The American Family, 1992

EVERYONE KNOWS how vastly it has been transformed, but we are just learning how profoundly disturbing the implications are for kids — and for American society.

FORTUNE Magazine, August 10, 1992, by Myron Magnet, Reporter Associates Kate Ballen, Catherine Guthrie

I KNOW BY THE WORRY in their eyes that my children are not kidding when they ask, every couple of months or so, “Are you and Mommy getting a divorce?” And this in a close-knit family committed to solidarity. Yet so pervasive is family collapse and turmoil that virtually no American child, seeing the distress of friends whose parents are splitting apart, can escape the thought that the family structure anchoring his childhood may not prove secure.

In this as in many other ways, the revolution in families that we see all around us — the result of an epidemic of divorce, remarriage, redivorce, illegitimacy, and new strains within intact families — has precipitated a revolution in the inner lives of our children. And a torrent of recent research makes plain that this revolution within the minds and hearts of the next generation has deeply troubling implications for the American social order. It affects companies through their workers, and some employers are wisely responding.

We’re so accustomed to talking about the divorce revolution and the explosion of single-parent families that we’ve become numbed to how vast these changes really are. The most basic unit of our social organization has undergone transformations so sweeping that changes of similar magnitude in economic or industry data over the same period — or in the average temperature of the earth over 20 centuries — would make us gape in amazement. Consider the numbers afresh for a moment.

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