24 December 2006
During these holidays, I suggest you reflect on how our relational routines are culturally embedded, and how these routines affect our networks. Who do we see each holiday? Who are we supposed to see? Who do we talk about? Who do we send holiday cards to?
Consider the role of Christmas. In many families Christmas is a time when the grown (and dispersed) nuclear family reconstitutes itself, bringing together adult siblings (and additions to the family) together with their parents. The result is thus an "all-channel" family, where every member of the family sees each other on a regular basis (for better and for worse).
I think that for many families that do not have this tradition, there is no singular event that brings the entire family together on a regular basis. Thus, while children may visit their parents as often, they may not visit at the same time. The structural result may be that of the "hub-spoke" family, where all grown children talk to and see their parents frequently, but not each other.
This is, of course, an empirical question (and perhaps one that research has been done on-- if so, please comment), but would have important long term implications. How does the structure of communication among grown siblings affect the care of aging parents? Do rituals like thse play a crucial role in sustaining life-long social capital within nuclear families? etc.
Just something to ponder over the eggnog this holiday.
Posted by David Lazer at December 24, 2006 9:46 AM