The Hookup Culture and Searching for Love in all the Wrong Places

Mother and daughter

Dr Gregory Popcak, who blogs at Faith On The Couch, wrote a fascinating post discussing the whys of our hook-up culture.

His conclusion?

Babies and young children aren’t getting the love from their parents that they need. Specifically, they don’t get the cuddling, kissing and touching love they need when they’re little and so they spend their young adult lives trying to feed the resulting hunger for affection and touching through endless, mindless, destructive sexual hook-ups.

Dr Popcak theorizes that little boys have historically been deprived of this cuddle time. He says that moms and dads have tended to withdraw physical affection from little boys when they reach toddlerhood in a misguided effort to toughen them up and make men out of them.

Mother and son 3

I think he’s onto something here. I can’t count the number of times someone scolded me when my two or three year old little boy ran to me for comfort over a skinned knee or whatnot. “He’s too attached to you,” they opined. “He’s got to stand on his own two feet.”

I thought they were nuts. Little children need to attach absolutely and deeply to their parents, moms in particular. They need that safe place of momma’s arms and momma’s lap to cuddle, get rocked to sleep and loved. I am not saying that fathers should withhold affection from their little boys and girls. Far from it. Babies need to be doted on by both their parents.

Parents

This makes them feel safe. It insulates them from the world and its craven values, its cruelties and its indifference. That gives them the space to grow up into the people God meant them to be when He created them. 

Dr Popcak says that the reason for the hook-up culture is that little girls are now also being deprived of the cuddling and physical closeness with their parents, I think their mothers in particular, by being shipped off to daycare at young ages.There’s no surprise here. Institutions do not and can not give the kind of nurturing and bonding that young children get from their own parents.

When they reach their teens, they go searching for the cuddling they missed by engaging in repetitive hook-ups. They are searching for love in all the wrong places.

I left a great career in the legislature where I was chair of a powerful committee and flying high to stay home and raise my kids. This thrust our family into one-income poverty for years. It also loaded the whole responsibility for supporting our little clan onto my husband’s shoulders. 

Mother and son 1

My husband and I both paid a price for our decision to provide 24-hour, non-stop Mommy attention to our babies. He had the enormous pressure and oftentimes misery of having to stay on a job no matter what because he was the only one bringing home the bacon. I had to give up the prestige and power of my former position. Our whole family was stripped of all the little things that money can buy. 

We didn’t go hungry, but the kids wore a lot of garage sale clothes, and we used the library instead of buying books. I bought food once a month and made every meal from scratch. There was no eating out, the only movies were at the dollar movie theater and that was once in a while and we sneaked in canned drinks in my purse. (I lived in fear of my youngest blurting out in his baby voice — Mommy, make sure no one sees the Cokes in your purse!)

There is a price for putting your children first and all the things you can buy last. But there is also a pay off. That pay off is: No drugs, no promiscuity, no teen-aged rebellion, no self-destructive kids, no eye-rolling dissing of parents, and adult children who actually like their parents and come to us to talk over their problems with an absolute trust that we will be there for them and that they can tell us anything. 

Father and child 2

Parents are starving their children emotionally in order to buy them things. The payback in terms of messed up kids is enormous.

It is not absolutely necessary for mom to stay home for the kids to turn out ok. I have friends who managed to do the two-income hop step and still raise children who turned out to be loving, non-promiscuous adults who could marry and raise children of their own. 

However, not one of them divorced; mom and dad stayed together. And not one of them put their kids in a daycare. And not one of them engaged in other activities when their babies were little. The ones I know also had strong support, including child care, from their extended family. They worked while family members cared for the kids, and they came home and were a tight little family that absolutely adored and doted on their child. Also, all of them were well-educated people who rode the wave of good jobs that this country used to offer. They all had positions that paid enough that they could support their families without working more than 40 hours/week. 

Father and child

I do not know one family on the lower income rungs who has been successful at both parents working and raising their children. I’m sure they are there, but I do not personally know of one family where this has worked out.

Jobs at the lower end of our society are hard, often humiliating, and do not pay enough to really support a family. The upshot is that when both parents work, they come home exhausted and beaten up. They are not physically capable of providing cuddling, nurturing time with their babies. They are too tired.

Also, the tsunami of divorce and family dissolution has swept over working class families with disastrous results. Live-in boyfriends and parents with revolving beds are more the norm than the exception. 

Rather than create homes for their children, these bed shifters raise their kids in chaotic environments that are isolating, neglectful and oftentimes dangerous. The children have no one they can trust, since their parents are living the lives of perpetual adolescents, and maladjusted adolescents at that. They often end up abused and battered by the various live-ins. 

Family

Ironically, working class parents with their reduced options can only provide the kind of nurturing environment that kids need if they ignore the trends of the culture and get married to one another, stay married and put their kids first.

I believe that it is far more important for lower income mothers to stay home with their children than it is for wealthier mothers who can get easier, more rewarding jobs that leave them with the energy to be a real mom when they get home. However, if they want their children to survive their job intact, the wealthier mothers need to forgo most other activities and really be a loving, cuddling, there mom when they go home. 

I have friends and family who went the other way, and fell into all the cultural traps of putting their kids in daycare, and then ignoring them once they got home. I can tell you from watching them, once you mess up your kids, you can’t undo it later.

It is the misery that only gets more miserable as life spins forward. If you don’t want to raise your own kids right, then get ready to raise your grandkids. Make plans for crying all night about the things your teens and your adult children do to themselves and others. Spruce up your speech for the courtroom custody battles and the parole board. You’re going to need them. 

With children, it’s ignore now, pay forever. 

  • TheodoreSeeber

    My son is now 10, and absolutely *demands* cuddle time from Daddy. He doesn’t from Mommy anymore unless Daddy has a Knights meeting- and then I need to move him to his own bed when I get home.

    • Jakeithus

      “cuddle time” might not be the best word to describe all situations with boys, but the basics are the same. I was never a cuddler, but some of the best memories of my dad are of him wrestling with me, giving me piggyback rides, holding me down and tickling me, or giving me whisker rubs. I can’t count how many times the first thing he would do when he got home from work is play with me and my brother in this way.

      It gives me lots to think about as I’m expecting a child of my own.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        All of that and- use daddy’s belly as a matteress (though be careful with this one- my Christopher is now 10 and quite large).

        • Rebecca Fuentes

          And children are like cats–the longer they sleep, the heavier they become. We co-sleep, and it’s amazing how that little baby can make my arm numb.

    • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

      My son who is just under four says to me all the time, “let’s snuggle.” He rarely says it to his mother any more…lol.

  • Sus_1

    I highly recommend Dr. Popcak’s book “Beyond the Birds and the Bees” for parents. It’s a fabulous read with all kinds of little nuggets of wisdom for parents and kids.

    The hookup culture is appalling to me. Being that intimate with a stranger is so creepy. I often wondered if it’s come about because of lack of face time/cuddles with mom and dad.

    I believe there are many women that wish they could be home with their kids but either can’t afford it or think they can’t afford it.

    Staying home with kids now is very different than 50 years ago. There are hardly any other moms home. Extended families aren’t around like they were because they are working. There is little help available.

    I’m privileged that financially I can be home. However, I didn’t have the normal experience because when my kids were very young, my husband’s grandma lived with us. It was like having a personal chef and Mary Poppins living with us. My in-laws couldn’t go to a grocery store without buying groceries for us to help out. I didn’t buy a diaper or kid clothes until my 4th kid because my in-laws took care of those expenses. My mother-in-law cooked at least 2 dinners a week for us. Her excuse was always she didn’t know how to cook for 2. My parents got on a plane the second I expressed I was overwhelmed. They sent checks “just because” all the time. Still do!

    People don’t have that kind of support now. Without all the extended family support, I’m not sure I would have all the kids I have. Catholic teachings or not, I would not be able to cope without the emotional, physical and financial support we’ve received.

  • Roki

    … once you mess up your kids, you can’t undo it later.

    My parents didn’t figure out how to love each other – much less us kids – till we were grown and out of the house. But they did eventually learn to be parents to us, and although us kids (now rapidly approaching age 40) struggle a lot with trust and relationships and vicious habits, it’s getting better. Maturity and happiness are more difficult for us than for our peers raised in more loving homes; but it is still possible to love and to live responsibly.

    You can’t undo the damage that’s done. But there is hope for healing and health. Jesus loves and heals even us broken kids, even as he loves and heals our broken parents. Persistent prayer is the foundation.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Yes. That is why I never rejected the person most responsible for the trouble in our families, even though objectively this person deserved to be made to feel it. But I know more and more as time goes on that to reject that person altogether would be to reject a part of me. I have come to understand why God said: “Honour thy father and thy mother,” Not: give your father and your mother the honour they deserve, but; Honour them unconditionally. Honour them even if your father is a thug and a crook, even if your mother is a whore and a drunkard. You can even speak clearly, even bluntly, to them; but you can never just treat them as aliens. They are a part of you and have first call on you, whatever they may have done and whatever you may have to say to their face or faces.

  • FW Ken

    I’ve read about “primitive” cultures where the kids don’t touch the ground until they can walk. If they parents don’t carry them, the other kids or other adults do.

    When I was really little, my dad worked up to three jobs and mother would do the kind of work where we could tag along (market research, for example). By the time I was 5, Dad was down to one job and Mother was a full time homemaker. Yes, we had one car for a lot of years and Dad rode the bus to work until I was in high school. Clothes went through three boy cousins to me, back to another cousin, then back to my next brother. The zoo was free in those days, so we spent a lot of time there. It wasn’t a perfect childhood, but when I see the folks who walk through the criminal justice system, I’m grateful.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I always get queasy when i hear psychological explanations and theories, even when I generally agree with the reasoning. I don’t know on this. I don’t recall my father being particularly touchy and affectionate. i’m not one who has any of these dysfunctionalities. I’ve seen studies where hard disciplinary mothers have very successful children. Check out the Asian Tiger mom articles. These kind of cause and effect theories of human personality always seem to fall away over time. Human personality and expression is a Gordion knot. It can’t be unwound. All these claims of cause and effect amount to psychobabble in my eyes.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I’d point out that this isn’t specifically touchy-feely as much as interested. Asian Tiger Moms hover and are into every small nook of their children’s lives.

      • Sus_1

        I think it’s more about interest than actually being touchy-feely.

        I have some friends that do the family bed. All the kids and parents sleep together until the kids don’t want to anymore.

        Besides the fact that my husband would freak, I never did it unless one of mine was sick. My reasoning was that I didn’t want them to get used to sleeping with someone, stop when they are too old and still want that closeness and find it with a boy or girlfriend when they are teenagers.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I wish we hadn’t done the faHmily bed, (emphasis on the H- from age 2 on he’d sleep with his head on me and feet on momma, until age 7). I kind of blame that for him not having a sibling.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Oh no, we have never let our son sleep in our bed, even when he was sick. And he’s never asked for it.

            • TheodoreSeeber

              I can believe that. Different kids are different, and my son is really different (due mainly to some mental birth defects).

              • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

                Oh I’m sorry to hear about your son. God bless him and give the family strength to deal with it.

                • TheodoreSeeber

                  So far he has- I think that God sends us special needs kids to teach us patience.

        • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

          We have never let our son sleep in our bed, even when he was sick. And he’s never asked for it.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        No, the claim by the psychologist was kids don’t get “enough physical affection.” That is touchy-feely.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I believe that was more Rebecca’s interpretation of the original post. The original post was all about “attachment”, not “physical affection”, and I’d argue that merely being PRESENT and INTERESTED in your child’s life will generate attachment just as well as the physical affection does.

          In fact, the original article specifically brings up daycare, which is my wife’s business. I guarantee you that my wife, and myself when I’m home, do use physical affection with the kids within the bounds of state laws to prevent child abuse.

          In fact, several times I’ve had the kids of busy or single parents *require* a hug from me, when I leave the house.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            OK, thanks. I did not read the original article.

  • hotboogers

    “one income poverty”

    “We didn’t go hungry, but the kids wore a lot of garage sale clothes, and
    we used the library instead of buying books. I bought food once a month
    and made every meal from scratch. There was no eating out … [etc]”

    Wow, that sounds like normal life, not poverty, to me. Guess I’m out of date.

  • Jessica

    Thank you, Rebecca.

  • Ryan Hite

    Unfortunately, as a college student, I have seen this first hand. I dated a young woman who loved to hook up but she had many problems at home and her dad was not alive. It’s unfortunate, but it is the state of our society whether it happened on accident or it happened because the parents do not want to take care of the kids.

  • Becky

    I don’t disagree with any of this, but I think you somewhat underestimate children’s resilience. I am a child of divorce married to a child of divorce, and my husband and I both managed to reach adulthood without any major missteps. Nonetheless, we are very committed to staying together both because we love each other and because we don’t want our kids to have to experience a “broken” home.

  • KyPerson

    Thank you for this. My 20 month old grandson loves to be hugged and I love to hug him. Sadly, his parents are divorced, but he has regular time with his father and mother who, although they don’t love each other, do love their children. All I can do as a grandma is to love them too. And provide lots of hugs.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    There is some good reason not to do it. The two biggest ones: It’s hard to break the child out of the family bed after 3 months, and before 3 months, if the parents aren’t very careful, SIDS is a real fear.

  • http://mywordwall.wordpress.com/ Imelda

    I have not yet read the entire article and I will be back. In any case, this comes at the heels of my reading of an FB post about a book discussing the hook-up culture. I will look it up again and maybe link it here.

  • http://mywordwall.wordpress.com/ Imelda

    This is a very thoughtful article. I think this provides the soul to the hook-up article I mentioned earlier – http://m.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/04/the-real-problem-with-hooking-up-bad-sex/274543/. It only went so far as to say that hook-up sex makes for a boring and mechanical sex. Your post complements it because you mention about the moral perspective and the causes of such culture.

  • CathyLouise

    Just two observations: When I was a young adult, I used to think it was foolish for parents to stay together “for the children.” Now I think it’s foolish not to. And, when my son was a toddler, every night…EVERY night, we would sit on the couch with th TV off, ane I would lay my arm across his shoulder and read to him. In fact, I did this until his sister came along when he was 6 years old. Then dad took over reading to him and I started over with the baby. These are some of the most treasured memories of our family. My son is now 19, he is a fine young man who is definitely 19, but still a fine young man.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      There are situations where separation is objectively better, even for the children. But I can say with very high authority that even in those situations, the children suffer at the separation. It is just that they would suffer even more at a continued familiy Hell; but that is only a choice of evils, never in any way good.

      • CathyLouise

        Yes, I agree. There are certainly abusive situations which call for at least separation. But there are a lot of divorces that shouldn’t probably occur.

        • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

          As a Catholic, I would say that divorce should never happen at all. But in the modern world, of course, that’s past praying for.

          • CathyLouise

            My daughter is in 8th grade. The sheer number of divorced and never-married parents in her class is astounding. However…I see hope, too. I know some young couples who came from broken families with dead-beat dads and angry mothers. These young couples, however, are committed, loving parents who are determined to stay together.


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