Each passage in this part is followed by questions based on its contents. Read the passage carefully and choose the best answer for each question.
Humans have probably always been surrounded by their kin – those to whom they have been related by blood or marriage. But the size, the composition, and the functions of their families and kinship groups have varied tremendously. People have lived not only in the “nuclear family”, made up of just the parents and their offspring, which is standard in the West and has been found almost everywhere, they have lived in extended families and in formal clans; they have been “avunculocal”; they have been “ultrolateral”, they have been conscious of themselves as heirs of lineages hundred of generations deep. However constructed, the traditional kinship group has usually provided those who live in it with security, identity, and indeed with their entire scheme of activities and beliefs. The nameless billions of hunter-gatherers who have lived and died over the past several million years have been embedded in kinship groups, and when people started to farm about ten thousand years ago, their universe remained centered on kinship. Now that there was a durable form of wealth which could be hoarded-grain–some families became more powerful than other; society became stratified, and genealogy became an important means of justifying and perpetuating status.
During the past few centuries, however, in part of the world-in Europe and the countries that have been developing along European lines-a process of fragmentation has been going on. The ties and the demands of kinship have been weakening, the family has been getting smaller and, some say, less influential, as the individual, with a new sense of autonomy and with new obligations to himself (or, especially in the last decade and a half, to herself),has come to the foreground. A radically different mental order-self-centered and traceable not to any single historical development as much as to the entire flow of Western history since at least the Renaissance has taken over. The political and economic effects of this rise in individual self-consciousness have been largely positive: civil rights are better protected and opportunities are greater in the richer, more dynamic countries of the West; but the psychological effects have been mixed , at best. Something has been lost: a warmth, a sanity, and a supportiveness that are apparent among people whose family networks are still intact. Such qualities can be found in most of the Third World and in rural pockets of the U.S., but in the main stream of post-industrial society the individual is increasingly left to himself, to find meaning, stability, and contentment however he can.
An indication of how far the disintegration of traditional kinship has advanced is that a surprising number of Americans are unable to name all four of their grandparents. Such people have usually grown up in stepfamilies, which are dramatically on the rise. So is the single – parent family-the mother-child unit, which some anthropologists contend is the real nucleus of kinship, having already contracted to the relatively impoverished nuclear family, partly as an adaptation to industrialization kinship seems to be breaking down even further. With the divorce rate in America at about fifty percent and the remarriage rate at about seventy five, the traditional Judeo-Christian scheme of marriage to one person for life seems to be shading into a pattern of serial monogamy, into a sort of staggered polygamy, which some anthropologists, who believe that we aren’t naturally monogamous to begin with, see as “a return of normality”. Still other anthropologists explain what is happening somewhat differently; we are adopting delayed system of marriage, they say, with the length of the marriage chopped off at both ends. But many adults aren’t getting married at all; they are putting “self-fulfillment” before marriage and children and are having nothing further to do with kinship after leaving their parents’ home; their family has become their work associate or their circle of best friends. This is the most distressing trend of all; the decline in the capacity of long-term intimate bonding.