat Feb 15 23:42:11 GMT 2020

On Sat, Feb 15, 2020 at 01:28:48PM -0500, Katherine Collett wrote:
> On Feb 15, 2020, at 8:55 AM, Alex Kwan <litalex at gmail.com> wrote:
> > 
> > Just finished this rather interesting article.
> > https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/03/the-nuclear-family-was-a-mistake/605536/?utm_source=share&utm_campaign=share
> > 
> > It reminds me of all the family and relationship structures in Lois’s books.
> was that Brooks doesn't seem to know what "rectory" means (might he
> have actually meant "factory"?).  That aside, she and her friends


> the Nostalgia Trap, by Stephanie Coontz.  Brooks is of course right
> that the nuclear family as the one right way is a fairly brief
> phenomenon (you don't have to know much history to realize that), but

Though I think it's older than he credits.  I've heard a lot of the
"northwest European" pattern of a prospective couple not marrying until
they could afford a household of their own, via job or inheritance or
prize money.  You see it in Jane Austen's gentry.

> blaming the more recent lack of local networks on lawns having gotten
> bigger, which he seems to do, 

I think that's oversimplifying what he says.

> does not hold water (for one thing, most people live in houses already
> built before the 1980s, and except in some very exclusive
> neighborhoods, even more recent, larger houses are mostly on fairly
> small lots).  There's lots more to the article, and

Eh.  Zoning for detached single family homes started in the 1930s and
took off after WWII.  I've been told the median lot size of American
homes is 1/5 acre, sort of what I'd expect if 1/4 acre and 1/8 acre
minimum lot sizes dominate the legal code, and that's a pretty big lot
-- or more to the point, a pretty low density neighborhood.  Around 800
homes per square kilometer, which may sound like a lot of people... but
how many chances do you have to meet them?  Especially with other
postwar zoning changes: no neighborhood store to walk to and hang out
at, cul-de-sac roads you need to drive out of to get anywhere.

And what I've noticed is that neighborhoods with big front lawns often
don't *use* those front lawns; even if you go for a walk, you'll just be
passing grass and closed doors, any people are inside or in the back.

Brooks name checks Jane Jacobs for her last book, but consider the
healthy neighborhoods she describes in her first book: thousands of
people within a short walk, kids playing on the sidewalks and watched
over by neighbors or shopkeepers, shops within a couple minutes walk,
also schools... far more natural human interaction, in a type of
neighborhood that's basically been illegal to build in the US since 1950
or before.

Which touches on another possible reason for isolated people and
declining families: housing costs.  Younger people these days want to
live in cities more, whether out of real desire or because that's where
the jobs are, but urban housing in booming cities is soaring in price,
thanks to zoning laws that typically outlaw the sort of building that
already exists.

-xx- Damien X-)

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