Feminism, Children, and the New Families

Feminism, Children, and the New Families

Feminism, Children, and the New Families

Feminism, Children, and the New Families


Feminism, as a social movement, began by emphasizing the interests of women. This book moves beyond that initial agenda by also considering the interests of children and men. As women's roles expand, it becomes evident that the goals of women are harmonious with the interests of children, and seldom in conflict with those of men. The loosening of traditional family roles and the emerging diversity in family forms provide flexibility not only for women, but for all family members. Family policy and practice must take into account these changes and challenges brought about by the new families. FEMINISM, CHILDREN, AND THE NEW FAMILIES paves the way.


This book is an outgrowth of a project entitled "Public Policy Implications of Perceived Conflicts Between Children's Interests and Feminists' Interests," supported by the Ford Foundation. The Ford grant enabled us to assemble a group of interested scholars drawn from the faculty of Stanford University and visitors to that campus. A series of group meetings helped to set general guidelines for areas of interest and for the style of the enterprise. Three persons provided leadership for the group: sociologist Lenore Weitzman, formerly of the Department of Sociology at Stanford and now on the faculty of the Department of Sociology at Harvard; economist Myra H. Strober, on the faculty at the Stanford School of Education, and formerly the Director of the Stanford Center for Research on Women; and sociologist Sanford M. Dornbusch, Director of the Stanford Center for the Study of Families, Children, and Youth and a faculty member of the Stanford Department of Sociology and the Program in Human Biology.

In addition to the authors of the chapters, the participants in our discussions came from a broad cross-section of Stanford University. Persons who assisted include: P. Herbert Leiderman, a psychiatrist; LaDoris Cordell, Catherine MacKinnon, Robert Mnookin, and Michael Wald from the Law School; the late Michelle Rosaldo and Sylvia Yanagisako, anthropologists; Estelle Freedman and Carl Degler, historians; Diane Middlebrook from the English Department; Eleanor Maccoby, psychologist; William J. Goode, Alex Inkeles, and Seymour Martin Lipset, sociologists; and Victor Fuchs, economist. We thank them for their suggestions and criticisms.

This enterprise grew out of discussions between two groups of scholars at Stanford: those at the Center for Research on Women (CROW), (now the Institute for Research on Women and Gender), who have been studying feminist ideology and changing gender roles, and those at the Stanford Center for the Study of Families, Children, and Youth, who have been investigating processes of development in childhood and adolescence. Each group had been broadening its research focus and each wished to learn about the other's theories, research findings, and policy prescriptions. The Ford Foundation felt it important that we explore the public policy implications of putting together these perspectives.

Feminist writers have placed women at the center of their analyses and have not usually examined the interests of others. This emphasis on women's interests has served to redress past imbalances, where often the interests . . .

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