The negative effects of the nuclear family include isolation and emotional dependence on the husband-wife and father-child relationship, which causes tensions and can lead to marriage breakdown in the first instance and juvenile delinquency and other juvenile problems in the second. The nuclear family can be extraordinarily dangerous for children. Some, often children of educated and privileged families, are giving in to the pressure to succeed and are committing suicide at an alarming rate. Those in the United States who experience divorce from their parents are being overwhelmingly raised in poverty, which has lifelong ramifications on their health, wealth, and education.
In the extreme, about 500 children a year are killed by their parents in the United States, and millions more are abused and neglected, with inadequate systems to help them until harm occurs. More than 20 years ago, sociologist Vern Bengtson gave a lecture in which he predicted that multigenerational ties would be ascending in the 21st century. Bengtson, who spent decades studying generations of 300 California families, rejected the idea that the decline of the nuclear family model was bad for society. The nuclear family, a home populated only by parents and children, is often considered the default human norm.
But historically and across cultures, the extended family, the multiple generations living together and sharing the burdens, pains and joys of domestic life has been the real fault. The nuclear family gradually became widespread only after the Industrial Revolution, when a centralized factory-based economy made this smaller form of family economically advantageous, since it could uproot itself from extended families and continue work wherever it led. The second great strength of extended families is their socializing strength. Several adults teach children good and evil, how to behave with others, how to be kind.
On the other hand, nuclear families of this era were much more connected to other nuclear families than today constitute a “modified extended family, as sociologist Eugene Litwak calls it,” a coalition of nuclear families in a state of mutual dependence. On the other hand, nuclear families of this era were much more connected to other nuclear families than they are today, constituting a “modified extended family, as sociologist Eugene Litwak calls it,” a coalition of nuclear families in a state of mutual dependence.