I grew up in what I believed to be a typical household. My parents separated when I was five as their relationship had soured, and my mother was no longer happy.
After the separation, my two brothers and I, alongside our mother, moved halfway across the world… twice. Throughout this, I took responsibility for being my mother's emotional support. I, therefore, put my mother's needs before my own.
I had a sporadic connection with my father during my childhood. This relationship lacked that fatherly support I would see in other families. This resulted in my endeavours and passions often being brushed aside as they didn't align with his values.
That said, I was fortunate to have had an incredibly supportive mother. She actively promoted my love for sports and assisted me when I wanted to leave traditional schooling to pursue a life of mountain bike coaching. However, being a single mum, at no fault of her own, her priority was to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.
With a father who did not support my love for the outdoors and the non-traditional educational route and a mother who was the primary earner of the family and had limited time, that meant throughout my developmental years, I looked to my peers for support. I didn't know who I was, what my needs were or what these emotions were inside of me. I'd been suppressing my emotions in an attempt to conform and fit in. I was not my true authentic self.
After spending the first 23 years of my life predominantly looking outward in an attempt to fit in and meet the needs of others, after a challenging breakup, I decided to look inward in an effort to answer:
- Who am I?
- What are my needs and boundaries?
- How can I explore my authentic self with curiosity and not a sense of shame?
However, along this journey, I recognized that I was not alone. Many have had similar experiences, and many of us ask, "what do my friends need?" before they ask, "what are my needs?" Could this internal lack of authenticity and culture also explain why we see similar societal issues? With this realization, I started to wonder if maybe our relationships have something to do with this. And if our relationships do have something to do with the downfall of authenticity and culture, how can we potentially solve this?
Throughout this article, I want to explore whether parental attachment may have a part to play in this slow demise of culture and authenticity and, if so, how something as counterintuitive as sound money could potentially soften this trend, if not reverse it.
Let’s dive in…
The Importance of Attachment
Many mammals need minimal nurturing after birth as a large portion of their development happens in the womb. This can be observed in animals such as calves who can walk within 12 hours of being born. This is not the case for humans.
Due to the limited size of the birth canal, only one-quarter of a child's brain growth and 10% of their neural wiring occurs inside the womb. The remaining three-quarters develop after birth, with 90% of that growth by the age of three1.
Moreover, children's brains have billions more neurons than they need in their early years. Therefore, this convoluted synaptic mess needs to be pruned to create a brain that can effectively manage its varied list of responsibilities.
This pruning is known as neural Darwinism and is the brain's way of adapting to its environment. Circuits and connections regularly utilized are strengthened, while inactive ones are disregarded.
With most of the brain's growth occurring in childhood, a child's early attachments and experiences are crucial as they determine how well their brain's architecture and neural networks will mature and govern such things as authenticity, behaviour, relationships, beliefs and learning.
"For the infant and young child, attachment relationships are the major environmental factors that shape the development of the brain during its period of maximal growth…Attachment establishes an interpersonal relationship that helps the immature brain use the mature functions of the parent's brain to organize its own processes." - Daniel Siegel, The Developing Mind
Bearing this in mind, attachment can be seen as an evolutionary survival mechanism. As children cannot survive independently, they must attach themselves to their parents.
In light of this, when a child's attachment needs are met, they are far better equipped to explore the world with a growth mindset rather than a protective one.
- Growth - We are present and comfortable in the moment. We can, therefore, better regulate our emotions. But more importantly, we learn to respond to stimuli impersonally and based on the present moment rather than our past being represented in our response to the present.
- Protective - We are not present but lost in what happened in the past or what may happen in the future. When we attempt to quell internal discomfort, we are held hostage by fear and past experiences. Responding in any way that we have learnt reduces the uncomfortableness of the present.
It is important to note that children and adults alike can only be in one of these two possible states at any one time.
Suppose we are scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and suddenly realize we are running out of oxygen. We will be in a state of protection, focused on removing ourselves from the present situation and towards safety. All our attention and efforts will be directed away from the natural beauty of the world around us. It doesn't matter how incredible the fish, coral and surrounding scenery are. We will not be present.
Building on this idea, in life, we usually require more than just oxygen and physical orienting when we are lost and out of touch with the world around us. Psychological orientation is crucial to a child's growth. Children increasingly need direction as they age to gain a sense of their values, morals, passions, what is real, why things happen and what things mean. On the flip side, an inability to orient results in confusion and psychological stagnancy.
With this in mind, attachment is vital for children to locate their authentic selves. Moving forward, when we talk about authenticity, we are referring to our ability to be who we genuinely are as a person, independent of our profession and the influence of others. Being true to ourselves means not caring what other people think of us and being comfortable expressing ourselves and our needs verbally, physically and emotionally.
This raises the question, how can we maximize physical and psychological orientation in children to promote authenticity?
The Parent-Child Bond
As Gabor aptly puts it, "attachment enables children to hitch a ride with adults who are, at least in the mind of a child, assumed to be more capable of orienting themselves and finding their way."
In a peer relationship, both the child and their friend are exploring the world simultaneously, with limited experience and knowledge. On the other hand, parents and elders have a lifetime of experience and wisdom to pass down. Through solid parental attachment, children are more open to accepting advice from their parents and elders, which assists them in learning necessary life lessons, values, and morals unattainable from typical peer relationships.
However, more importantly, when a child develops a solid parental attachment, this acts as a foundation for them to experience the world from a state of growth. They are now far better equipped to uncover their authentic self. This reduces the risk that the child feels lost, helpless and lonely, something pervasive in today's young adults. In search of connection, they have put others before themselves. In doing so, they have lost sight of who they are, their values, and what they need at any given moment.
With all of us experiencing the whipsaw of childhood, and some never entirely leaving their childish sides behind, most can agree that to maximize our parental attachment and time spent in a state of growth, it is vital that we:
- Feel Unconditional Love - To maximize the unconditional love bond, parents must strive to make it clear that although they may disagree with certain behaviours, the love towards the child is not dependent on the child's behaviour. This ensures that the child grows up knowing that love is not temporary and based on their actions. The child can then express themselves fully, without fear of judgement, assisting in maturation and psychological growth.
- Can Explore Their Authentic Selves - Children should be in an environment where they feel comfortable expressing themselves both emotionally and physically. When a child is told they are not allowed to act in a certain way, they hear, "you're not allowed to feel that emotion," which often leads to "I am not worthy, I am not good enough." Instead, we should explore why they are acting the way they are and try to meet the child's needs.
Both unconditional love and authenticity are vital for a child to be able to explore the world from a state of "growth." In doing so, they will be better prepared to approach peer relationships from a place of authenticity and self-love.
Although a peer relationship or two may not go as expected, if the child's need for love and authenticity are being met at home through the parental relationship, the child should be able to recognize their uniqueness and stay true to their values. The child should not feel the need to cave to their peers, prioritizing their friends over authenticity. In doing so, the child is much more able to explore who they want to be around their friends with reduced fear of judgment.
This brings us to the question, how does peer attachment differ from parental attachment?
As mentioned above, when children lacking foundational parental attachment explore the world with other peers, not only are they potentially exposed to unproductive behaviour, but they develop their understanding of the world from a restricted viewpoint. As children are limited in their life experience, the connection is usually superficial rather than on a deeper emotional level. Since the search for similarity is the least vulnerable kind of attachment, they desire to resemble one another as much as possible regarding appearance, temperament, thought, likes, and values.
In these peer relationships, the primary goal of a child who lacks parental attachment is to keep their connection to their peers intact. They do not prioritize "growth" and authenticity but rather "protection" due to fear of rejection. This often results in the suppression of emotions, likes, beliefs, passions etc., all in an attempt to fit in.
"maturation requires that the child first becomes unique and separate from other individuals. The better differentiated she becomes, the more she is able to mix with others without losing her sense of self." - Gabor Maté, Hold on to your kids.
In essence, a solid parental attachment will help children learn how to locate their authenticity and regulate their emotions effectively– something peer attachment does not offer.
Why does this matter, you may be wondering?
Attention is the ultimate currency of attachment. Children want to feel seen and heard. If our parents are not meeting our necessity for attention and, conversely, attachment, we will look to peers to fulfill our needs.
Furthermore, children do not differentiate between positive and negative attention. They just want to fill the void of not being seen or heard. This is why they will act out when their needs are not met.
Side note: Most would agree that "act out" means a child melting down, talking back and misbehaving. The question now is, why are they misbehaving? As adults, if we are travelling in a foreign country that doesn't speak our language, in order to communicate, we would act it out. We'd play charades. Acting out simply means a child's needs are not being met, yet they have not developed the verbal and emotional capacity to express themselves effectively. Through the parent-child bond, children are given a non-judgemental space to explore this, learning their needs and, more importantly, how better to communicate these needs in times of emotional discomfort.
The modern lifestyle has been an anomaly throughout history. We are seeing:
- Technology dominating our lives and eating into what would have traditionally been family time.
- Rising prices pressuring both parents to work to get by.
- Children losing a sense of community as we see the movement of families away from rural areas and toward the cities.
Now more than ever, children are looking to their peers rather than their parents for support. Only in the last century have our peer attachments defined us rather than our parental. Although the transition toward our peers is often inevitable, we have seen this shift from parental to peer relationships much earlier over the last few generations. And, already, the consequences are rearing their head.
We need to look no further than our ancestral nomadic hunter-gather tribes or the local indigenous populations to realize that for millions of years, solid parental and elder attachments through a tight-knit community have been the norm and a must for survival. Without these connections, how else could we learn the ways of the land, our culture and heritage, personal values and morality? All a necessity for survival.
In saying that, the world is changing. We no longer need a deep understanding of the land to survive or ensure our relationship with our elders and the community is intact. That way, we are not ostracized, which would likely mean death. Instead, we enter this world and, in many countries, can rely on social welfare and education to assist us through life's challenges, never having to rely on parental connection as a means for survival. However, as we will explore, one could argue that this has been a driving force behind the disastrous effects we're experiencing on culture, mental health and authenticity for both individuals and society. Just like a child needs a sense of self, how can humanity flourish if we don't know who we are or what we want?
Let's explore some of the effects of this transition away from parental attachment and toward peer attachment.
Authenticity can be hard to measure. That said, we can indirectly observe authenticity through mental health and illness. If people are unable to express themselves, this usually shows itself in our physical and mental health.
“We experience life through our bodies. If we are not able to articulate our life experience, our bodies speak what our minds and mouths cannot.” - Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No
As mentioned above, unconditional love through a parental grounding attachment is essential for children to feel comfortable exploring their authenticity and self-expression. However, when this connection is lacking, and that same child looks to their peers for acceptance, they may lose their authenticity and expression through fear of rejection. This can lead to a myriad of problems down the line.
In combination with neural Darwinism, whereby neural circuits compete for survival, Bruce Lipton highlights in his book the Honeymoon Effect that children have much more theta brain wave activity in their first seven to ten years. During this stage, they are prone to digesting their experiences without much cognitive thought. If we are told we're not worthy as a child, we may take this literally. Therefore, given a safe, positive environment, a child can thrive. However, given a challenging and turbulent environment, that same child may develop unhealthy implicit beliefs, which, unless processed, can impact their life moving forward.
We should all ask ourselves, as a child, who did we speak to? If our parents weren't in the picture or emotionally unavailable, we most likely prioritized peer attachment to fit in and feel accepted. However, most children don't feel comfortable exposing their vulnerabilities to their peers. Therefore, they unintentionally learn to disconnect from these emotions to detach from internal discomfort. This breeds a sense of helplessness as they never learn how to process their emotions effectively.
Moreover, due to life's circumstances, if we relied on peers or stressed, distracted and unavailable parents and they failed to meet our emotional needs when we felt unsafe or upset. Due to increased theta brain activity during our developmental years, we may impart these experiences into our implicit beliefs. This then gets baked into our developing brain, instilling us with helplessness, anxiety, panic and despair.
One of my best friends grew up in a household where her mother did not support her emotional and attachment needs. Internally this created a sense of helplessness and loneliness. During this same period, she developed hypochondria and severe anxiety.
Fast-forward twenty years. In a short period, she was sexually harassed, her partner was overcome with financial stress, and then her best friend left the country. While trying to keep her head above water, she started to have intense anxiety and physiological reactions.
Only through looking inwards did she realize that the issues that coincided with these events were not a coincidence but rather unconscious methods of attachment. In each situation, her psychobiological symptoms resulted from her emotional and attentive needs not being met.
The hypochondria was subconsciously the only way she knew how to garner her mother's attention, and as an adult, when her partner and best friend were emotionally unavailable, the intense anxiety and physiological reactions was her mind resorting back to its childhood cognitive programming.
Anxiety, depression, stress etc., are not a disease. They're trauma symptoms in individuals who have forgotten how to express their authentic selves.
However, if we could express ourselves and our parents made us feel loved and picked us up as children when we felt unsafe, we would have learnt that the world is safe and that we don't have to be anxious about it. As our brain develops, we should develop the ability to self-regulate, growing into a calm, emotionally in tune and mature adult.
What is often misunderstood about trauma is that it is subjective. Many children aren't traumatized because they were physically hurt, but instead, they were alone with their hurt, or in other words, their internal pain. They had no one to speak to, and their emotional needs were not being met.
Inside the shell of a traumatized person is a healthy individual who has never found true expression in their life.
As you can see from the chart below, over the last few decades we have seen a tremendous rise in depression, as well as ADHD, obesity and ASD. And what is more alarming is that every year2:
- One in five Americans receives a mental disease diagnosis.
- Suicide kills more than 48,300 individuals in the US and 800,000 people worldwide, making it the second most common cause of death in the US for teenagers aged 15 to 24.
- And drug overdoses claim 81,000 lives per year in the US alone.
Could a lack of parental attachment have something to do with this, as children today seemed to of lost a sense of their authentic selves?
Moving on from authenticity, we will examine the effects of attachment on culture.
It doesn’t take much to recognize the increased prevalence of fleeting trends and the deterioration in traditional cultural expression. Therefore, let’s examine whether the transition towards peer relationships at an earlier age plays a part in this.
Let’s take a look at a well-known example of a peer movement.
Through the combination of rock, folk, blues, and psychedelic music, hippie culture swept the world. It also found expression in literature, art, fashion, and visual media, such as film, album covers, and posters. Although in 1968, self-described hippies made up around 0.2%3 of Americans, by the middle of the 1970s, they had all but disappeared, with minimal hippie expression throughout society today.
On the other hand, many indigenous populations have passed down knowledge, culture, music, and art for thousands of years, with the oldest ancestral group dating back 72,0004 years. This begs the question, what about these ancient populations has allowed them to pass down culture through generations?
One potential explanation could be the importance placed upon parental attachment between indigenous populations compared to the hippie movement, with the hippie community primarily built upon peer attachment.
As highlighted above, peer relationships are built on connection through likeness, i.e. appearance, temperament, thought, likes, and values. Therefore, they lack that intimate emotional and mature connection that creates depth and authenticity. Without this, culture is often drowned out by the need to fit in and the ever-changing trends and societal pressures. For that reason, depth of connection to our parents and elders is a must-have for culture to withstand the rigorous stressors of modern-day society.
“A culture must protect its essence and its ability to reproduce itself—the attachment of children to their parents. The culture generated by peer orientation contains no wisdom, does not protect its members from themselves, creates only fleeting fads, and worships idols hollow of value or meaning. It symbolizes only the undeveloped ego of callow youth and destroys child-parent attachments. We may observe the cheapening of cultural values with each new peer-oriented generation. For all its self-delusion and smug isolation from the adult world, the Woodstock “tribe” still embraced universal values of peace, freedom, and brotherhood. Today’s mass musical gatherings are about little more than style, ego, tribal exuberance, and dollars.” - Gordon Neufeld
As Gordon points out, children no longer look to their parents and elders for acceptance but rather to their peers. As a result, one could argue that these children place much greater emphasis on acceptance over culture. In turn, culture has been pushed to the wayside as they mould themselves to the latest fleeting craze, only to transition in short succession onto the next in-trend thing.
With a deeper understanding of why our peer and parental relationships impact authenticity and culture, it is time to look at what may be causing this deterioration in the parental bond.
In this next section, we will explore some of the factors that may affect the parent-child relationship and, therefore, the downfall in authenticity and culture.
These factors include:
- Inflation: How have rising prices impacted parental attachment?
- Urbanization: What has the migration of families from rural communities to cities got to do with the tight-knit family unit?
- Technology: What role has technology played in the modern-day family?
Without further ado.
Over the last century, we have seen major changes in both our currency's purchasing power and monetary intervention. A knock-on effect has been a significant dollar devaluation, causing noticeable inflation. Both have made it much harder for parents to get by, especially on a single parent's wage.
Without going into the why, as that is an article on its own (if inclined, you can start your journey here), we are going to explore the data. If it is not already so, what should become evident is we are experiencing rising asset prices and cost of living. Combined, it is significantly harder for the single parent, let alone the couple, to bring in a sustainable income without a significant decline in the work/life, or should I say, work/family balance.
Declining work/family balance = Parents spend less time with their children.
Let's look at some factors impacting this work/family balance.
Declining Purchasing Power
Throughout the last 100 years, we have seen a drastic decline in the dollar's purchasing power. $100 today would only purchase the equivalent of what $3.345 would have bought in 1913. That's a 96% reduction in purchasing power.
You may be wondering, but have our wages not risen as our currencies lost their purchasing power? Not so fast. Unfortunately, wages have not kept pace with inflation. This can be seen in the rising asset price to wage ratios which we will discuss.
Asset Growth to Wage Growth
It is significantly harder to purchase a house today than it was forty years ago. This can be seen as the house price to wage ratio has risen dramatically. In the 1980s, it was around four6. Today, it is above seven. The average house price costs seven times the average person's wage, vs four times in the 1980s. And that doesn’t take into account desirable locations such as Whistler, BC, where the average house7 is a casual 106 times the average wage8.
Due to our excessive debt burden, governments globally have been incentivized to suppress interest rates in an attempt to reduce the pressures of debt. However, in doing so, debt consumption has become more enticing, especially to those with wealth. When the cost-of-capital is so cheap, people borrow beyond their means, funnelling more capital into assets, and driving up prices. This has created a considerable divergence in the growth rate of assets to wages. We have also seen this divergence between food, college tuition, and wages.
With prices at levels unseen throughout history, it is becoming increasingly unobtainable for those trying to get on the property ladder or dip their toes into the financial markets, let alone educate themselves and their children or feed a growing family. Wage growth cannot keep up to what has traditionally been within the means of an average family, such as purchasing a house, saving for a pension, or paying for their children's education.
Demographics & Population
Over the past 50 years, we often forget to look at the effects of how demographics have the potential to impact our economy and, therefore, the workforce. Here are a few glaring facts that may give us some clues as to what to expect moving forward:
- The US population grew by 40%14 between 1950 and 1960.
- The global population doubled15 between 1950 and 1987.
- During the 1970s, the Baby Boomers started entering the workforce creating strong demand for goods and assets.
- Canada’s population aged 65 and over will increase by around 60% between 2019 and 203616, compared to an increase of under 10% for the younger population.
- “China's population could halve in the next 45 years”, a new study by Peoples Bank of China17 reveals.
- At 0.35%18, the US is experiencing their lowest annual population growth rate since at least 1900.
What do these stats have to do with the parent-child relationship?
As noted above, between the ’50s to the ’80s, globally, we experienced a remarkable population boom. By the time the baby boomer generation had entered the workforce, this demand further elevated prices due to the rise in individuals earning a wage and looking to spend. Alongside these rising prices, we also experienced rising debt levels as individuals and families could no longer afford what they previously could without financing. This can be seen in the increasing levels of various debt shown below.
With parents under a greater burden of debt than they have previously throughout history, dual-earner families, let alone single-earner families, are struggling to cope. With single parents increasing their workload and couples most likely working full-time, the parent-child relationship is the candidate most likely to feel the strain. Why? With increased work hours, by the time parents get home, they're exhausted. After they prepare dinner, organize the house, and finish washing up, it is time to put their children to bed.
Unfortunately, this narrative is not fictional but rather our reality.
- Over the past 40 years, dual-earner families in Canada have nearly doubled19 from 1.0 million families in 1976 to 1.9 million families in 2014.
- In the US, dual-income households have grown by 40%20 between 1967 and 2010 and only 7%21 of all US households consist of married couples with children in which only the husband works.
- And Japan is in a similar situation. Dual-income households now account for over two-thirds22 of all households, up from one-third in the 1980s.
From my personal experience as a child, I have seen the effects firsthand how the parent-child relationship is impacted due to my mother's work requirements. With my mother having to work to support my two siblings and me, we looked to our peers for support as our mum worked diligently to put a roof over our heads. And my situation is not unique. Almost one-quarter23 of households today are single-parent households.
However, what is alarming is that we are facing a population crisis on top of this transition to more dual-earner families, which will most likely worsen in the coming years. Canada and the US, as well as many other developing nations, are encountering the slowest population growth of the last century. And countries such as China, due to their one-child policy, may see upwards of a 50% decline in population over the coming 45 years.
With an ever-growing debt burden, parents already have to work more to get ahead or meet their rising debt payments. Who will pick up the slack if our labour workforce is cut in half? Will we see a further decline in the work/family balance?
When we think about the parent-child relationship, urbanization is often not the first thing that comes to mind. That said, I believe it is an important puzzle piece in the decline of culture and authenticity.
Urbanization has created a migration towards cities and away from smaller communities. At first glance, the byproducts of this transition aren’t necessarily clear. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that what cities lack, which smaller communities excel at, is their stronger cultural, parental and elder connections. In the not-so-distant past, family elders helped raise native young. The extended family was the norm in communities24.
These relationships not only assisted in creating security and grounding but through these powerful connections, authenticity can be openly explored, and culture passed down.
Children who would have once been assisting on the farm or integrated in their communities are now spending their time with peers in urban settings.
Furthermore, this trend doesn’t seem to be subsiding. In the most recent data, around 55% of people live in urban settings, compared to 15% in the early 1900s. Even more disconcerting is that in western economies such as the US, over 80% of the population lives in urban settings.
As Sebastian Junger, in his book Tribe, highlights:
“A person living in a modern city or a suburb can, for the first time in history, go through an entire day—or an entire life—mostly encountering complete strangers. They can be surrounded by others and yet feel deeply, dangerously alone.”
In addition to the emotional implications of cities on our youth, we must acknowledge that although western culture promotes independence, we are still wired to build attachment and community. However, by transitioning away from traditional tight-knit communities and towards cities, we have not only promoted peer relationships for our children but also isolated ourselves from our elders and extended family.
Considering that it has only been a century since we have transitioned away from the tight-knit rural family and community, we must ask ourselves:
How might the decline in child interaction with community parents and elders impact our culture and authenticity moving forward?
Before moving on to the potential solutions for repairing the parent-child bond, let’s look at the impact of technology on the relationship.
Screens are an increasing part of everyday life, with screen time 40 years ago being a fraction of what it is today. However, screens don't just impact children. They also affect the parents.
Parents today must compete with media designed to create engagement and maximize its addictiveness. With the gamification of apps and the never-ending stream of movies, TV shows, online videos, and social content, children spend more time on screens than ever before. This content plays on both parents' and child's neurology, creating a rush of dopamine and serotonin. This hormonal conditioning that we have become accustomed to has us and our children hooked, increasing our screen time.
However, as there are only a finite number of hours in the day, the screen time increase must eat into other areas of life. More than ever, parents must compete against technological engagement to connect with their children, and children, vying for their parent's attention, have to get their parents to put down their phones.
In a recent study25, teenagers (ages 13 to 18) use social media on average for nine hours per day, while tweens (ages 8 to 12) use it for six (excluding the time spent using media for school or homework).
Children increasingly look to resemble one another in appearance, temperament, thoughts, likes, and values. However, at a time when children are supposedly more "connected" than ever, these same children, as mentioned above, have higher rates of depression than ever before. Adding social media into the equation is only exacerbating these issues. For instance, when you add a like button, filters, and the ability to retweet/share, children today are socially incentivized to act in ways that raise their social status rather than stay true to themselves. In doing so, authenticity falls by the wayside.
Another factor in rising mental health rates may stem from disillusionment caused by social media and news.
Social media incentivizes children to act in any way that raises their social status. These same children then often fall into false positivity by only displaying the good times rather than giving a balanced view of their life. This creates a community of social profiles that act as a facade to reality. Suppose a child lacks grounding or is not in tune with their authentic self. In that case, they can fall prey to believing that everyone but them has life figured out, further complicating any negative feelings they might be experiencing.
Additionally, our social media feeds are full of success stories and overnight millionaires. These stories often fail to expand on the difficulty and time these individuals put in to achieve their success. This gives children a false sense of reality. When they leave school, they usually find themselves overwhelmed by life's challenges. Moreover, these stories often place a lot of weight on the material aspect of success. Children today are increasingly looking to material goods in a fruitless attempt to keep up with their peers and fit in, failing to recognize that happiness and satisfaction are not external but come from within.
With financial technology advancing rapidly, we have seen a decline in the use of cash in transactions. It is now easier than ever to pay by credit card or by simply tapping your phone on the payment terminal, and voila, you've paid for your groceries26. However, as we become further removed from money and the ease at which we can spend increases, we are witnessing a decline in the lack of awareness surrounding the value of money.
With money easier than ever to spend, consumer debt is on the rise, which, as previously mentioned, means that parents have to work more to service their debt due to rising debt levels.
Research suggests that our ancestors, in addition to the many indigenous populations globally, would and currently breastfeed exclusively for around one27 year and then continue alongside food for at least two years28. This not only provides the infant with much-needed nutrition but also helps build a strong bond between the mother and child as they enter this new, unfamiliar, and challenging world.
However, in the western world, due to the pressures of modern society, in addition to advancements in food technology, we are seeing rising rates of mothers looking to, or in some cases, pushed to use formula or breast pumps over breastfeeding.
Although the decision on whether to breastfeed or not should be entirely up to the mother, health benefits aside, we must ask the question, what effects have advancements in formula and breast pumps had on the parent-child attachment?
After writing this section, my mother told me, "Immediately following your birth, I realized that society had lost something so vital: respect for traditional mothering. All along the walls of the maternity unit were posters advertising commercial baby formula, and promotional packs were given out with free samples and discounts for future purchases."
She also mentioned, "Whilst you were in an incubator, the nurses gave you a bottle against my specific wishes. This meant I needed to wean you off a bottle to take my breast when we got home, putting undue stress on the mother-baby bond. I had naturally assumed I would be encouraged to breastfeed, providing the essential nutrients and fostering that important mother-baby bond."
A child may not explicitly remember being weaned off breastfeeding, but if this is indeed a traumatic event, signs of these experiences may appear in their implicit beliefs. One could argue that this transition could be seen as an early factor impacting the mother-child bond. As Gabor puts it:
"The implicit memory circuits carry the neurological traces of infancy and of childhood experiences. Encoded in them is the emotional content of those experiences, but not necessarily the details of the events themselves that gave rise to the emotions….No conscious awareness is necessary for the encoding of implicit memory, or for its being triggered."
As we can see, although technology has brought about many benefits and unfathomable change, it has also most likely stressed the parent-child relationship.
You may now be wondering, what do inflation, urbanization and technology all have in common?
Simply put, they all have the potential to hinder our parental/adult relationships and push us towards our peers.
A Possible Solution
Most parents, as far as I know, do their best to strengthen the family unit and embrace their children, ensuring their need for attachment and unconditional love are being met. But, for the majority, from the moment they walk in the door at night, the list of chores is endless, impacting the parent-child bond. The one thing most parents wish they had more of is time.
Although, greater awareness surrounding effective parenting and the detrimental effects of lack of parental attachment is vitally important. Without time, many parents will be simply unable to commit the energy to upgrade and enhance their special bond with their children.
This raises the question, how can parents obtain more time?
Although many may disagree at first, the simple answer is…. Money.
With parents often stating:
- Money is the cause of our issues,
- Money spurs materialism,
- Money can never be a bandaid to connection.
Money is usually the last thing that a parent would highlight as a saving grace in an attempt to repair the parent-child relationship.
These are all fair points. However, they refer to money in its current form, which is prone to debasement and government intervention. I would therefore ask anyone with similar thoughts to the ones listed to bear with me while we take an objective look at sound money and the functioning of our current economy and monetary system.
Fix The Money
Without going into a lengthy discussion on Fiat currencies vs sound money, I want to put forth my views on where sound money may provide considerable benefits in the realm of strengthening parental attachments and, in turn, promoting authenticity and culture.
But first, let's define sound money.
As Dan Held29 puts it, "Sound money is defined as money that has a purchasing power determined by markets, independent of governments and political parties which is essential for individual freedom."
With this idea of sound money in our minds, we can now examine our current system.
We live in a world where human ingenuity constantly strives to get more for less through technological innovation and advancements in efficiency and productivity. For example:
- Cars were invented to reduce time spent travelling
- Mass production was introduced to reduce the cost of goods to the consumer
- The internet was born to aid communication and increase information-sharing and consumption
- Music streaming was created to consolidate music into one easy-to-access space
- Movies on demand gave anyone access to shows without having to travel to the movie store
And the list goes on.
Stop for a second and ask yourself, does it make sense that we face rising prices day-in-day-out? At no point has human ingenuity been used to get less for more, with the exception of our current monetary system.
Our current monetary system started its transition away from sound money, a system that benefits from this technological innovation, with the introduction of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and entirely lost its sound money distinction when Richard Nixon left the gold standard in 197130. Since then, through the targeting of inflation, we have witnessed a slow decay in our purchasing power, and in turn, an increase in the cost of goods, services and assets. This is because monetary expansion has outpaced the natural growth in productivity and technological advancement within our economy.
This is not natural. The prices of non-scarce goods, services and assets should fall in the long run as technology and production increase. However, by targeting inflation, the central banks actively aim for a steady rise in prices over time.
If inflation hurts everyday citizens, it would be logical for one to question, why target inflation at all? Shouldn't the goal be no inflation?
We, unfortunately, live in a world where lax monetary and fiscal policy has exacerbated debt levels so significantly that they are essentially impossible to pay back. Although governments target inflation for many reasons, one major reason is that if they devalue the currency, they can reduce the debt burden by making it cheaper to pay back over time.
However, by unnaturally distorting the trajectory of money, you also distort people's natural value hierarchies, or in other words, what we value and where we want to direct our capital. Let's look at an example:
Declining purchasing power
In our current monetary environment, our currency is slowly, and at times, rapidly, losing its purchasing power. With current inflation rates at 8.52%31, we will experience a 56% loss in purchasing power over the next ten years and a whopping 92% over 30 years. With our savings rapidly losing value, are we incentivized to save? Of course not. We might as well buy the newest flat-screen TV or techno gizmo. And as we feel the effects of inflation, we’ll most likely be pressured to ask our partner to join the workforce, ramp up our personal working hours, and maybe even take on a second job and place our children in daycare— all of these impacting the vital parental bond.
What’s more, when families are under economic distress, it causes people to delay having children. The results:
- By pushing women to have children out of their prime, we also increase the risk of complications and health issues, increasing the burden on the healthcare system.
- We create a generational gap (rapidly slowing population growth), wreaking havoc on demographics. In the late '60s32, the average age of Canadian mothers at first birth was 23. Now it is 29.
Declining purchasing power -> Less time with family -> Fragile family unit -> Children looking to peers for attachment -> Limited communication inhibiting the authenticity and the passing down of culture.
On the flip side…
Rising purchasing power
If our currency's purchasing power increased over time, we would be incentivized to save. But more importantly, if our purchasing power was improving, our cost of living and, therefore, our outgoings should decline. In turn, we could reduce our working time and direct this newly created time back towards our children, thus rebuilding the parent-child connection.
Increasing purchasing power -> More time with family -> More robust parental attachments -> Promotion of authenticity and the passing down of culture.
Could sound money be a solution?
Sound money stops this decline in purchasing power through monetary expansion dead in its tracks as it prevents interventionist monetary policy.
Transitioning to a currency such as Bitcoin, with a fixed supply of 21million coins alongside increasing economic productivity, means there is nowhere for the price of goods and services to go but down.
Why? Simple supply and demand. If demand outstrips supply, the price must rise until the equilibrium between supply and demand is met. With sound money having true scarcity, its price will slowly rise, which means your purchasing power will increase over time.
This is a far cry from a rapidly expanding money supply that far outpaces economic productivity and growth.
To conclude, with many of the challenges surrounding the parent-child relationship emerging from time constraints and financial stressors, the benefits could be considerable if there were a way to alleviate these pain points.
If we collectively adopt a sound money system, we can embrace the natural tendency for technology to advance and prices to fall. As a result, the cost of living should decline over time and in turn, parents will be able to direct their focus to wherever they feel necessary.
The significance of this cannot be overstated. This allows the natural value hierarchies of society to shine through. Consequently, we may see reverberations such as a rise in single-earner households and, therefore, an improvement in the parent-child relationship. As should now be evident, if we can repair the parental bond, we stand a good chance of being able to reinvigorate our culture and promote authenticity.
I highly recommend that any readers unfamiliar with the concept of sound money explore the "Debt, inflation and the bigger picture" course from Looking Glass and/or investigate Bitcoin objectively and constructively.
To end, I want to give my sincerest gratitude to Gabor Maté. His teachings have been overwhelmingly insightful in my understanding of psychobiology, relationships and personal growth.
The future is bright!
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