• 2021
  • Keluarga Malaysia can tackle family breakdowns

Keluarga Malaysia can tackle family breakdowns

 Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Opinion - New Straits Times
September 21, 2021


The word "keluarga", or family, is very important in the life of a human being.

It is the most basic unit that keeps humans together.

It also ensures the wellbeing and survival of each member of the unit, especially in times of adversity and challenges. A kind of safety net.

Successful and productive families join together to form a community, or larger family, as it is often referred to.

What is important is the relationship therein, or a state of being that defines the quality of the family: its values, productivity and dignity.

 Indeed, trends and statistics tend to point to divorce (that is, broken parental relationships) as being the main reason behind a broken family.

Reportedly, the common causes relate to financial issues, domestic misunderstanding and violence, incompatible marriage, sexual harassment, learning and education, as well as health problems.

Some of these have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

At the very least, family estrangements can take a toll on those involved.

It involves the loss of a relationship between loved ones and family members through mainly social and emotional distancing (although they may be physically close).

There is often negligible or no communication between those involved for a prolonged period, including physically.

Coupled with the loss of jobs due to the pandemic, the result can be very traumatic, akin to losing a biological family.

Those involved can experience mental health pressures.

In general, the long-term effects in adults, who as children might have experienced family breakdown, include problems with mental health and wellbeing, alcohol use, lower educational attainment and problems with relationships.

In most cases, they remain as socio-economic and health issues.

This is especially so in many developing countries where family units are fragile to begin with.

In fact, a poor child in the
United Kingdom, according to a 2006 report in Britain, is overwhelmingly more likely to see parents separate and the family break apart than a middle-class child.

"By the age of 5, almost half of the children in our poorest areas have seen their families break down compared with only 16 per cent of children in middle-class homes," said the report.

In other words, the consequences are direr where family breakdowns are defined by birth, heritage or circumstance, when it should not be so.

In much the same way, successful and productive communities are able to forge a family unit at the national level.

It brings together a more diverse but healthy mix of family backgrounds and ties.

The quality again depends on the quality of relationships and understanding forged, though this can be trickier as the diversity expands.

This is the case for a multi-racial, multireligious, multicultural and pluralistic society like Malaysia, relative to a homogenous one, although the latter is no guarantee too as humans tend to seek differences more often than commonalities.

For example, statehood is more vulnerable when differences are highlighted so people can rule by division and suspicion.

The idea is to instil fear in the population.

In such a case, given the potential instability, it can become a conflict more easily, thus making lasting peace a challenge.

At the heart of all this is the question of social justice, as evident by research findings.

In other words, family, or "keluarga", is an important institution to be buttressed and nurtured to tackle poverty and other disadvantages created in the past.

Hence, as we remember the 64th National Day and the 58th Malaysia Day, the introduction of the Keluarga Malaysia concept must see to it that family breakdowns at all levels are attended to, especially nationally.

The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector