Alternatives To Traditional Family

The Family or Nuclear Family arrangement has lots of problems.

What should we do instead?


  • parents feel greater need to actively raise their children and be actively engaged with them, not just provide food/shelter, etc.
  • increasingly the typical Nuclear Family is a Two Income Family, resulting in OutSourcing of Child Care
  • BigCo job security is down, putting more Free Agent risk/responsibility on every wage earner
  • it's hard to do a Start Up while keeping your family fed, saving for college, etc.; it's even harder to start a Start Up on the side while having a DayJob and doing all that.
  • once you're (upper) Middle Class, sacrificing your life for that of your children doesn't seem to create Progress (unless maybe you have lots more than 2 kids).
  • lots of people end up in LionKimbro:SexlessMarriage.
  • few people have the time and money for a mistress
  • marriage was designed when people died early
  • people are Having Kids later
  • people spend to use up their income; separating increases expenses (and takes away childcare labor supply)
  • adults show preference for their own blood children

Some alternatives/patterns (could be used in combination)

Anti-Pattern: Single-Parent Family. High risk to the child.

Stay Single, Live Alone

Serial monogamy without children

Lean Family (se that page)

Let your kids raise themselves. Latchkey Kid, RaisedByWolves. There's some indication it doesn't matter much (Freakonomics chapter on factors behind kids education success), but I'm not sure how true that is as you go further out on the curve...

Hollywood marriage. Maybe it's a conspiracy that they pretend to be hurt when they break up, when they really all know they're just having fun serial monogamy. Are the kids in on the scam? And of course, the childcare game changes when there's lots of money, and neither parent has a structured DayJob.

Have mistress on the side: the "European" solution

Government managed childcare - didn't go so well in Brave New World

Complex contracts (Pre-Nup) to define financial responsibilities over the future of many scenarios.

  • I think similar issues will come up in the Network Economy as small groups are created and disbanded quickly with ongoing value accrual (Virtual Company).

CoOps of Child Care-providing parents, with financial support from marginally-involved parents? It Takes A Village

  • Really? Because I feel very few people survive one mother.
  • Scott Adams notes: You will be tempted to point out in the comments that hippy Communes didn’t catch on. I’m not talking about poorly-engineered hippy communes. That’s like comparing a Model-T to a Tesla. I think that with some creative thinking, and maybe some experimenting, society could develop modern alternatives to marriage that remove the divorce problem.
  • Tribalism

People experimenting:

Family structures are dealt with a great deal in Aldous Huxley's Island.

Pamela Haag Marriage Confidential

Something that seems like a challenge to this pattern is handling "exits" (when one member wants to leave) (Exit Voice And Loyalty). What financial value is there in their piece of a communal area? Who controls who the buyer for this space can be? Robert Heinlein's Friday deals with some of these issues a bit... (similar issues apply to Making A Living via Tribalism, and to Model Intentional Community) And what if it's not about someone wanting to leave, but others wanting him to leave? (Ban Ish)

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