Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Family Change and Family Policies in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Family Change and Family Policies in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States

Article excerpt

KAMERMAN, Sheila B. and Alfred J. KAHN, FAMILY CHANGE AND FAMILY POLICIES IN GREAT BRITAIN,CANADA, NEWZEALAND, AND THE UNITED STATES.* New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997, 463pp., $135.00 hardcover.

This book provides a social history of demographic and policy changes related to families with children in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. The editors' introduction describes the shared characteristics of family policy in these countries, with a particular focus on the fact that none of these countries has a coherent "family policy" per se. Rather, each country addresses family policy through a series of largely unrelated policy decisions in a variety of social arenas. They emphasize the fact that family policies are both implicit and explicit, have both intended and inadvertent consequences, and may either arise in response to family change or serve as a catalyst for such change.

A section of approximately 100 pages is devoted to each of the countries, organized into five sections focusing on family formation, labor force participation, income and financial assistance, social services, and politics and institutions. Each section provides a good overview of the material, including many of the demographic, social, economic, legal, and political changes that have affected families in each country. While the focus is primarily on the period from 1960 to the early 1990s, the authors integrate a longer historical context within which to understand the changes that have occurred. The book will serve as good reference material for this period; however, given the rapid pace of policy change, some of the current policy descriptions in the book are already outdated. For example, there is an extensive description of the U.S. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which was abolished in 1996 and replaced by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); the new program receives little attention in the volume.

The only chapter of the book explicitly devoted to direct comparison across the four countries is the editors' introduction, which largely focuses on similarities between the four countries as a means of justifying their inclusion in the same volume. …

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