autumnsoliloquy90: (straight through the heart)
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TOEFL Vol 2 Official Practice Test #5

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

The extended family (grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles) is less important now as it was in the past.

Nowadays, the modern lifestyle and its fast-paced environment makes it harder and harder to keep track of friendships, relationships and other types of social bonds. While the nuclear family still remains in most societies in the world today as the resilient unit of close knit ties binding people, it may seem that members of the extended family, like grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, are rendered superfluous in our lives. Nevertheless, I believe that the extended family is still as important today as it was in the past, because they tie us to our history and ultimately give us our identity.

In the past, when people lived in rural communities it was often the case that almost everyone in the village is related in some way to one another. I discovered this firsthand when I went back with my mother to her hometown in the Philippines three years ago, and met most of the villagers who all had some kind of blood relation to my mother. In those times when the village represent a huge network of closely-related families, the relationships within the extended family were of great significance. Today, the trend of migrating from the village hometowns into the urban cities where employment was to be found, a phenomenon that started in the 60s during my parents' generation, has led to members of the extended family no longer living in close proximity to one another. Perhaps this might appear as an erosion of these relationships, but I would argue that this trend does not diminish the importance of maintaining good relations with the extended family.

The reasons for this are manifold. First, the extended family provides additional social support systems especially in times of crisis. For example, if a tragedy were to occur within the nuclear family, such as a death or sickness, it is often the aunts, uncles and grandparents who come into the picture to fulfill the responsibilities left behind by the incapacitated relatie. Granted, this is not always the case, especially for those families with strained relations. But this illustrates exactly why it is important to foster relationships with the extended family, as relatives provide a necessary safety net during troubled times.

Second, it is important for people to be aware of their family history, and this is best accomplished by keeping in contact with the extended family. It is through consistent and meaningful interaction between generations of the same family that stories of important family events remain in the collective memory of its members. This is not only essential in upholding the legacy of older generations, as well as in helping the younger ones learn from the lessons exemplified by their older relatives, but also in cases when it is crucial to have information about the family history. For example, certain genetic diseases are inheritable, and knowing the details about which members of the family have been afflicted with the same disease would be beneficial in diagnosis, preventive measures and successful therapy of relatives.

Lastly, having a sense of belonging within a closely-knit extended family is a privilege that few people today enjoy. This feeling of having a community to belong to is often taken for granted, but it is undeniably something that contributes to people's emotional and mental well-being. Studies have shown that people who have close relationships with their grandparents are less likely to suffer from depression and other psychological disorders, compared to people who are estranged from their extended families, even when they are surrounded by a circle of friends. This is perhaps the best evidence that indeed, as the saying goes, blood is thicker than water. Furthermore, being aware of one's family history and legacy provides the individual a strong sense of identity about who they are, where they come from, and thus where they will be in the future.

To conclude, although it does appear that modern life is incompatible with the maintenance of strong meaningful connections to one's extended family, I still believe that the extended family remains just as important today as it was for the previous generations. In fact, perhaps the extended family hold a greater significance today more than ever, especially because the breakneck speed of the modern lifestyle means that true, long-lasting, meaningful connections are fleeting and hard to come by.

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