Is Individualism Hurting the Family?


Individualism is a major part of the American fabric, but is this trend toward individuality separating us from spouses, children and extended relatives to the point of eradicating God’s plan for the family?

The era of individualism

Anthropologist Wade Davis in a piece for Rolling Stone titled “The Unraveling Of America” said that no other country in the world has “lionized the individual at the expense of community and family” like the United States in the post-World War II era.

Divorce and division of the family

Listing statistics, Wade writes: “By the 1960s, 40 percent of marriages were ending in divorce. Only six percent of American homes had grandparents living beneath the same roof as grandchildren; elders were abandoned to retirement homes.”

According to the CDC and the latest statistics as of 2018, the marriage rate for the year was 6.5 per 1000 total population in the divorce rate was 2.9 per 1000 population. That equates to roughly 55.38% of all marriages ending in divorce. The same year there were 2,132,853 marriages and 782,038 divorces. This equates to a divorce rate of 63.33 percent.

Sociologists, anthropologists, educators all agree that “rugged individualism” is a strong part of the American fabric. Individualism may be playing a role in couples deciding to go their separate ways.

Families spend less time together

Dedication to work and the pursuit of individual goals is also driving a wedge between family members.

Davis writes that the “average American father spends less than 20 minutes a day in direct communication with his child.”

What the Bible says about marriage and divorce

Jesus quoted the book of Genesis when he talked about marriage.

“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,  and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

– Mark 10:6-9

God calls for marriage to be a permanent bond. The love that brings two people together was meant to last.

From the writings of the late Reverend Billy Graham, he says: “Divorce tears at the very fabric of ‘the two that become one.'” But Graham says healing is always possible if we put our faith in God.

Graham adds: “It requires humbling ourselves and laying aside our pride and desire to please ourselves. Only then will God bring healing to a marriage. The first step in healing a marriage begins with the husband and wife. God will then provide the salve that heals.”

What the Bible says about family

At least three of the Ten Commandments in the Bible directly concern family.

The fourth commandment: Honor thy father and thy mother.

The sixth commandment: Thou shall not commit adultery.

The tenth commandment: Thou shall not covet (neighbor’s house, wife, slave, animals or anything else).

The Bible also speaks on providing for the family and relatives, raising children, how children should treat their parents, and a warning to those who cause trouble in their own household.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

– Proverbs 22:6

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

– 1 Timothy 5:8

“Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.”

–Proverbs 11:29

Peace in the family through submission

Part of the difficulty in keeping families together is individualism. Everyone wants their own way. A self-centered attitude separates what could be a greater family unity, one that is concerned with the greater good for all.

The Bible instructs us that the way to a happy, peaceful family is through submission to one another. Husbands and wives must submit to serving one another.

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”

– 1 Peter 3:1-2

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

– 1 Peter 3:7

Likewise, children must submit to the authority of parents.

“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

– Colossians 3:20

Lastly, almost be dedicated to the family unit, as well as to the extended family of grandparents and relatives.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

– 1 Peter 3:8-9