Familism

Fred Strodtbeck, “Family Interaction, Values, and Achievement,” in Talent and Society: New Perspectives in the Identification of Talent, Princeton, Van Notrand Company, 1958, 156

Calvinism was almost anti-familistic in its emphasis upon a first obedience to one’s own soul and to God. The achiever in the United States tends, like the Calvinist, to be anti-familistic. Otherwise, the desire to keep two or more generations together would compete with the job and with educational opportunities which require residential moves. On the basis of his technical qualifications alone, the present-day achiever is ready to move with his wife and children to whatever spot offers him maximum opportunities. At the early stages of his career he may even avoid a line of work in which his father could help him, so as to win for himself the privilege of being judged for his own competence.

The old Jewish pattern sanctioned separation from the family for purposes of business and education, and there was a distinct consciousness that a man’s first responsibility was toward his children. That is, obligations were primarily from those who have more to those who have less—from which, practically speaking, it followed that children need not always stay to nurture parents who might be better off than they were. Although the Jews did not go so far as the present American achiever in weakening the ties to parents, the pattern contrasts sharply with that of the Southern Italians who put loyalty upward to the extended family first.

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