LETTER : An alternative to the nuclear family

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The Independent Online
From Mr Teddy Gold

Sir: In describing the assets of the family, the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks ("Finding our way back to the family", 7 March) stated, "its greatest time is yet to come". However, it is difficult to sustain this statement in view of the present sociological trends of increasing divorce, which show no signs of reversal.

In the age of our civilisation, the nuclear family is a relatively modern construction. Despite being propped up by costly services provided by the welfare state, it is too often inadequate to meet our needs. Too many of our elderly are left isolated, feeling insecure, and end up in accommodation where they have to be cared for by others. In the isolation of their homes, mothers, babies and young children besides the elderly, are often desperate for company. We now know that too often abuse happens behind closed doors.

The nuclear family is not the way forward. It is destroying itself. Is there a practical alternative that can satisfy the needs of independence and affluence, and is also good for human beings and, in particular, able to assist the most vulnerable? Some form of co-operative housing will not only help to reduce the anxieties of financial insecurity in the event of bankruptcy, illness or death of the provider, but will also help to create a secure environment, which will encourage stable relationships and sound human growth.

Unsatisfactory environments affect those who are least able to help themselves, ie, the very young, aged and handicapped. With the demise of the nuclear family, the extended family has also suffered. Today many people would rather associate with their friends than with their extended family, even if they do live nearby.

Success in any form of relationship, either within the family or otherwise, where there is shared accommodation must be based upon an understanding of each other's needs and mutual respect. It should not be beyond the wit of human beings to be able to associate with each other and agree on practices within a supportive structure.

The nuclear family has proved to be inadequate to meet the many needs of people across the age groups. The support provided by the state is often too clinical, too costly and usually finishes when offices close. There is an urgency to think again.

Yours faithfully,

TEDDY GOLD

Consultant

Priority Area Development

London, N3

7 March

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