Changing Family Values

Changing Family Values

Changing Family Values

Changing Family Values

Synopsis

Changing Family Values offers a comprehensive introduction to contemporary debates and new research surrounding the family. It explores how we define family values and how these values are perceived as being underthreat in contemporary society. Ranging across politics, social policy, the law and sociology, the contributors focus on the diverse realities of contemporary family life. Issues covered include: * the recent backlash against single mothers * lesbian and gay families and the law * mens changing roles within the family * the future of the nuclear family.

Excerpt

The 'family' has become the controversial focus of many important issues, cast at centre stage in contemporary collective fin-de-siècle angst as we reach a new millennium. All the major political parties denigrate what they see as contemporary trends towards 'selfish individualism' and offer in their place a return to 'family values'. The question is why has the family become the focus, in political circles, media proclamations and common sense parlance alike, for concerns about social morality, and economic decline? And not only why but how has this state of affairs come about? As Foucault might have asked, what are the conditions of possibility for this situation to arise? What are the unacknowledged power relations here? Whose interests are being served and whose dissimulated? What forms of knowledge are being produced and promulgated to enable this situation? These are the issues with which we are concerned in this collection, which maps out what Judith Stacey refers to in Chapter 10 as the 'family values terrain'.

But what exactly are 'family values'? At the core of contemporary concerns about the family are changes in family living and household composition. These include the growth of domestic partnerships and decline in the popularity of marriage, as well as growth in the number of divorces, remarriage (serial monogamy), re-formed or step-families, single parenthood, joint custody, abortions, and two-career households. The debates around family values centre on the perceived implications of these changes and their causes and consequences. The main concerns of the 'family values' lobby in Britain and the USA, as identified by Lorraine Fox Harding (in Chapter 6), are stable marriage and child rearing, a gender division of roles, the confinement of sexuality to the permanent married heterosexual unit and the support of these patterns through government policy. In other words, contemporary changes in the family and gender relations are viewed negatively. Social problems tend to be blamed on these changes, in particular the shift from a model of the family in which there is a male breadwinner and an economically dependent female home-maker.

However, family values rhetoric does not stop here. Alongside the attempts of right-wing campaigners to ground policy and political debates in the rhetoric of 'back to basics' family values, the family has also become the focus for those on the patriarchal left, such as Halsey (1993) and Dennis and Erdos (1993).

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