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Alain Giguère

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The pater familias: 29% of Canadians believe that the father should be in charge in his own home! (And La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 06-12-17 at 4:36 p.m.

Culture shock between the disciples of the modern and the traditional family!

On the eve of Father's Day, I’d like to discuss a phenomenon that we have been measuring for a long time with a simple statement -a clear indicator of how society and the family as a "social organization" has evolved. Compared to what prevailed even 50 years ago, the family unit has changed considerably. "Families" today are pluralistic, adaptive and can take multiple forms.

 

The traditional pyramidal family model, where the father is the primary authority figure with a supporting wife and children subject to parental authority, gradually began to disintegrate from the 1960s to the end of the 1990s, when its popularity hit bottom.

We have been able to measure this trend by monitoring the evolution in the agreement with this statement (one of our favourites for its sociocultural relevance): "The father of the family must be master in his own house."

In 1983, the first year CROP measured this statement, 42% of Canadians agreed with this proposition. Agreement fell to its lowest point, 17%, in 1998. Thereafter, it more or less plateaued until 2013, when the popularity of the traditional pyramidal family model experienced a resurgence.

From 2013 to 2017, the percentage of Canadians of the opinion that the father should be in charge in his home rose from 19% to 29%, a 10-point rise over four years!

The immigrant and the "angry man"!  

A combination of many demographic factors have shaped the recent support for this traditional view of the family. Of course, being an immigrant is one of them. Many newcomers hail from societies with much more patriarchal traditions than ours. But immigration does not fully account for this phenomenon.


The archetypal believer in this traditional-style family is male, low income, 25 to 54 years of age, married or widowed. He is suffering from the sociocultural stresses inflicted by our modern world and truly believes that there is no opportunity for him improve his lot.

Traditional values and the fantasy of clearly defined social codes!

The values and mentalities of the believers in a traditional-style family reveal a host of different motivations. These "traditionalists" do not represent a homogeneous conservative block, despite espousing a set of very traditional values: roles for men and woman defined in very stereotypical and conservative ways. They value order, morality, discipline, a sense of duty above all, religion, the authority of institutions, etc.

In addition, they are having great difficulty navigating and adjusting to a society that is changing too quickly for them. Ethnic diversity, the range of living styles, gay marriage, technological change, restructured businesses-in fact, everything that is redefining today's society and economy is completely beyond them. They feel like they are living without guideposts or reference points. They are becoming cynical, bitter, frustrated and anxious, in a world where they no longer fit.

They also feel that their social identity is being called into question, diminished-that they no longer have a place, that they are becoming second-class citizens, with downward status mobility.

Hence, their fantasy of returning to rigid social codes, where men are men and women know their place. They want to recreate a simpler, more predictable world, where they can take pride in their identity (she is his wife, he is the husband, it is his suburban home, etc.).

Other indicators tell us that, since 2012-2013, Canadians clearly feel that the pace of change is accelerating. At the end of the recession, they had hoped life would return to "normal," to the way it was before. But that didn't happen. Instead, the transformations keep speeding up. Life is becoming more complex (such is life, after all). For some, these changes are difficult to handle and they are losing their bearings.

A challenge for society

On a socio-political level, such trends lead directly to the type of extremist right-wing movements that have arisen around the world in recent years and have even formed governments in several countries. Society and institutions will need to find ways to become more inclusive, to redistribute wealth more effectively, to fight exclusion and cynicism.

The trends that are the catalysts of change are not going to melt away. Instead, these trends are set to advance exponentially. More issues provoking feelings of exclusion and cynicism are likely to arise in the years ahead. The fantasy of rewinding to traditional and stereotypical social mores is a symptom of a society that is changing too quickly for some.


La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini

As a lyrical nod to the role of traditional pater familias, who better than the pater in Rossini's opera, Cinderella. This clip shows a father determined to marry off a daughter to the Prince (it's the father who commands) so he can improve his social standing and solve his financial woes.

Gioachino Rossini: La Cenerentola, Elina Garanca, Lawrence Brownlee, John Relyea, Alessandro Corbelli, Rachelle Durkin, Patricia Risley, Simone Alberghini, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Maurizio Benini, Conducting. April 26, 2013.