Tonight I heard Angela O'Rand's very interesting presidential address at the Southern Sociological Society. Her topic was "The Devolution of Risk and the Changing Life Course." What she means by devolution of risk is that we used to have a more orderly life course, but now that order has devolved into a thousand paths and no certain route. This uncertainty has increased our risk.
O'Rand cited "ephemeral families" as one of the devolving institutions that increases risk. She cited most other institutions, too, especially economic ones.
She is right that the family life course can't be taken for granted as it once was. But I don't think we need to accept that families simply are ephemeral and have no order. Of all of the devolving institutions in social life, families are the ones we have the most capacity to make for ourselves. The economy, the state, the educational system, even religious institutions may be largely beyond our control. But we can make our own marriages and family life stronger, more orderly, and less risky.