Culture & the Family

Jonathan Small | June 21, 2023

Family focus desperately needed

Jonathan Small

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has declared war on a “loneliness epidemic.” Murthy noted “about one-in-two adults in America reported experiencing loneliness. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic cut off so many of us from friends, loved ones, and support systems.” According to the CDC, 25.5 percent of adults ages 18-24 reported having seriously considered suicide in the past month.

We must reflect on how to reverse this trend and best equip people for thriving. When we consider the best environments to help people thrive and get support when they need it, the importance of the family cannot be ignored.

Murthy noted some of the cures for decreasing the significant number of people who experience loneliness will be “increasing connections through volunteer organizations or religious groups” and the important role that parents and caregivers have in helping their children build connection while modeling screen-free socializing and constructive conflict resolution.

While what society does to address loneliness is important, no institution is better suited and more on the front lines to address loneliness than the family. After all, it’s parents and guardians who provide homes, help children navigate educational needs, provide moral training and influence a child’s worldview, help develop a work ethic and resiliency (or grit), and teach youth the science of hope, the success sequence, and so much more.

Institute for Family Studies scholars Wendy Wang and W. Bradford Wilcox found that “Millennials are most likely to steer clear of poverty and towards the middle class when they follow the success sequence: that is, get at least a high school degree, hold a full-time job, and marry before having children—and in that order. Indeed, we find that 70% of upper-income Millennials have either followed or been on track with the success sequence.”

Wang and Wilcox found that an astounding 97% of Millennials who follow the success sequence “are not poor by the time they reach their prime young adult years (ages 28-34).”

Imparting these paths to thriving is a full-time job that institutions external to the family can support. But those entities can’t out-achieve what an immediate, healthy family can provide.

Recently, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, commenting on the epidemic of loneliness and anxiety, told college graduates: “I can offer one controversial antidote that I believe will have a lasting impact for generations to come: Get married and start a family.

I don’t care if you have a successful career,” he said. “I don’t care if you have a big bank account or fly private. Many of you in this crowd may achieve these things. … But in the end—no matter how much money you attain—none of it will matter if you are alone and devoid of purpose.”

Regarding building and increasing the number of healthy families, Ian Rowe, author of the book Agency: The Four-Point Plan for ALL Children to Overcome the Victimhood Narrative and Discover Their Pathway to Power, has some valuable points on why and how to empower healthy families. I find two of Rowe’s statements especially important for the right mindset: “We have to have the courage to say things that are common sense,” and “It’s not about the family you’re from but about the family you form.”

If we truly care for children, those who are lonely, the most vulnerable, and the future, then we must focus on building and empowering strong families.

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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