Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Race and Family: A Structural Approach

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Race and Family: A Structural Approach

Article excerpt

Coles, Roberta L. RACE AND FAMILY: A STRUCTURAL APPROACH. Sage Publications. ISBN 0-7619-8864-5.

This textbook, written primarily for American students at the college or university level, offers insights into contemporary American culture, provides an interesting perspective with regard to how family issues are studied, places importance on historical factors, and draws attention to the diversity found in American society in terms of racial and ethnic differences. It is a book that is well written, includes a substantial amount of detail with upto-date statistics, presents relevant examples, and at the end of each chapter includes appealing suggestions for additional reading materials, videos and websites. This book has a number of strengths, four of which will be highlighted below.

Firstly, the author provides a good initial overview of the composition of American families in Chapter 2. She notes that family structures have been influenced by various economic factors including occupational structure, income and wealth distribution, and education levels) along with the sex ratio which favours women. The age distribution is reviewed, particularly the population bulge associated with the baby boomers), as is the population of the country, geographic distribution and ethnic differences. In this chapter, she also reveals the historical-legal factors that have influenced family formation (i.e., the impact of years of war and the civil rights movement of the 1960s) and immigration policies (i.e., restrictions on who could enter the country, discriminatory practices and stereotypical attitudes, and immigrant status).

Secondly, the author offers a compelling and unique discussion of gender issues throughout the text, not only in terms of gender stereotypes that have existed in the past in the United States (with regard to femininity, masculinity, and homosexuality), but also the impact of cultural differences. For example, she highlights the early marriage of Asian girls, the practice of honour killings in Pakistan, the veiling of women who follow the Muslim tradition, the genital mutilation of African girls, and the foot-binding custom of China. Within the American milieu, the author emphasizes gender differences relating to African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans and also focuses on gender issues in terms of educational opportunities and the division of labour within the home environment.

Thirdly, the book contains interesting sections on the socialization of children and the various parenting styles that are used (and how such styles are influenced by the cultural and class background of the parents). …

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