On Latch-key Society

Feb, 2019

In last month’s blog I discussed how both parents must work to make ends meet. I was born in 1951 to an 18 year-old mother and a 22 year-old father. My mother was a homemaker and did not work. My father was a bricklayer, yet when I was 7 years old he was able to purchase a 3 bedroom brick home in the suburbs just east of the city of Pittsburgh. I and my brother came home from school every day to a snack prepared by my mother who spoke to us about our day. We ate supper at the same time every evening as a family without the television on. These table discussions shaped my interests. This situation was typical for the era.

Now things are very different. Most of our children are latch-key kids who come home to an empty house and are left to their own devices until a parent arrives home from work. Some spend this time reading and studying– but very few. More are drawn into that old formula of “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll”. Others play in the equally addictive world of the internet and social media. Supper is a haphazard affair often spent alone in front of the television or on a smart-phone. The meal is rarely a family affair, productive of bonding or of stimulating talk and thought. And then it is off to organized sports rather than playing with friends. Or worse, it is off to the child’s bedroom complete with play station, computer, and smart-phone for another night of social isolation spent in electronic contact with other equally isolated kids on an often vicious social media site. Suicide rates have increased by 24% since 1999 and malevolent social media and internet addiction are a large part of the problem.

In 1960, 72% of adults were married, and that is now down to 50%. Women want to marry men who make more money than they do, and men fear that their women will leave them for a better catch. So people forego marriage, and instead have children out of wedlock. Moreover, about 30% of children live in single parent households. We lead by example, and what we are saying to our children is, commitment is risky– better not to take the risk.

We are not just dropping out of marriage. Men especially are dropping out of society at large in ever greater numbers. The traditional role for men is to protect and provide for their women and children. We have structured our social order to deny men that role. Men respond at first with passive resistance; they move into the nether world of drugs and crime. But eventually, and inevitably, passive resistance is followed by active resistance. We are assured by our “leaders” that all change is progress, but we are actually in the midst of a great social disintegration, and the end is not far off. In the meantime, the best you can do is try to embrace traditional family values. Limit your children’s access to technology and encourage them to read. Enforce family time at supper. Commit, and then be true to your commitments.

– Gary Gallo, MD