alright I'm tired and I'm having trouble thinking things through, so this is just going to be an incoherent blast of stuff I've been thinking about: The nuclear family as a social unit emerged in response to industrialization; after farming stopped being 80 percent of the jobs, and employment started becoming specialized, it became normal for people to move in order to take a job in some new destination. Obviously people don't want to leave their families behind, and also-obviously people can't take their whole extended families with them to their new job in Cleveland.
That was reinforced by the federally subsidized process of installing suburbs around the country -- housing units specifically optimized for the nuclear family.
And it's supposed to work like cells -- the family grows, then it gets big enough that it splits, and the new second family-cell goes away and starts growing somewhere else. That worked because there were other jobs out there, and because the government was subsidizing everyone's[1. Read: white people's.] house-getting.
The government doesn't subsidize the suburban class anymore. When the housing bubble burst, they didn't bail out the homeowners, they bailed out the banks. So that's half the arrangement gone.
And the jobs are going away. Human employability is on the decline, and anyways we've been in a post-industrial economy for a while now. Most of the particularly skilled labor is internet-based, which means employees could telecommute. A company certainly doesn't need to consolidate all its vital staff in one city anymore. Plus, there's less motive to move across the country for a job in an economic climate where you expect to swap not just jobs but whole careers at least a few times in your adulthood.
This decline in the availability of housing, and in the availability of jobs, for the latest generation of nuclear family spawn has coincided with a trend of twenty-somethings living at home a lot longer than they did ten, twenty, thirty or forty years ago.
And we're generally given to understand this as a recent and unique downward trend in the functionality of the youth.
When really it looks to me like it's a return to the way families worked pre-industrially,
and is a byproduct of the disintegration of an artificial version of 'family' that's no longer sustainable now that the corporations don't need it.