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Defense of the family conference: familial foundations

Paul Kerry

With single-parent families on the rise, a lower birth rate and more people either putting off marriage or deciding not to marry at all, some wonder what impact, if any, this kind of trend has on society.

Paul Kerry, a BYU history professor, explained that not only was this kind of world foretold decades ago, but that civilizations in the past have gone through a similar demise of the family, right before collapsing.

Kerry focused on the writings of Carle Zimmerman who wrote "Family and Civilization." In the book, Zimmerman, a sociologist and professor at Harvard, tracks the family over centuries and argues that "familism" (or the supporting of families by civilizations) is the stabilizing force of societies, that when family values fail, so does society.

He said more and more historians are looking at the period known as the Dark Ages in terms of families and seeing that the fall of Rome had something to do with the demise of families.

"The family is the core institution of our civilization and society," Kerry said. "We need to strengthen the family in order to strengthen our communities."

Zimmerman's book was originally published just following World War II. He foresaw a breakdown of the family evident in some places throughout the world today. But Kerry said people can combat this breakdown by supporting organizations that support the family.

"It's a tall order to stabilize the family, but it's for the sake of children, husbands and wives and for the community," he said.

— Sara Lenz