I've been trying to figure it out for awhile.
I do think manners and acting well are a good part of civilization. I do believe respect and civility avoid a lot of conflict.
I do believe children did better in two-parent homes because their lives were less complicated. I do believe there were folks who should have been divorced back then for valid reasons, but also, back then, a ton of people worked it through and got to some place of peace because of peer pressure.
Good old peer pressure. Some pluses, some minuses, and all still present and accounted for.
I do believe if you are a human, you deserve respect and civility for that fact, no matter what you have done. NO MATTER WHAT. And I followed that, and I was tested, and I still follow that. Doesn't mean you should be cut slack for your background or your meanness, or your upbringing. No, sad as it is, you pay for what you do.
So do I.
I had a great upbringing. Two loving parents, enough food, clean sheets, hugs every day. If you didn't have that, tough. It's no excuse.
Except... unless you never had it as a baby or a toddler. If you never knew your early years if crying woud bring the bottle you needed or the diaper that was burning your butt changed, Or abuse, or being locked in the bed in the dark or given a bottle where the formula is turning to curds and you are still trying to suck it because you are so hungry. Where there were no hugs, no comfort.
If that was your first two or three years, I give you a pass. I can't forgive you for what you are going to do later--you aren't allowed to hurt others just because you were--but I do understand. Even if someone has to kill you.
If we don't get hugs and attachment early enough, only a few talented therapists can attach a few lucky children and restore their humanity.
I remember a child I worked with who was adopted. His daddy had taken care of him, fed, hugged, and rocked him to sleep, washed, and clothed him, till he was killed in a traffic accident when the boy was 9 months old. The mother was into drugs. In return for drugs, she allowed dealers to move in with her. The child had no toys. He had no sheets. He had few clothes. He ate fast food.
And when he made too much noise as a toddler, an irritated drug dealer once aimed a gun at him and threatened to kill him. But he didn't.
When he came into foster care at 21/2 , he had no idea how to play with toys or other children. He had never seen either. He was dismayed to find out about vegetables. He was actually pretty sweet. But at 21/2, he had absolutely no ability to attach to another person.
None. The wonderful thing was, he had attached to his daddy before he died. Way back there, he had a visceral memory of attaching. Of comfort. Of hugs.
His foster mom was knowledgeable. She quit every activity she had, and she had been a loving volunteer. She spent 24/7 with this boy for six months before he finally attached to her; later, his sisters and dad. He became a real little boy.
And they adopted him, as they had his sisters.
Three kids I know started out with no hope and ended up with a lot of it.
Many more won't. So many more won't.
The kids that have hardships, grow up in a bad neighborhood, eh. Drug parents, yeh, I'll cut slack a little. But I have some mighty fine friends who grew up that way and are making a difference.
The kids who have no kindness, no hugs, no love from birth, who miraculously survive and are feral by the time they are two--we have little we can do. Little that will work. And these babies who have a world view of solitary survival, who know no mercy from birth, really can't show what they don't know. They can't love. They can only follow the rules. Some do fairly well with that.
How many are there?
At the same time, I see a majority who are nurtured, cuddled, loved. They CAN learn their manners, and even care about upsetting us, because they know love.
I see such loving, and I see such failure.
I think of the Cherokee proverb about the two wolves within--one loving, sharing, caring, building up, the other devouring, tearing, destroying.
According to the proverb, the acolyte askes the wiseman, "Who will win?" and the wiseman responds, "The one you feed.'
That is both a warning and a comfort.