Nontraditional Families: Parenting and Child Development

Nontraditional Families: Parenting and Child Development

Nontraditional Families: Parenting and Child Development

Nontraditional Families: Parenting and Child Development

Excerpt

Social scientists have speculated about and researched parental and family influences on child development for many decades. As sociopolitical philosophies have changed with time, so too have the assumptions and recommendations of social scientists. One assumption has remained consistent, however: the notion that "the ideal family" contains a primary caretaking and housekeeping mother, and a breadwinning father. Consequently, analyses of the family have consistently portrayed this traditional constellation as the most appropriate context in which to raise children. As a result, any and every deviation from "the norm" is usually considered briefly and disparagingly.

Even today, the traditional family is frequently recalled romantically and nostalgically by those who bemoan its demise. Demographers, however, doubt that traditional families were ever as common as these Cassandras imply and social scientists question whether the decline of the nuclear family can legitimately be viewed as the cause of the contemporary social malaise. Certainly, the traditional family is far from being today's norm, but unfortunately, little reliable evidence regarding the effects of 'deviant' family styles was available until recently. The goal of this volume is to review what we know about the effects of nontraditional family styles on parental behavior and child development. The focus is on those deviations that are most common and those whose analysis is most likely to advance our understanding of the socialization process. Thus the volume contains chapters on: families in which both parents are employed outside the home; families in which fathers share child-rearing responsibilities with their wives more equitably than parents in traditional families do; single-parent families headed by both men and women; 'alternative' family styles in which mothers deliberately choose to avoid legal marriage; and the effects of extrafami-

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