In this set of the Valentine’s special, scholars from all over the world share their views on family and culture. Enjoy! (Editor’s/Swea’s Note: one of the most entertaining parts of this section was the variations of Jackalyn’s name across the questions.)
Are family relationships similar all over the world, or do they vary meaningfully by culture?
J.Y. Tan: They definitely vary, considering how the concept of filial piety isn’t that popular with Western families, while most Eastern families reject the Western approach of treating their children as their equals.
Rodger Nyioh: I believe that they do vary meaningfully by culture. A simple example would be whether a particular family indoctrinates a patriarchal mindset instead of treating everyone in the family as equals. In most patriarchal societies, we could see a clear distinction in levels of authority insofar women are sometimes legally obligated to be completely subservient to the man of the house. In such cases the difference is seen in the way each family member reciprocates with one another during social interactions.
Other cultural influences would be the segregation in mindsets between western and Asian societies. The way that individuals from contrasting societies deal with stressors or particular issues may differ. As an example, Eastern societies are often family-centric in their decision-making wherein the family is priority number one, whereas the majority of Westerners prioritizes one’s own interest over the better (or sometimes worse) judgement of individuals within a family unit.
Nick Chin: They may vary – although not necessarily by culture. Families from different cultures may share the same dynamics among its members. Likewise, different families within one culture may differ in their dynamics.
Tanushri: I believe that they are similar in a way.
jack jack jack: Love is universal, but mindsets and values can differ and that may have an impact (see stereotypes of Asian parents!)
Is it always better to be close to your family? Why?
J.Y. Tan: No. While family members can be a good source of emotional (or financial) support as you go through rough times, it is better to keep the hedgehog principle in mind, especially if they happen to be toxic people.
Rodger Nyioh: No. In situations where family relationships falter i. e. parents who do not fulfill their parental roles or worse, involve themselves in illegal activities that may potentially harm others in a family institution, being close to your parents could in turn be counterproductive, bringing more harm than good. The key term is “always”. It is undeniable that families are a primary source of care and emotional support, as explained by proponents of attachment theory. However, over-reliance on inadequate pillars of support may result in their downfall rather than emotional fortification.
Terry: Unless you live in an abusive family or you feel uncomfortable around them, it’s always a good idea to be close to your family.
Nick Chin: Ideally, yes. Having and maintaining a healthy and trustful relationship with your family makes it easier for you to form and maintain similarly healthy relationships with others.
Tanushri: Yes. As harsh as it seems, you could never trust strangers or your friends at all times.
Jacketlyn: Not always. Usually it’s best to have each other for support and company but if they don’t treat you right, then leave.
In a world where unconditional love isn’t guaranteed even from your own family, is it acceptable to consider so-called “outsiders” your real family instead? Why or why not?
J.Y. Tan: Yes. If people can accept brothers- or sisters- in law as part of their family despite the lack of blood relation, I don’t see why a bond of friendship should be considered inferior to a bond of marriage.
Rodger Nyioh: Yes. Say you were abandoned by your family and adopted by strangers who fed you, bathed you and cared for you when you were down. The social factor of proximity would suggest that these people in turn would be more fit to be your family.
The question here is what is the definition of real ? It is true that biologically speaking these people have no affiliation with you whatsoever hence nullifying my previous argument of this strangers being eligible to be referred to as “real family”. However, I would choose the latter definition of a real family being a unit which recognizes your existence and empathizes with you inasmuch that they take care of you as one of their own. They need not be genetically related to be known as real family for for they (the outsiders) have displayed the qualities of a true family.
Victoria: Definitely. Even though friends are not biologically related to us, they are a big part of our lives, especially in our teenage years. They are the ones who we will be bonded to for the rest of our lifetimes (very possibly). They may be the “outsiders” of our families, but they will always be there for you and support you no matter what you do - just like what family does. Hence, I also see the WSC community as my family - everyone is bonded in different ways, and we’re all supportive of one another.
Terry: Definitely. The World Scholar’s Cup, for example, can be said to be a family because it is both inclusive and supportive. It is a safe haven that accepts all races, ethnicities, and cultures.
Nick Chin: Yes, but only if your biological family ceases to consider you as part of their family. Otherwise, it is always better to strive for peace for our own sake and for the sake of those who care about us no less than not at all.
Sarah: Yes. If your family is not going to love you then they are not family. Outsiders who care for you more than your family deserve to be called “family”. Kinda like a half brother haha.
JACK ATTACK: Yeah, duh. Friends are the family you choose for yourself. If you don’t get the love you deserve from your blood family, then find a family who loves you. Family and home are forever linked. So family is just the people you feel most at home with. And that can be anyone.
What is your definition of “family”?
J.Y. Tan: The ones who want to and have been there for you when no one else would.
Rodger Nyioh: An institution in which all its members (biologically related or not) treat one another with respect and are constantly supporting one another through hardships unconditionally .
Victoria: They say home is where the heart is, and in my opinion, whoever your heart is with, they are your family. “Family” would be anyone who loves you, supports you and accepts you for who you are.
Terry: A group of inclusive and supportive people that you feel comfortable around.
Nick Chin: People with whom one has a true familial bond.
Tanushri: People that are close to us and with whom are free to share opinions and love openly.