Vol. 1 No. 1 (2018): Dignity and Value of the Family

The Growing Role of the State in the Family

Stephen Baskerville
Published 12.12.2018
  • family integrity,
  • family policy,
  • parnetal rights,
  • role of the state
How to Cite
Baskerville, S. (2018). The Growing Role of the State in the Family. The Legal Culture, 1(1), 48-61. https://doi.org/10.37873/legal.2018.1.1.9


The role of the state in the family has been increasing, arguably,since the beginning of modern history. Historical sociologists like CarleZimmerman suggested that modern history has been characterizedby a gradual increase in the power of the state and that this growthis inversely proportionate to the declining importance of the family.The very field and concept of “family policy” presupposes that the fa-mily is a legitimate sphere of life for state intervention and activity. Yetthe intervention of the state may be like the touch of Midas: that whichit touches it destroys. If scholars like Zimmerman are correct, then themore the state intervenes in the family, the more we can expect the fa-mily to decline. This is borne out by recent experience, and very logicalreasons may be adduced for this and very clear manifestations in are-as like family integrity, parental rights, child welfare, and the increasein family-connected bureaucracies associated with the welfare state.Often our only acceptable response to the problems created by govern-ment intervention is more government intervention. Not only can thecure be worse than the disease; the cure canbe the disease. The resultis ever-more-powerful and ever-more-intrusive government bureaucracy– all purporting to solve the problems created by the previously policiesand the previous bureaucracy. The only way to break this vicious cycle isto discard some of our sacred assumptions about what constitutes familyhealth and to accept a new understanding of the relations between thefamily and the state.


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