Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Family in the '90S - A New Commitment

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Family in the '90S - A New Commitment

Article excerpt

THANKSGIVING is a time when the family reassembles as a regular act of love. It can also be a time when those gathered around the table quietly reassess their family and come away with a clearer sense of their place in it.

On a larger scale, that kind of reappraisal lies at the heart of a new position paper on the American family, prepared by a bipartisan group called the Communitarian Network in Washington, D.C. As it outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the family and reaffirms the family's central role in American society, the paper mercifully avoids the shrill divisiveness that tainted pre-election discussions about the family.

Led by Amitai Etzioni, a professor at George Washington University, communitarians describe themselves as "a new environmental movement that seeks to shore up the moral, social, and political environment." As one way of accomplishing that goal, they are calling on President-elect Clinton to make pro-family policies a mainstream theme for his administration.

The group maintains that parents hold primary responsibility for children's well-being. They see the two-parent family as the cornerstone of a moral society but emphasize that they are not trying to "put down" anyone whose family doesn't fit that model. They state: "The weight of the historical, sociological, and psychological evidence suggests that, on average, two-parent families are better able to discharge their child-raising duties if only because there are more hands - and voices - available for the task."

Recognizing the first year as vitally important to infants, they recommend a two-part "dovetailed" policy in which babies under a year old would stay home with their parents, and child care would focus on older children. Although they regard the congressional push for 90 days of unpaid leave as "a step in the right direction," they suggest a gradual shift to six months of paid leave, followed by six months of unpaid leave.

Rather than increasing tax exemptions for children, communitarians suggest a child allowance of $600 per child, which would be taxable. Tax credits, they argue, favor rich and middle-class households and discriminate against families in which one parent stays home. …

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