Demographic Winter

The Decline of the Human Family

How the road to self fulfillment led us to the perfect storm

From Rick Stout’s Demographic Winter

Of all of the causes we have in the world today, many of which particularly capture the time and space of the media and academia, it is singularly peculiar that the disintegration of an institution as important as the human family should want for attention.  Perhaps it is because the family is made up of individual people, and we have become a society obsessed with a focus on the self.  Be that as it may, we have ignored this institution to our great detriment.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights got it right when it declared that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society”.  Implicit in this inclusion in an international founding document declaring universal human rights, is the recognition that stable society’s very survival rests on the strength of this fundamental group unit.

The years have not been kind to this most important institution – the family, particularly the last four decades.  Worldwide, families have broken down at a historically unprecedented pace.  There are certainly records of how now-extinct societies have experienced similar declines before their demise, but what we now face is unique in that it has a global spread.  This has ominous portent.

The family’s importance to basic social structures has perhaps been more explored and discussed than its importance to other aspects of our world, and certainly deserves continued study.  What is probably less obvious, and therefore less examined, is the family’s impact on such things as the rule of law, democratic structures, societal and even technological advancement, education, successful commerce and economic structures.  Society depends on these in order to remain stable and the family’s impact on them is profound.

When the great social experiments of the 1960’s were launched, and when concern over a “population bomb” loomed large, we did not have the social science and economic studies we have available to us today.  So the world embarked unknowingly on a self-destructive course.

Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family seeks to reawaken society to the importance of the stable, intact family, and engender a discussion and greater focus in the media, in academia, in the halls of policy makers, in religious circles, in the committees of civil society and in households around the world.  Our hope is that all of these circles will bring to bear on the problems facing the family the tremendous contributions each can uniquely make.  In this way, we hope to avert the storm that is now most surely coming on.


See more:  Rick Stout’s Demographic Winter Documentary



  1. Will said,

    December 6, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    A non-LDS religious group took out a full page ad in the New York Times decrying the intimidation and violence perpetrated on the LDS church for its support of prop 8.

    There’s an article about this here:,5143,705268362,00.html

  2. Dan said,

    December 6, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Excellent post! I’m all for change, but in the process of changing, we often lose some of the things we should keep. The family has indeed undergone major changes over the years, and all of those changes have not been good. We are seeing the effects in our society. Not sure if it’s possible to turn things around. I’m reminded of the words: “I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something; and what I can do, by God’s grace and with His help I will do.” We can brighten our own little corner.

  3. beetlebabee said,

    December 6, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Dan, your post reminded me of Libertarian Jane Galt’s post on the consequences of gay marriage. She doesn’t come out for or against it, but basically points out that people have no idea what they’re doing when they fiddle with societal standards and ethical mores.

    “My only request is that people try to be a leeetle more humble about their ability to imagine the subtle results of big policy changes. The argument that gay marriage will not change the institution of marriage because you can’t imagine it changing your personal reaction is pretty arrogant. It imagines, first of all, that your behavior is a guide for the behavior of everyone else in society, when in fact, as you may have noticed, all sorts of different people react to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different ways, which is why we have to have elections and stuff. And second, the unwavering belief that the only reason that marriage, always and everywhere, is a male-female institution (I exclude rare ritual behaviors), is just some sort of bizarre historical coincidence, and that you know better, needs examining. If you think you know why marriage is male-female, and why that’s either outdated because of all the ways in which reproduction has lately changed, or was a bad reason to start with, then you are in a good place to advocate reform. If you think that marriage is just that way because our ancestors were all a bunch of repressed bastards with dark Freudian complexes that made them homophobic bigots, I’m a little leery of letting you muck around with it.”

    It’s an excellent post. I hadn’t thought of it applying to this before, thanks.

  4. Mary Ane said,

    December 6, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    The thing I think is most powerful is that it’s not just that we’re not having as many kids, that is just a function of the attitude shifts that made self bigger than serve. Families are a pain, kids cry, break bones, whine, fight, cost money. Why have kids when I can go have any of the wiley temptations and false gods of glory?

  5. Libertarian Thinker said,

    December 6, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Jane Galt has it right, though it’s a little frustrating that she doesn’t come out and just say, hey, gay marriage is not healthy, in some ways it gives her more credibility.

  6. David said,

    December 6, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    “The family’s importance to basic social structures has perhaps been more explored and discussed than its importance to other aspects of our world, and certainly deserves continued study. What is probably less obvious, and therefore less examined, is the family’s impact on such things as the rule of law, democratic structures, societal and even technological advancement, education, successful commerce and economic structures. Society depends on these in order to remain stable and the family’s impact on them is profound.”

    The amazing thing is that people can see pretty clearly that the trends are going south, but the majority of people haven’t been convinced enough to change how they see things. Perhaps this has to be like the new “environmentalism” cause. Save the planet, go back to basics, families, values, vegetables and whole grains.

    ah, but the allure!

  7. MIMI said,

    December 6, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t want to be a nun! Or amish for that matter. Can’t we have toys and healthy planet?

  8. Woman on the Street said,

    December 6, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    The family is the main structural glue of society. And when you weaken those bonds all of society becomes weaker as a whole. Do you ever wonder why it is that the family unit has been at the core of society for thousands of years? It’s because that’s what works best for society as a whole. Selfishness is truely a distructor of the family, and the state of today’s society is desperately in need of many more heroes working to turn the tide of selfishness. If everyone said “what can I do to help?” even half the time, what a wonderful country this would be.

  9. rubyeliot said,

    December 6, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    i agree, why not more emphasis on our culture of what we can do to help? we don’t need to have an anti-family culture. opportunity and family are not opposed to each other, but we do need to sacrifice for family. in lots of different ways– maybe that is where the trouble comes in. sacrifice and selfishness don’t go together ever. (but in the end usually people who sacrifice are happier).

  10. Emissary said,

    December 6, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Here’s some raw data that should be frightening to everyone.

    Look at how many countries are below the necessary 2.1!

    Where’s the US? Right on the verge. We’re country 127.

  11. December 6, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    Did everyone know that the Sierra Club has a Two-Child Policy?

    Families should not have more than two natural children . . . state and federal laws should be changed to encourage small families and to discourage large families; that laws, policies, and attitudes that foster population growth or big families, or that restrict abortion or contraception . . . should be abandoned.

  12. { Lisa } said,

    December 6, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    secular heretic,

    Do you have a link to more info on this? What a scary thought. How would it get so far gone in this world that we would be restricted in having children? I have four now and want more and it saddens me to think that it could be different for my kids.

  13. beetlebabee said,

    December 6, 2008 at 9:01 pm


    Isn’t it amazing that through the endless cycles of history, human nature looks back and says, this would never happen and while they’re looking back feeling superior, actions are being set in motion to repeat again the same cycles. War and destruction, violence, intolerance, mob-ism.

    In some ways, by the time you see the problem clearly, it’s so widespread it’s exceedingly difficult to reverse. Seeing this movie trailer really hit home for me just how close to the edge society has gotten.

    Human nature, can you fight it successfully on more than a one on one basis? Perhaps not, but we should still try, I think because it matters for each soul you touch. Like the story of tossing starfish back into the ocean. You can’t stop the millions from suffering, but you can help the one, and for that one, it’s all the difference in the world.

    I guess that’s the definition of hope, the thing that motivates us to plow forward in the face of incredible odds.

  14. Emily said,

    December 9, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    This is scary and brings me to mourn the sad state of our world right now, specifically that people no longer want children. How sad! My children have been such a blessing and joy in my life and I have become a better person through them! I can’t imagine my life without children.

  15. amandainmaine said,

    December 10, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    I personally don’t want to have children I do not think that is sad at all so I kind of take offense to people saying it is sad. I think children are wonderful but you have to have a lifestyle that fits them and if you don’t then you have no business having them. There are to many parents on welfare and that is no way to raise your kids. SO I have mixed feelings about it.
    I might not mind adopting one day because that seems more important for me personally since so many children are without homes and need love and good parents.

  16. amandainmaine said,

    December 10, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I think Humans will become extinct one day but I am ok with that because we do not know how to respect this planet and we ruin it.

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