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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #38: Valuing Family

alphabetical listing: A to K 

  alphabetical listing, continued: L to Z
altruism -- putting the interests, welfare, happiness, and perhaps even survival of other people or living things above one’s own interests, etc. This devotion often involves self sacrifice. In an extreme case it can even mean giving up one’s own life so that another can live.

brotherhood -- an idealized situation in which people treat each other in a highly considerate way as if they were members of the same family (brothers or sisters)

child care--refers to watching and caring for young, preschool age children. Traditionally such care was provided by a stay at home parent. This began to change in the middle of the 20th century as women increasingly joined the workforce. Today in most western countries child care outside the home provided by paid non-family members has become the norm given the need for both parents to work. More affluent families may employ nannies to care for children at home.

Confucianism -- an ethical system / agnostic practical philosophy based on the teachings of the 6th century BC Chinese sage, Confucious. Its key teachings include: 1) Ultimately the happiness of society rests on sincere investigation that produces relevant knowledge; 2) Happy societies are built on a foundation of disciplined individuals in disciplined families; 3) Respect for and fidelity to natural obligations, most notably to parents and family, is essential. 4) The right relationship between individuals is important, one based on sympathetic “fellow feeling”, treating those subordinate to you as you would like to be treated if you were the subordinate -- ideas which provide the basis for a Confucian Golden Rule; 5) Avoiding extremes and embracing moderation --finding a Golden Mean -- is important.

conservatism -- believing  that social and political traditions should be valued and maintained, and continuing to think as you were brought up to think.

divorce--the legal dissolution of a marriage by means other than the death of a spouse. Divorce rates in the U.S. and Europe range from 15 to 50% of all marriages ending in divorce (46% in the U.S.)

dowry--transfer of money / gifts from the wife's family to the husband at the time of marriage.

dysfunctional family--a family characterized by chronic turmoil, inappropriate behavior, conflict and frequent failure of parents to meet their parental responsibilities in a healthy fashion--resulting in children not knowing what to expect, their needs often going unmet, and, in some cases, being abused (verbally, emotionally, physically, or sexually). Family dysfunction can typically be traced to parental alcoholism / substance abuse, their emotional / mental problems, or inappropriate parenting style (too dogmatic, authoritarian, controlling, distant, etc.). While the problem behavior originates with parents, children growing up in such unhealthy environments typically develop their own emotional problems, which increasingly affect family dynamics.

empathy -- concisely it refers to “fellow feeling” , that is imagining that you are in the other person’s shoes and experiencing his or her feelings, struggles, etc.

endogamy--marriage between members of the same social group.  Example: a Jewish girl's parents tell her that they won't allow her to marry a non-Jew.  Contrary to this example, many are more comfortable marrying those with similar background, lifestyle, etc., and endogamy can lead to social stratification. Carried to extremes by ethnic groups, it can also lead to genetic disease as the practice limits the size of the gene pool.  

family--one of those difficult to define terms.  Definitions range from narrow ones, like the U.S. Census Bureau's "two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption, who reside together," to broader ones which also include people living together, or bound together by shared economic or other concerns.

families, expanded --can refer to extended families which include three generations or collateral households where siblings and spouses and children are included.  see also family, nuclear vs. extended

family, nuclear vs. extended--the former refers to a family consisting of two parents and their children, the latter refers to this basic unit extending to include grandparents and other relatives.  Currently in the United States the nuclear family is the third most common household type (two person households are first, followed by individuals living alone in second)

family literacy--a family focused approach to improving reading and  literacy skills.  Behind this approach is the belief that literate families are stronger families, and that the parent is the child's first teacher.

fellowship--involves people communicating and sharing their lives and concerns with each other--not surprising given that humans are social creatures!  In some settings, such as churches, this companionship can involve mutual respect and perhaps unselfish love.  While the desire of lone individuals to share common interests or participate in activities requiring others fosters much fellowship, according to M.V.C. Jeffreys (in his 1962 classic Personal Values in the Modern World) "the natural and original context for fellowship is the family."

filial piety -- the devotion and natural obligation that exists between parents and their sons and daughters. In Chinese tradition (either Confucian or Buddhist) this refers to one’s responsibility to take care of one's parents, to honor, respect, love, and if needed support them -- not ignore, dishonor or be rebellious towards them.

homosexual marriage--an arrangement in which two people of the same sex live together as a family.  Controversy surrounds organized efforts to ban such marriages, extend to them the same legal rights that heterosexual marriages get, or something in between.  Civil unions or domestic partnerships fall in this last category, in which partners enjoy some but not all of the benefits of marriage. 

incest taboo--the nearly universal cultural prohibition of close relatives mating or marrying.

interpersonal communication effectiveness, behavioral model--according to this model the effective communicator 1) has social confidence, 2) creates a sense of togetherness, 3) controls and monitors the interaction so that both speaker and listener(s) are satisfied, 4) expresses a feeling of genuine involvement, and 5) is attentive to, listens, elicits, adapts to and is concerned with the needs and feelings of the audience.

interpersonal communication effectiveness, humanistic model-- according to this model the effective communicator possesses these qualities: 1) openness--besides disclosing his or her thoughts and feelings, this includes taking responsibility for them and reacting honestly to feedback others provide,  2) empathy, 3) supportiveness--includes being tentative rather than certain, and accepting or descriptive rather than judgmental, 4) positiveness--both in one's own attitude but also in providing others with positive reinforcement, and 5) the ability to communicate as an equal and to give others "unconditional positive regard" (as humanistic psychology founder Carl Rogers put it.)

interpersonal communication, relevance of--effective communication can enhance one's ability to engage in intimate relationships, parenting, counseling, teaching, coaching or mentoring, mediating or resolving conflicts, managing workers, persuading others, selling something, etc. 

Judeo-Christian-Islamic Conception of God -- this is based on likening the relationship between man and God to the relationship between a child and his father. Of course a child eventually grows up and becomes independent of his father, whereas, here, man does not: he is always subject to God’s authority and must obey his commands.

kinship metaphors -- examples of these abound: brotherhood, sister cities, fraternities and sororities, mother country and fatherland, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”, “Our Father who art in Heaven”, etc. All of these seek to extend the natural love or special treatment that exists between blood relatives to those who are unrelated. Evolutionary biologists explain the special treatment of kin in terms of relatives sharing many more genes than nonrelatives and that natural selection can work to insure survival of common, favored genes by promoting favored (altruistic behavior) treatment of relatives.







  love--one of those difficult to define terms, since its meaning varies between cultures and, within a given culture, there are typically many different types of love. Here we limit the discussion to the kind of love that exists between people.  Whereas the ancient Greeks had different words for altruistic love (agape), love between siblings or friends (philia), and desirous, sexual love (eros), in English, this single word can refer a range of emotions ranging from compassion to lust.  While dictionaries may have multiple definitions built on degrees of and reasons for attachment or affection, attempts at providing universal, single sentence definitions of love are harder to find. Here are two: 1) "that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own" (from Robert Heinlein, in Stranger in a Strange Land, and 2) "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth" (from Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled).

marriage and health--research indicates that married people live longer, healthier lives. In particular, it appears that happily married people better cope with stress, and  suffer less from cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, cancer, and mental illness than singles.

marriage, sanctity of -- belief that certain things (having sex, bringing children into world, etc) should not happen unless the two people involved are a happily married heterosexual couple

meme--a theoretical unit of cultural information such as an idea, particular behavior, story, etc. that propagate from mind to mind guiding human cultural evolution, in analogy with genes carrying genetic information, propagating from organism to organism and guiding biological evolution.  Whereas genes are transmitted in reproduction, memes are most fundamentally trans- mitted through imitation. 

mind / body connection --Wholistic health practitioners have long recognized this important connection, now increasingly traditional, reductionist practitioners of western medicine are realizing it as well. If the contents of one’s mind are unhealthy (anxiety-ridden, negative, full of blame, etc) it can literally make the body sick, or get in the way of its getting well. Similarly, psycho- logical health, reducing stress, being upbeat, feeling loved, etc. can be linked to maintaining or regaining physical health. To underscore the importance of feeling loved / not being lonely, Dr. Dean Ornish writes, "I'm not aware of any other factor in medicine -- not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery -- that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness and premature death.".

nepotism -- preferential treatment or favoritism given to a relative with respect to hiring decisions or filling appointed positions

non-verbal communication--communication that occurs without words where messages (both intended and unintended) are sent using eye contact, facial expressions, voice quality or emotional content, gestures, body language, posture, dress, hairstyle, body adornment, etc. While such communication can (either intentionally or unintentionally) transmit information, more importantly it can transmit feelings and attitudes.

overprotection -- behavior that parents engage in when their child fails to become independent, but remains excessively dependent. It can involve be any of the following in excess: pampering, mollycoddling, sheltering, spoiling, indulging, encapsulating, and being solicitous.

parental leave--the right of working parents (typically the mother) to be excused from work to care for a (typically new born) child. In many western countries the leave is paid and ranges in duration from two to eighteen months, except in the United States where law mandates up to three months of unpaid leave.

parent-offspring conflict -- the conflict between parents’ desire to invest time and energy in all of their off spring equally as needed, versus a child’s wanting a larger share of the parents’ attention for himself or herself. This conflict is played out in many different ways: an unborn child robbing a mother of nutrients, prematurely weaning one child to prepare for nursing the next, sibling rivalry, etc.

parenting styles --Given that the primary task of parents is to influence, teach, and control their children, different parenting styles emerge based on parents' differing behavioral control strategies, and the degree of parental responsiveness (warmth / supportiveness).  General styles commonly seen enough by researchers to have been named include:  indulgent (or permissive) parents, authoritarian parents (demanding but not responsive), authoritative parents (demanding and responsive), and uninvolved parents.  

parenting, the art of–just as artists impose order & structure on perceived chaos in their creations, parents do a similar thing in raising children.  Their parenting style and its implementation helps make each child a unique creation.

paternalism -- a system in which adults are treated in a fatherly way like children, with their conduct regulated and their needs met. Typically in exchange for this care, the authority expects loyalty and that those receiving the care will accept their relinquishing of personal control.

permissiveness -- a liberal orientation adopted by some in positions of authority in which those who might otherwise be dominated and controlled are instead granted considerable freedom as to how they can behave, and behavior that some might see as a transgression is instead viewed with leniency.

personal responsibility, accepting -- Before an individual can overcome some personal difficulty or solve a personal problem, he or she needs to acknowledge that the difficulty or problem exists, by saying something like, “This problem is mine and I must solve it”. In this context, taking personal responsibility means that you don’t ignore difficulties or problems, expect others to solve them for you, or shift the blame to others. In a family or social context, taking personal responsibility can mean voluntarily limiting your choices or restraining yourself for the good of the family, tribe, village, community or whatever. Richard Critchfield refers to this as “the freedom to choose self responsibility”.

polyamory–the practice or philosophy of having more than one loving, intimate relationship and doing so with the consent of all involved.  It promotes idealistic ethical behavior w/o jealousy & possessiveness.

polygamy--a marriage in which either spouse has more than one mate. 

population and family planning--refers to efforts to limit the number of children in a family.  The goal of such planning is to insure that all children born 1) are truly wanted, and 2) can be adequately supported and raised to adulthood given the resources available. While implemented at the individual family level, policies can be formulated at the national government level. This has most notably occurred in China, where the "One Child Policy" was adopted in 1979 to address population growth concerns.  Family planning services typically focus on promoting and providing access to birth control devices (contraceptive pills, condoms, etc). Where those fail, counseling as to whether to use an abortion clinic's services may be provided.  More draconian options include forced sterilization--which has been used in the United States to prevent mentally deficient people from reproducing.

primary interpersonal relationship in a family--refers to the relationship between the two principal people in a family--meaning the husband and wife in traditional families.  This relationship is maintained for various reasons including love, emotional attachment, sexual gratification, for the sake of children, for convenience, for financial reasons, out of fear, to maintain the status quo, etc. Based on the attitudes, beliefs, and lifestyles of the principals, primary relationships can 1) be traditional, stress interdependence and two becoming one, 2) be a loving union of two independent people that stresses preserving their individuality), and 3) be a distant relationship held together by convenience in which two people who want mostly separate lives continue to live under the same roof.  Communication patterns in primary relationships can similarly be classed into four types: 1) equality (communication shared equally in all areas) , 2) balanced split (equality with each principal having control in certain areas), 3) unbalanced split (similar to 2) but with less balance), and 4) monopoly (one person is seen as "the authority").

primogeniture--refers to one being the firstborn child, or a system in which that child--or the eldest son--exclusively inherits family property and wealth.

reproduction, human--begins with sexual intercourse in which the male penis deposits sperm into the female reproductive tract.  There it combines (at the moment of conception) with an egg (in a process called fertilization) to produce a zygote. Containing genes from both parents, this grows rapidly (via cell division) and soon is referred to as an embryo incubating inside the female uterus, where it receives nourishment from its mother.  After two months this developing human organism is termed a fetus.  After a (typical) slightly longer than nine month pregnancy, reproduction is deemed successful if the fetus emerges into the world as a new human being.  

self actualization--the ultimate personal development state as studied by Maslow and other psychologists. Self actualized people, according to Maslow have achieved, “the full use and exploitation of talent, capacities, potentialities, etc.” They are self confident but also possess humility that allows them to listen carefully to others and admit their ignorance. They see life more clearly than others partly due to a better understanding of themselves. With this superior perception comes a better sense of right and wrong. Among their attributes, Maslow includes “honesty and naturalness, the transcendence of selfish and personal motivations, the giving up of lower desires in favor of higher ones.” Such people feel a strong bond or kinship with the rest of humanity. They typically seek important and meaningful work.

selfish genes -- a term from Richard Dawkins. Whereas human bodies tend to be rather short-lived, in comparison combinations of human genes passed on from generation to generation can be around a very long time. While genes are associated with heredity, they can also be thought of as an instruction set. Most basically they provide instructions for assembling proteins, but in so doing they govern a great deal of the overall development and function of the organism. Thus, human behavior is shaped to some extent by genes. Dawkins imagines genes giving the following instructions to the body they reside in: “do whatever you think best to keep us alive”. While this is a seemingly selfish orientation, it could explain altruistic behavior within a family of genetically related individuals. Thus when a father or brother sacrifices himself so that a son or sister can live, in either case the “selfish genes” are kept alive.

stroking--rather than being indifferent to another, this generally refers to positively acknowledging the person by complimenting, recognizing, and other verbal or non-verbal communication chosen to make that person feel good.

subsidiarity--a principle that states that matters should be handled by the competent authority at the lowest level.  Some cite this to justify their belief that the family and value shaping institutions of the community (schools, churches, etc) ought to be strengthened.  Subsidiarity is compatible with philosophies that promote decentralized societies and local control. 

trust--with respect to extending this to another person, it refers to relying on the integrity, character, and ability of that person.  The degree of that trust is in proportion to the belief and faith one has in the honesty, good intentions, and competence of the person to be trusted.


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