European Values and Family Trends

Recently I had the chance to meet with Vladislav Matej (Family Counselor with Socia) in Bratislava.  He outlined a set of recent sociological studies on European values and family trends.  Here are some of the highlights from Vladislav Matej.   

Prof. Jan Kerkhofs, University of Louwen, Belgium reported a longitudinal 20-year study of European values.  There were five primary shifts:

  • Ethics have entered the autonomous sphere (individually determined)
  • Ethical norms are influenced and created by parliaments and not by churches anymore (there are lots of examples of this)
  • There is a high tolerance to the actions of individuals
  • Individual ethics are limited by the freedom of other individuals

There has been a primary movement toward individualism, post-traditionalism, tolerance, and pessimism.

A report (D. Popeone, sociologist) shows correlating trends between the occurance of the sexual revolution, a rapid decrease of fertility, and a rapid increase of divorce.

A study by G.T. Stanton has found a rapid increase of cohabiting couples (not married) and several trends within these households: an increase in disturbing and painful relationships, an increase of interferance of the successful formation of follow-up partnerships (not sure what this means), an increase of conflict, an increase of domestic violence, and a strengthening of mistrust.

The following stats are taken from Eurostat.  The average age of men/women at first marriage in 1980 was 26/23.  In 2003 it was 30/28.  The percent of children born outside of marriage in 1980 was 8.8%.  In 2005 it was 33%.  In 1980 the number of divorces that occured in Europe was 672,917.  In 2005 it was 1,042,892.  Today, 2/3 of households in the EU live without children.  16% of families have one child, 13% have two children, and 4% have three children.  In the next fifty years, the population of the US is expected to increase by 150 million.  In Europe it is expected to decrease by 40 million.



From August to November of 1991 the 87 day siege of Vukovar took place leaving nothing but ruins, hardly any building fully intact, and 100% of the inhabitants scarred by the atrocities of this war.  There is still a heaviness being carried by Vukovarians.

But there is also life, a continued story.  One thing I clearly recognized while in Vukovar this time is the impossibility of outsiders to come and feel, empathize, and make any sort of real impact.  I see our friends Laci and Keri who moved to Vukovar almost three years ago, or our new friend Charles who moved there in 1995.  By doing so they entered the story.  By entering the story they have become fellow journeyers, able and willing to share burdens, meaning, and hope. 

I love this picture of the flowers growing out of a partly destroyed building.  Maybe it is an appropriate metaphor for many us as people, especially our friends in Vukovar.  Impact, meaning, and hope are the fruits of a shared story. 

where to go from here

Well, I’ve been thinking about this blog.  Here’s what I’d like to do, if I could find the time:  Finally fix the categories/tags and create a clean filing system, Clean up the sidecolumns, Change the header and colors, Start using “pages” for articles and resources, Fix the commenting function (I get 100 spam comments a week), Add an “interest groups” section in the column, add a menu bar, and occasionally write a series of posts according to a specific idea. 

one week on

I continue to pray for the families who lost loved ones last Monday.  It has been exactly one week since I discovered the news on CNN, and my mind and heart have been buzzing with a multitude of thoughts and emotions.  As a Hokie, I was deeply moved by the convocation and the community/team spirit that emerged.  I got chills as I watched and listened, realizing the power of community to heal.

But even in the midst of this amazing display of community, I recognize that there is something much deeper that we need in order to walk through grief.  We need hope.

Among the many things written on the tragedy, I have really appreciated JR Woodward’s thoughts on hope and the in-between-day.

Virginia Tech Tragedy

Last night (Hungarian Time), Laura and I happened to turn the TV on and we were immediately flooded with news of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech.  Thanks to all of you who have sent us a note of concern. 

As we watched the news unfold, we felt shaky realizing that we’ve spent a lot of time in both of those buildings where the shootings took place when we studied and worked at Virginia Tech.  It is incomprehensible for this to happen to such a beautiful and safe community.  But more than this, it is unfathomable for this to happen to those 32 victims (as well as the shooter) and their families.  So Laura and I pray.  We pray that the God who made the universe will be a comforting presence and source of peace for the families and friends in the midst of such pain. 

This morning, as I read many more news articles, I could see the common desire, among writers and interviewees, for this broken world in which we live to be put back together.  The restoration of the world is indeed an essentially human desire.  The Virginia Tech Tragedy, the 1991 war on Vukovar, the First and Second Congo Wars, the full-capacity prisons in the US…  We are made for this restoration, for the act of making things better.  Perhaps this is mostly the dream of our own personal not-so-perfect worlds being restored to something Right and True and Good and even Beautiful.