All Our Families: New Policies for a New Century

All Our Families: New Policies for a New Century

All Our Families: New Policies for a New Century

All Our Families: New Policies for a New Century


Debates about the family have often focused on the idealized family of the 1950s-middle class - two parents & two children. This book looks at the majority of American families who do not live this ideal, including divorced families & step-families.


Mary Ann Mason,Arlene Skolnick and Stephen D. Sugarman

Teen pregnancy. Single mothers. Divorce. Child abuse and neglect. Most of us could add other items to the litany of problems said to be afflicting the American family. Indeed, in the 1990s, worry over the family has become a national obsession. Each day, the media serve up new stories and statistics documenting that marriage is going the way of the horse and buggy, that we are becoming a nation without fathers, and that, as a result, children are suffering and society is falling apart. The breakdown of the family is taken for granted as a simple social fact. The only question is who or what is to blame and how can we restore the family to the way we imagine it used to be.

The authors of this book think that something is seriously wrong with this approach to the American family. To be sure, family life has changed over the past few decades -- in America and in every other Western society. Nor do we mean to minimize the stresses and troubles that beset all too many families -- indeed, this book focuses on some of the most disturbing of them. But the facts about family life are far more complex than they seem. Indeed, to speak of "the family" often obscures more than it reveals. Families today do come in many varieties -- two-parent, singleparent, stepfamilies, gay and lesbian families, foster families, and so on. More important, different families, located at different points in the American social structure, face different problems and pose different policy challenges.

In thinking about the family, a historical perspective can be revealing. Anxiety about the family is nothing new. Every generation of Amer-

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