Familial obligation is up to you

Familial obligation is up to you

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

When you blossom into an adult and have to find your way in life, familial obligation continues to follow you. The choice of giving back to your parents for your childhood is circumstantial and comes down to the individual experience. 

Familial relationships are unique in the aspect that these are the only people in the world in which you share blood and had no choice in who they would be. To add on, parent-child relationships are tremendously different than other relationships since the responsibility relies heavily on the parent to care of their child as a moral obligation. 

With that in mind, the question arises whether the child has a moral obligation to care for their parents once they become adults. 

There are three common views when it comes to familial obligation which is the unconditional, conditional and friendship view.  

The unconditional view is that children should give back to their parents regardless of if their parents were good to them or not. 

The conditional view is where children only give back to their parents what they were given as children.

As for the friendship view, it provides the framework of how much a child should give back to their parents depending on a voluntary relationship between both parties. To put it in simpler terms, a child does not owe their parents anything other than what they choose to do for them out of love. 

All of the above views are understandable and the way one comes to a realization out of the three depends on their personal experiences and relationships with their parents. 

If someone has had a good relationship with their parents and is grateful to them, it is simple for them to decide to repay them back for the things they’ve done. However, not every parent-child relationship is black and white, which creates a cultural and moral dilemma within the adult child. 

In fact, familial obligation tends to be a source of stress for many.

Growing up, children often have to choose between following the norms within their family and the norms created by their peers. 

This causes a strain in adult children once they no longer live within the circle of their parents and enter the outside world where norms are different from what they grew up with. This is common in Latino cultures where Familismo, the unconditional closeness and love within your family, is a stark contrast to the individualistic identity embraced in America where one makes choices for their own self-interest rather than the collective. 

Leaving the family’s norms can create strain on your familial relationships and you may feel guilty for that. This is completely understandable but just because you feel that guilt, doesn’t mean you automatically have to repay your parents. 

“I think what contributes to the feeling of owing my parents something is the fact that my mom became a single mother of six,” said sophomore kinesiology exercise science major Kellsy Gutierrez.

Gutierrez comes from a Latino background and appreciates the family she grew up in.

“(My mom) did everything possible to ensure each and every single one of us had everything we needed. A roof over our head, clothes, shoes and more importantly, a full belly every night,” said Gutierrez. “With that being said, I feel as if her sacrifices paved the way for my siblings and me to branch out and take advantage of all resources available for higher education.”

There is no clear answer on how a child should give back to their parents or if it’s an obligation at all. With all the different experiences around the world regarding family relationships, there isn’t one decision that fits everyone.  

If you are grateful to your parents, you should show them. If not, that’s okay. There is no strict rule on how you should deal with your parents later on in life in terms of giving back. That’s up to you.

Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a journalism freshman who can be reached at [email protected]

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