In the near future, people may form postmodern family clans – with three or more adults rearing about six genetically-shared children together.
The family has always been the cornerstone of American society.
– Ronald Reagan
The mainstream idea of a `family’ has been broadened a lot in the past century. Today, a healthy couple can be interracial, they may be lgbtq, they might never get married, and they probably met online. These changes have been greatly beneficial for individuals and for society. In this post, I propose to broaden the idea of a family even further. I am speculating about the rise of the postmodern family clan.
In traditional societies, families are defined more broadly than a couple and their children. In clans of, say, 12 members (and in bands or tribes), the responsibility for childcare, food, shelter, and security is shared between the adult members. While adult clan members can still organize in couples, the clan forms the basis for social structure in the larger society.
The postmodern family clan is created by individuals who join into romantic couples (and occasionally triplets). A romantic couple first lives together as a single household. But instead of getting children, these couples start to ‘date’ or befriend other individuals or couples. Like romantic dating between individuals, the ultimate goal of couples dating is to find other people to build a healthy, strong, and loving family with.
Once couples have found their match, they can join in a family union of more individuals or couples that make a single household. Together, the couples can purchase a large home wherein the couples share their kitchen and common space, but maintain their separate bedrooms, bathrooms, and studios. With up to four incomes for two couples, they can afford to live in a large house. The couples now form a postmodern family clan. The clan could also consist of an uneven number of people. But for now, I will assume a union of couples.
Of course, the postmodern family clan also has postmodern children. But more on these children later, first I will discuss some advantages that the postmodern family-clan life offers.
Advantages of Postmodern Family Clans
Postmodern family clans have a number of advantages over single-couple, nuclear families. Here is an overview.
A clan with six working-age adults has far more financial stability than a single-couple family. If one member were to loose their job, there are still 5 earners left – representing just 17% loss of income for the clan – versus a 50% loss of income for a couple. While unemployment may be more frequent in a clan (because of their higher numbers), it would be much less difficult to shoulder unemployment for the family clan than for a single-couple family. This means that the clan provides a better form of financial stability than couples can provide.
This financial stability could enable productive risk taking by one of the clan members, such as starting a business or making a daring career switch, which will benefit the entire clan over the long term.
Housing is one of the biggest costs for couples, and clan living could probably decrease this cost. The clan could also share other costs, like a car. This means that the clan could purchase more or work less than if they formed separate families. The savings could potentially replace one clan members’ salary.
While being a stay-at-home parent or house keeper would be costly for a single-couple family, a clan can more easily afford to have someone stay home. The stay-at-home member could occupy themselves with some of the cooking and other household tasks for up to 12 people, assuming 3 couples and 6 children. Even if a couple wants to work full-time, having another clan member stay home offers benefits to the working couples and their children’s upbringing.
With four or six adults, clan members have much more opportunities for power-couple synergies and soaking up new knowledge and opportunities into the family clan. Experience with gardening, investing, medical knowledge, foreign languages, cooking, or home repairs are all extremely useful to have in a family. United as a family clan, the couples are far more resourceful than they would have been separately.
Less Feeling of Isolation Within Couples
While the clan members can maintain romantic exclusivity with their original partner, they can also form strong, family- or couples-like connections with other members of the clan. This can reduce the feeling of isolation that often arises in single-couple, nuclear families. For example, while some people prefer to go jogging on Saturday morning, others may prefer to do yoga. Of course both are fine activities. But in single-couple families, the couple has to split up or one of them has to compromise. With multi-couple families, it is possible to re-shuffle the couples for specific activities to have more alignment of interests. Interests that may not be shared within romantic couples, such as the stock market or Leo Tolstoy books, could still be shared among the adults in the household.
It is true that individuals can have friends to share their out-of-couple interests with, but the barrier to go jogging with a friend is still higher than asking a clan-member. The bond between friends and clan members may also be weaker, and having a clan could increase the number of long-term relationships.
When a loved one dies
The death of a spouse is another potential cause for isolation. But by living in a family clan, you automatically have a good support structure around you. This can be beneficial for dealing with the death of a spouse. Similarly, when a spouse knows that their death is near, it may be comforting to know that the left-behind spouse(s) and children will still be integrated in the clan.
For the children losing a parent, the event may be less dramatic than it would have been otherwise, and the long-term consequences may be less severe. The children who grow up in a postmodern family clan will still have the clan stability, and the remaining adults can be parental figures and role models.
As you may suspect, the postmodern family clan will rear postmodern children. These children may be the product of individual couples in the clan, but it could also be that the whole clan contributes – genetically speaking – to the children. With modern medical techniques, it is `conceivable’ that many parents create a single baby that is genetically shared. Already, this is happening in the U.K., where some children have three biological parents.
More, more, more
Clan children will have the benefit of having more siblings to socialize with. Clan children will receive more parental care because it is easier to finance a stay-at-home parent (or two!) when the rest of the clan adults work. And clan children will have more diverse role models to learn from. The clan children will also benefit from the greater (financial) stability and resourcefulness that the postmodern family clan has compared to single-couple families.
What a postmodern family clan is (not):
A postmodern family clan is NOT:
- Polygamous, polyamorous, monogamous, or any specific sexual preference or behavior or absence thereof
- A ‘web’ of relationships that connects all of society as in relationship anarchy
- An extended or multi-generational family defined by consanguinity
A postmodern family clan is:
- Three or more adults choosing to live together and maintaining harmonious, long-term relationships as a family
- A way to organize a stable family to make it more resourceful and robust to the benefit of its members
Could you see yourself as a member of a postmodern family clan? What would be the biggest advantage or drawback to clan living for you? Let us know by leaving a comment below!