Tier 3

music / / poetry / / philosophy / / -ology by Nick Courtright

Family Dynamics: The Fallout of Suburbanization


Note: This is part three of a many-parted series discussing practical issues revolving around the family, such as the effects of suburbanization and corporatization on family happiness, divorce as a social phenomenon, the frailties of inner-city households, and the role of the father. No sources will be cited, but they do exist, somewhere. The ideas and thoughts proposed in this series are rhetorical and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Tier 3.

Suburbanization, characterized by “white flight,” brought the family out of the cramped confines and distasteful diversity of the city and into the endless optimism of tract housing, not to mention the joys of grass-mowing and shrub-clipping. The initial influx of people to the newly sprawling suburbs was indeed founded in a sort of boundless optimism—the opportunity to have private space under the premise of family wholeness, moral righteousness, and mutual satisfaction. Yet while these ideals fed the burgeoning bridge between city life and rural life, the promise of family unity soon became no more valid than a promise made by a politician: sounds good on paper, and turns the heads of the populous, but ultimately fails to live up to its own rhetoric. Instead of offering the family a chance to bond—as the advent of architectural adjustments favoring the family, such as the aptly named “family room,” would suggest—the prideful seclusion of suburban life instead led to a realization of the impossibilities of equal happiness among members of a family unit. The family unit, despite the obvious commonalities among its members, is comprised of people of different ages, aims, and agendas—to expect these people to provide, in relative isolation, all of an individual’s emotional necessities is not only uninformed but flatly absurd. Truly, rather than embracing the responsibility for family members’ well-being, the family members became suffocated under the unreasonable expectations and were driven from each other, not only emotionally but spatially within the home. suburbs2.jpgWhereas in the pre-suburban days the home was divided into various purpose-specific rooms, thus thrusting upon family members shared space whether they liked it or not, the suburban lifestyle unexpectedly saw the family splinter in whatever way possible, each member retreating to his or her own room and letting the door shut not-so-silently in its wake.

And so hope died. The man’s sphere and the women’s sphere became further separated and the increasingly longer commute to and from work made leisure time all the more sparse. The side effects of this are many, including additional estrangement from the family and the high pressure placed on “quality time,” which saw parents attempt to make up for a lack of presence by relying on the inconsistent binge relationship. These attempts met with mixed results, but often found the cynical teenager unimpressed and annoyed by the thought. Ultimately, the privacy offered by the expansive lawn and even the picket fence were accepted gratefully, albeit gravely, in exchange for community; it seems, almost, that the family values so effusively espoused by mid-century residential developers were always more in communion with community than with isolation of the family itself, and the latter was therefore overlooked as a factor. And thus, the rise in divorce and the separation of child from parent and parent from extended family.

Up next in Family Dynamics: The Television Revolution


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