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The Postmodern Life: A Psychological Perspective

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Postmodernism, by no means simple to define, particularly when describing the family construct. Postmodern life tends towards elaboration, eclecticism, enhancement, and inclusiveness; it dismisses the existence of an absolute reality and is deeply distrustful of the concept of human progress. If we define the current ongoing effort to remake contemporary family life as the post-modem family, such a definition carries with it overtones from the definition of postmodern art and literature. In these fields the term post-modem signals the end of a familiar pattern of activity and emergence of new areas of endeavor whose activities are unclear and whose meanings and implications are not yet well understood. Thus, the post­ modern family is characterized by uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt.

Full consensus on the definition of the emerging post-modern family structure has not been reached, despite recognition of the need for better understanding of the variety of human families in the post-modem period and insight into how large-scale social patterns affect personal and domestic relationships

While single parent, surrogate mother, and gay and lesbian families, and other variants of the post-modem family may be viewed as the negative results of the trends described above, or as breakdown products, they also reflect the following:

1. Disillusionment with the optimistic assumptions of human progress and with the universality and the regularity of the laws of science; hence, lack of faith in the previously established order.

2. The uncoupling of economic forces underlying social conformity, such as the need for women to marry advantageously to survive financially and to transmit their class status to the next generation, or the need to bear children in wedlock for them to inherit family land or other property that would be their source of livelihood.

3. The influence of the electronic media, which both reflect and legitimize family diversity.

In addition, electronic communications and other media also foster anonymous intimacy through radio talk shows, advice columns, electronic mail, computer bulletin boards, and commercially provided advisory/counseling and other personal services available in the United States through area code 900. This relatively anonymous and instant intimacy in turn becomes a new basis for anonymous face-to-face social support for our children today.

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