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Family values are political and social beliefs that hold the Nuclear family to be the essential ethical and moral unit of society. Familialism is the ideology that promotes the family and its values as an institution.[1] The phrase has different meanings in different cultures. In the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, the term has been frequently used in political debate, especially by social and religious conservatives, who believe that the world has seen a decline in family values since the end of the Second World War.[2] But the term is vague, and means different things to different people.

Conservative and liberal perspectives in the United States[]

Social and religious conservatives often use the term "family values" to promote conservative ideology that supports traditional morality or Christian values.[3] American Christians often see their religion as the source of morality and consider the nuclear family to be an essential element in society. Some conservative family values advocates believe the government should endorse Christian morality,[4] for example by displaying the Ten Commandments or allowing teachers to conduct prayers in public schools. Religious conservatives often view the United States as a "Christian nation"[5] For example, "The American Family Association exists to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth and traditional family values."[6] These groups variously oppose abortion, pornography, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, certain aspects of feminism[7], cohabitation, separation of church and state, and depictions of sexuality in the media.

A less common use of the phrase "family values" is by some liberals, who have used the phrase to support such values as family planning, affordable child care, and maternity leave. For example, groups such as People For the American Way, Planned Parenthood, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays have attempted to define the concept in a way that promotes the acceptance of single-parent families, same-sex monogamous relationships and marriage. This understanding of family values does not promote conservative morality, instead focusing on encouraging and supporting alternative family structures, access to contraception, abortion, increasing the minimum wage, sex education, childcare, and parent-friendly employment laws, which provide for maternity leave and leave for medical emergencies involving children.[8]

Political application[]

The use of family values as a political term became widespread after a 1992 speech by Vice President Dan Quayle that attributed the Los Angeles riots to a breakdown of family values. Quayle specifically blamed the violence in L.A. as stemming from a decay of moral values and family structure in American society. In an aside, he cited the fictional title character in the television program Murphy Brown as an example of how popular culture contributes to this "poverty of values", saying: "[i]t doesn't help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown—a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman—mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another 'lifestyle choice'". Quayle drew a firestorm of criticism from feminist and liberal organizations, and was widely ridiculed by late-night talk show hosts for saying this. (In an interview years after the incident, Quayle said it was an off-hand remark and that he had no idea it would ignite such controversy, nor had he intended for it to. Ironically, the show's star Candice Bergen herself said in an interview after the show was cancelled that she agreed with him[citation needed]. The "Murphy Brown speech" and the resulting media coverage damaged the Republican ticket in the 1992 presidential election and became one of the most memorable incidents of the 1992 campaign. Long after the outcry had ended, the comment continued to have an effect on US politics. Stephanie Coontz, a professor of family history and the author of several books and essays about the history of marriage, says that this brief remark by Quayle about Murphy Brown "kicked off more than a decade of outcries against the 'collapse of the family'".[9]

Others have used the phrase in such slogans as: Hate is not a family value.[10] Jim Wallis, at the Sojourners Call for Renewal in 2006, titled his speech "Poverty is not a family value."[11] Many Americans believe that access to health care and to education, and freedom from violence, are important family values.

Media application[]

Typically, the term is used by the media to refer to Christian values, but in a 1998 Harris survey it was defined as "loving, taking care of, and supporting each other" by 52% of women and 42% of men, as "knowing right from wrong and having good values" by 38% of women and 35% of men, and as the traditional family by 2% of women and 1% men. The survey also noted that 93% of women thought that society should value all types of families.[12]

U.S. politics[]

Republican Party[]

Since 1980, the Republican Party has used the issue of family values to attract socially conservative voters.[13] While family values remains a rather vague concept, social conservatives usually understand the term to include some combination of the following principles (also referenced in the 2004 Republican Party platform):[14]

Democratic Party[]

Although the term "family values" remains a core issue for the Republican Party, in recent years the Democratic Party has also used the term, though differing in its definition. For example, in his acceptance speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, John Kerry said "it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families."[32] The Democratic Party definitions of family values often include items that specifically target working families such as support of:

Australian politics[]

The Family First Party originally contested the 2002 South Australian state election, where former Assemblies of God pastor Dr Andrew Evans won one of the eleven seats in the 22-seat South Australian Legislative Council on 4 percent of the state-wide vote. The party made their federal debut at the 2004 general election, electing Steve Fielding on 2 percent of the Victorian vote in the Australian Senate, out of six Victorian senate seats up for election. Both MPs were able to be elected with Australia's Single Transferable Vote and Group voting ticket system in the upper house. The party:

  • Opposes abortion
  • Opposes euthanasia
  • Opposes harm reduction, favouring prevention, zero tolerance, rehabilitation, and avoidance
  • Opposes gay adoptions, In vitro fertilisation (IVF) for gay couples, and does not acknowledge gay civil unions

In the 2007 Australian Election, Family First came under fire for giving preferences in some areas to the Liberty and Democracy Party, a libertarian party that favors legalization of incest, gay marriage, and drug use.[33]

British politics[]

Family values was a recurrent theme in the Conservative government of John Major. Predictably, it caused considerable embarrassment whenever a member of the Government was found to be having an affair. John Major himself, the architect of the policy, was subsequently found to have had an affair with Edwina Currie. Family Values have been revived by the current Conservative Party under David Cameron, forming the backbone of his mantra on social responsibility and related policies.[citation needed]

New Zealand politics[]

"Family values' politics reached their apex under the social conservative administration of New Zealand National Party Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, widely criticised for his populist and social conservative views about abortion and homosexuality. Under the Lange, Palmer and Moore New Zealand Labour Party administrations, homosexuality was decriminalised and abortion access became easier to obtain. At the same time, the Palmer administration adopted the policies of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral System in 1986 and committed the country to two referenda on electoral reform in New Zealand. These were held in 1992 and 1993 and ultimately, the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system replaced the earlier First Past the Post.

This provided a particular impetus to the formation of separatist conservative Christian political parties, disgruntled at the Bolger and Shipley New Zealand National Party administrations of the nineties, which seemed to embrace bipartisan social liberalism to offset Labour's earlier appeal to social liberal voters. Such parties tried to recruit conservative Christian voters to blunt social liberal legislative reforms, but had meagre success in doing so. During the tenure of Helen Clark's New Zealand Labour Party administration, prostitution law reform (2003), lesbian/gay civil unions (2005) and the repeal of laws that permitted parental corporal punishment of children (2007) became law.

At present, Family First New Zealand, a 'nonpartisan' social conservative lobby group, operates to try to forestall further legislative reforms such as gay adoption. However, conservative Christians tried and failed to pre-emptively ban same-sex marriage in New Zealand through alterations to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. At most, the only durable success such organisations can claim in New Zealand is the continuing criminality of cannabis possession and use under New Zealand's Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Singaporean politics[]

Family values is a platform promoted heavily by the Singapore's main political part, the People's Action Party. One MP has described the nature of family values in the city-state to be "almost Victorian in nature." Homosexual acts are banned in Singapore, along with harsh penalties for drug trafficking, and corporal punishment is used in the justice system.[citation needed] [34]

Chinese culture and Confucianism[]

In Confucian thought, family values, familial relationships, ancestor worship, and filial piety (Chinese: 孝; Mandarin: Xiào; Cantonese: Haau) are the primary basis of the philosophical system, and these concepts are seen as virtues to be cultivated.

Filial piety is considered the first virtue in Chinese culture. While China has always had a diversity of religious beliefs, filial piety has been common to almost all of them; for example, Historian Hugh D. R. Baker calls respect for the family the only element common to almost all Chinese believers. These traditions were sometimes enforced by law; during parts of the Han Dynasty, for example, those who neglected ancestor worship could even be subject to corporal punishment.

The term "filial", meaning "of a child", denotes the respect and obedience that a child, originally a son, should show to his parents, especially to his father. This relationship was extended by analogy to a series of five relationships or five cardinal relationships (五倫 Wǔlún):

  1. ruler and subject (君臣),
  2. father and son (父子),
  3. husband and wife (夫婦),
  4. elder and younger brother (兄弟),
  5. friend and friend (朋友)

Specific duties were prescribed to each of the participants in these sets of relationships. Such duties were also extended to the dead, where the living stood as sons to their deceased family. This led to the veneration of ancestors. In time, filial piety was also built into the Chinese legal system: a criminal would be punished more harshly if the culprit had committed the crime against a parent, while fathers exercised enormous power over their children. Much the same was true of other unequal relationships[citation needed].

This theme consistently manifests itself in many aspects of Chinese culture even to this day, with extensive filial duties on the part of children toward parents and elders, and greater concern of parents toward their children than found in modern American or European cultures.Template:POV-statement

See also[]

  • Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
  • Christian right
  • Communications Decency Act of the Telecommunications Act of 1996
  • Compassionate conservatism
  • Culture of Life
  • Decency
  • Dominionism
  • Glittering generality
  • Heteronormativity
  • Homosexual agenda
  • Missionary Generation
  • Paleoconservatism
  • Pro-life
  • Sexual norm
  • Social aspects of clothing
  • Social conservatism
  • Southern strategy
  • Victorian morality
  • William Bennett

Associated organizations[]

  • American Decency Association
  • American Family Association
  • Christian Coalition
  • Christian Voice
  • Concerned Women for America
  • Family First
  • Family Research Council
  • Focus on the Family
  • National Legion of Decency
  • Parents Television Council
  • Traditional Values Coalition
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film and Broadcasting


  1. Anne Revillard (2006 ) Work/Family Policy in France International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 2006 20(2):133-150
  2. "Traditional families hit by declining morals, say mothers", Daily Mail
  3. Support Our Families
  4. Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Religion | The Dallas Morning News
  5. Family Values, Race, Feminism and Public Policy
  6. American Family Association
  7. Conservative "Family" Values Advocate Charged with Marital Rape
  8."For all the Bible Belt talk about family values, it is the people from Kerry's home state, along with their neighbors in the Northeast corridor, who live these values."
  9. "For Better, For Worse", The Washington Post, 2005-05-01
  12. Public Opinion on the Family - Family Diversity
  13. Republican Family Values
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3
  15. Giuliani's 'Notorious Adultery
  16. Whose Adulterous Affair is Worse -- Newt Gingrich's or Tom DeLay's?
  17. Born-again leader of Senate Republicans Admits Extramarital Affair
  18. Head of Republican Governor's Association Admits Adulterous Affair
  19. Republican Family Values and Marital Rape
  20. The American Family: Discovering the Values That Make Us Strong: Books: Dan Quayle,Diane Medved
  21. The American Family: Discovering the Values That Make Us Strong: Books: Dan Quayle,Diane Medved
  22. Republican Family Values
  23. South Carolina Republican Caught With 18 Yr. Old Stripper, Sex Toys and Viagra In Cemetery
  24. RED SEX, BLUE SEX: Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant?
  25. Republican Views on Child Protection
  26. Orange County Weekly - Oh, Boy!
  27. Mark Foley scandal
  28. evangelical university shaken by sex scandal
  29. GOP Campaign Manager Guilty of Corruption of Minors
  30. Republican Prosecutor Solicits Sex from 5 year old
  31. Republican Faces Molestation Charges
  33. Christian party's unholy alliance | Herald Sun
  34. Sections 377 and 377A of the Penal Code (Singapore)

Further reading[]

  • Bennett, William J., ed. The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. ISBN 0-671-68306-3.
  • Coontz, Stephanie. "The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap". New York: Basic Books, 1992. ISBN 0-465-09097-4.
  • Coontz, Stephanie. "The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families". Basic Books, 1998. ISBN 0-465-09092-3.
  • Coontz, Stephanie., ed. "American Families; A Multicultural Reader". London: Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0-415-91574-0.
  • Coontz, Stephanie. "Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage". New York: Viking Press, 2005. ISBN 0-670-03407-X.
  • Good, Deirdre. Jesus' Family Values (ISBN 1-59627-027-6; ISBN 978-1-59627-027-5), New York: Church Publishing, 2006.
  • Shapiro, Ben. Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future (ISBN 0-89526-016-6), Regnery, 2005.

External links[]

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