The decline of the family has unleashed an epidemic of loneliness

The decline of the family has unleashed an epidemic of loneliness, by Kay Horowitz.

Americans are suffering from a bad case of loneliness. The number of people in the United States living alone has gone through the studio-apartment roof.

A study released by the insurance company Cigna last spring made headlines with its announcement: “Only around half of Americans say they have meaningful, daily face-to-face social interactions.”

Loneliness, public-health experts tell us, is killing as many people as obesity and smoking….

Foundering social trust, collapsing heartland communities, an opioid epidemic, and rising numbers of “deaths of despair” suggest a profound, collective discontent. It’s worth mapping out one major cause that is simultaneously so obvious and so uncomfortable that loneliness observers tend to mention it only in passing. I’m talking, of course, about family breakdown. …

In 1950, 20 percent of marriages ended in divorce; today, it’s approximately 40 percent.

Four in ten American children are now born to unmarried mothers, up from about 5 percent in 1960.

In 1970, 84 percent of U.S. children spent their entire childhoods living with both bio-parents. Today, only half can expect to do the same. …

Divorce has frayed ties between boomers and the children that they do have. …

Divorced people generally can’t count on ex-wives or husbands to provide much companionship or support when they have a heart attack or a close friend dies. Studies also show — unsurprisingly — that stepchildren don’t care for needy stepparents as much as they do their biological parents …

In translating family formation into a strictly private matter, the [Second Demographic Transition] whistled past a critical fact of our history — namely, that kinship has been the most powerful glue of human groups since Homo sapiens first discovered the mother-in-law. Evolutionary psychologists have a compelling theory about why: humans practiced “reciprocal altruism” in relation to kin because they had a stake in the reproductive success of their genetic relations. …

In more recent decades, the transition has eroded the God-fearing, “middle American” white working-class family, too — and their communities. As of 1980, about 75 percent of white working-class adults were married, a figure very close to the 79 percent of high-income adults. By 2017, however, the working-class number had fallen to only 52 percent. Worse, white working-class adults divorce at much higher rates than more educated adults. …

Notice that men are more likely to die from opioid overdoses and other deaths of despair. Men seem to have a harder time coping with isolation and family breakdown than women. …

My boomer acquaintances, college-educated professionals and devoted parents, nudged and prodded their kids from elementary school through college and beyond to prepare for the Big Career. When it came to that other crucial life goal — finding a loyal, loving spouse, a devoted mother or father for their children — their lips were sealed. Such traditional aspirations would have seemed an imposition on their children’s authentic desires rather than a piece of learned wisdom.

Progressives have been improving families now for over 50 years now. They must be almost perfect by now!

Old-fashioned and traditional values are so deplorable. Progressives know better than people in the past, and university studies prove it. Feminism and the sexual revolution rolls on. Can’t make a cake without breaking a few eggs, comrades!