The Impacts of Urbanization on the Family Unit

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "No More Mr. Nice Guy" by Robert Glover. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What was the impact of urbanization on the family unit? How did the shift from rural to urban life affect masculinity in particular?

In No More Mr. Nice Guy, Dr. Robert Glover looks at the history of masculinity and the decline of positive associations with masculinity. He cites urbanization as one of the key factors influencing this, and also shows the effect of urbanization on the family unit as a whole.

Keep reading to find out the impact of urbanization on the family.

How Did Urbanization Affect the Family Unit?

Before delving into the impact of urbanization on the family as a whole, we’ll first look at the impact of urbanization on the concept of masculinity.

What caused this detachment from positive masculine traits? Glover sums it up through a major historical change in 20th century America: the shift from rural life to urban life. From the turn of the 20th century onward, America went from an agrarian society to one of primarily urban industry and office jobs. Glover says this caused young men to develop different relationships with their parents:

Fathers: When families worked on farms, boys toiled alongside their fathers and other male family members. Once urban life became the norm, fathers spent their days at an office away from their sons. Boys lost regular contact with their fathers and stopped seeing them hard at work. 

Mothers: With dads away at the office, mothers assumed the role of both parents. It was now Mom’s job to teach her sons the ways of men. This meant boys saw masculinity filtered through a feminine lens, which increased their detachment from other men.

Understanding the changing concept of masculinity is necessary to understand the impact of urbanization on the family.

According to the Marriage and Family Encyclopedia, the impact of urbanization on the family was dramatic. It completely redefined the family unit, work, and even concepts of personal responsibility. But it wasn’t just boys who suffered from the breakdown of the pre-urbanized rural family unit—married women and mothers also experienced a loss of kinship. Smaller families, the dispersal of the extended family unit, and the marginalization of unpaid “domestic” work caused women to become more isolated and lose the support systems they once had. As we’ve already noted, Glover believes that lonely, emotionally starved mothers form unhealthy attachments to their sons. It seems urbanization helped set the stage for this type of codependent relationship.

The Impacts of Urbanization on the Family Unit

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Here's what you'll find in our full No More Mr. Nice Guy summary:

  • Why being a "Nice Guy" isn't actually a good thing
  • Why Nice Guys miss out on a life of self-acceptance, empowerment, and satisfaction
  • How to know if you are a Nice Guy and how to become an "Ideal Man" instead

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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