The Futility of Family Policy

The Futility of Family Policy

The Futility of Family Policy

The Futility of Family Policy

Excerpt

Important changes have taken place over the last ten or fifteen years in the way American public policy addresses some fundamental questions of domestic relations. For example, the general easing of divorce law and the constitutional protection afforded abortion brought public policy closer to social reality than it was when terminating a marriage or terminating a pregnancy was either discouraged or virtually proscribed in most of the United States. But the fusion of law and practice in these matters does not stop many Americans from regretting present realities, or from searching for ways to reduce the incidence of separation and divorce, abortion, and such other deviations from traditional family life as unmarried cohabitation, adolescent parenthood, and neglect or abuse of dependents. One manifestation of that search is interest in a national family policy.

In this book, Gilbert Y. Steiner explores the prospects for defining a national family policy. He traces the uses of the family policy idea by several national administrations, and weighs its value as a political theme. Part two of his book turns to hard cases, what Steiner terms "intractable problems" that nonetheless must be confronted by a national family policy. In part three, a discussion of European responses to the family problem focuses on their transferability and relevance to the American political situation. Finally, Steiner sums up the evidence to suggest the futility of an overarching political solution to the complex value questions raised by the range of family troubles.

Gilbert Y. Steiner is a senior fellow in the Brookings Governmental Studies program. For thoughtful review of and critical comment on a draft of the manuscript, he acknowledges particular indebtedness to Martha Derthick, director of Governmental Studies at Brookings, Mary Jo Bane of Harvard University, and Robert Lampman of the University of Wisconsin. Louise Steiner assisted in the interviews of European respondents reported in chapter 6. The text was typed by Donna Daniels Verdier . . .

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