One of my preoccupations in the past couple of years — and this comes out of issues of my own life; it comes out of being a parent; it comes out of these larger social conversations about loneliness epidemics and friendship recessions — is, I think uniting a lot of difficulties in the communal life of Americans, at least, is what I think of as the post-extended family era — that, for a huge amount of time in human history, who we married, how we raised children, who was around us was structured — for worse sometimes but also often for better or just for reliability — by the extended family, by a kin network.
There were always people, people you could make asks of, people who would make asks of you. Who parents aged around was decided. Who would lend a helping hands with kids was known. Who would help somebody find a romantic partner, that was a solved problem. Again, not for everybody, but we had a structure.
And we’re living through this wild experiment now. We’re living through the end of the age, after the end of the age of the nuclear family. As my colleague David Brooks has written, the nuclear family was actually a pretty punctuated period of time when most people lived in that. Now, the share of Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 who are married has dwindled from two-thirds of the population in 1990 to barely half today. Today, about 40 percent of children are born to unmarried parents.