All In The Family

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Strong families make strong communities, and strong communities result in strong nations. The ninth and last pillar that I suggest on which to build a great nation, the new Jamaica, is family — indisputably considered to be the foundation of society.Any building constructed will only be as good as the foundation on which it is built. Therefore, the greatest care must be taken to ensure it is properly laid with the best quality materials. The builders of nations must equally take great care and pay attention to the foundation issues.

The eight pillars previously discussed: vision (March 19 & 26), justice, truth (February 19, March 5), work (April 2), order (April 9), equality & equity (April 16), love (April 23), and righteousness (April 30) are best developed in this basic unit of society called family. This makes the family the single most important institution in the nation. Its principles should guide every other area.

The role of the family is too often taken for granted or overlooked in the pursuit of community and national development when family is supposed to be the raison d’etre of development. The family is the foundation which makes development possible. The current evidence is showing that the problems the nation is experiencing stem from these foundation issues. Vision 2030 states the goal of making Jamaica the place to raise families, and yet there is little or no provision made in either policy or programmes to strengthen families.

Family matters

A country cannot afford to ignore the pillar of family in the nation-building process. To do so is short-sighted, even ridiculous.

We all know that the family is the basic building block of any society. It’s the fundamental unit. What many may not realise is that research done over numerous years, and with large samples in different countries, show that the family and its structure play key roles in determining outcomes, not just for family members but also for the nation as a whole.

Here are some of the findings:

• On average, married couples enjoy larger incomes, higher net worth, and greater year-on-year increases in net worth. Their children enjoy a better economic environment; less poverty and more economic mobility than any other group.

• The children of married couples have better educational outcomes than children living in other types of family arrangements. They have even higher IQs and tend to have better employment prospects and higher incomes when they enter the workforce.

• The children of married couples also tend to have better emotional and psychological health and well-being. This intact family is critical to the early stages of child development — it is in the first eight years that the personality is formed.

The form and function of the home family therefore play a statistically significant role in predicting outcomes for the children of that family. Factors such as educational attainment, workforce attachment, income levels, emotional stability, and likelihood of engaging in crime or experiencing teenage pregnancy are all significantly linked to the family. Of the various types of families that exist, the intact family is the clear winner when it comes to producing the best societal outcomes.

The model family

That best model is what used to be referred to as the nuclear family: father, mother and children. It is now referred to by some sociologists as the intact family. To be clear, this is the family where both father and mother are present and where they are the biological parents of the children of the family. Further, the research also demonstrates that there are appreciable distinctions to be made between the outcomes of those families where the parents are legally married and those where they are just cohabiting.

The all-wise God of the universe, when he wanted to reveal himself to the world, chose a nation called Israel to make it a model to the rest of the world of a blessed, prosperous, strong and great nation. He structured and built the nation on and around family. Everything in the nation found its centre, management and order from families. Failure and calamity invariably resulted when the family values and systems broke down and every man did what was right in his own eyes.

Family is about teamwork. Teamwork makes the dream work. It’s amazing how we say and believe such statements and apply them in the workplace, or other spheres, but abandon them in the most essential place — the family. It is the place of growth, development and preparation for living in the world to fulfil our God-given assignment.

It is the place where principles and values should be inculcated so that wherever family members go in life they will apply them and will pass them on to their children. Values are passed on from one generation to the next so that the nation remains strong.

Family benefits

The family is where individuals are first developed and shaped to play their role as responsible citizens contributing to the nation’s development. All the essential character qualities, interpersonal relationships, skills, work ethic, personal discipline and self-government are to be taught and guided to maturity in families. Where this fails, the nation is at risk. We must also face the truth that our nation would be much better off if we were to raise the level of intact families in the country.

Family provides the natural place where the emotional and material needs of the population should be met without putting a strain on government resources. Where intact families are missing, or where single-parent families dominate, greater social intervention is necessary.

The family is a microcosm of the nation, so if we want a strong nation, we must build strong families. All the critical problems that we see in the nation — crime, poverty, corruption, disorder can be addressed through the family.

The family pillar

If abundant research indicates the importance and central role of the family in national development, and if all the research data that is known and available to government and national planners confirms the historical and proven evidence that the intact family — with a mother and father together- is the only solid base on which to build strong nations, then why are our development plans not centred on this reality?

Why is the family unit not protected and promoted? Why are effective family policies not put in place with incentives to support the strengthening of families? Why the hesitancy to say no to and clearly reject activities that oppose and even destroy families?

A Government that creates and pursues policies that work against the strengthening and advancement of family life is an enemy of the State and people, and should be voted out. A political party with anti-family positions should never be voted in.

A wise, loving and responsible citizenry must seek to find out a political party’s position on critical issues that relate to family. If the positions are not supportive of strong family life, then that party must be rejected at the polls, because destruction will result from that kind of leadership. “Tek sleep and mark death!”

It is because family is the foundation for a healthy society that the Bible makes practical suggestions to discourage adultery, sex before marriage, homosexuality, all forms of abuse and negative behaviours, and to encourage love, forgiveness, unity, and positive developmental behaviours.

Family first

The new Jamaica needs leaders who are courageous, bold and strong enough to withstand external pressures injurious to the national interest. This requires clarity of vision and belief in and commitment to the pillars on which to build the nation, especially the bedrock issue of family.

A careful family policy must be developed by Government to protect and strengthen the family so that we can build a strong nation. Attaining the best future of the nation will rest heavily on whether we can elevate the family to its rightful place at the centre of holistic development, policy and programmes. We urgently need to get this right!

Look out for a discussion on the Jamaican reality of the other family structures that may not be best for the nation.

Copyright © 2017 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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