A Historical Analysis of the Presentation of Abortion and Adoption in Marriage and Family Textbooks: 1950-1987

By Hall, Elaine J.; Stolley, Kathy Shepherd | Family Relations, January 1997 | Go to article overview

A Historical Analysis of the Presentation of Abortion and Adoption in Marriage and Family Textbooks: 1950-1987


Hall, Elaine J., Stolley, Kathy Shepherd, Family Relations


This paper is a content analysis of the depiction of abortion and adoption in 62 marriage and family textbooks published from 1951 through 1987. Findings document that the differential constructions of abortion and adoption are long-standing features of textbooks: Books devote more attention to abortion than to adoption, and cast abortion as a macro, societal issue while depicting adoption as a micro issue. Thematic analysis suggests the influence of societal events, such as legalization of abortion, and of a legacy of a structural-functional theoretical orientation in family studies. Implications for teaching as well as for future research are discussed.

Since its inception, the field of marriage and family studies has focused on the formation, operation, and dissolution of "the family" as a social unit. One aspect of this general topic concerns the alternatives available to individuals and couples regarding pregnancy. The first decision is to parent or not; when a decision is made not to parent, the two most common options are to abort and to relinquish the child for adoption. Abortion and adoption tend to be paired in discussions about pregnancy resolution not only in other research (Stolley & Hall, 1994) but also in general discussions. We find in our classes, for example, that discussions about the right to legal access to abortion often incorporate adoption as "the" option that can, or to some should, be substituted for abortion when parenting the child is not chosen.

This research examines how marriage and family studies discuss the two nonparenting pregnancy-resolution options of abortion and adoption. Specifically, we performed a content analysis of the presentation of abortion and adoption in a sample of 62 marriage and family textbooks that span four decades from the 1950s through the 1980s. We are interested in textbooks because they capture the current paradigms of a discipline (Kuhn, 1970). "While textbooks ordinarily do not represent an outlet for new knowledge, they do give an indication of the state of the field's development" at a given time (Klein & Smith, 1985, p. 211). Even in a multi-dimensional field such as family studies, textbooks that survey the field for novice students provide an encapsulated codification of the primary theories, concepts, topics, and research findings. Research on marriage and family textbooks has documented the selective presentations of various social issues (Spanier & Stump, 1978), including abortion and adoption (Stolley & Hall, 1994), Black families (Bryant & Coleman, 1988), stepfamilies (Nolan, Coleman, & Ganong, 1984; Coleman, Ganong, & Goodwin, 1994), incest (Marciano, 1982), and the elderly (Dressel & Avant, 1978; Stolley & Hill, 1996). As educators we need to identify the selective construction of social issues in textbooks before we can adequately evaluate the implications of the "knowledge" that is provided on these issues to our students.

We engage in a historical analysis for three reasons. First, historical analysis allows us to trace the development of particular constructions of abortion and adoption already identified in current textbooks (Stolley & Hall, 1994). Their study found that "abortion and adoption are presented in different ways and as different problems and solutions" (p. 272) in 27 marriage and family textbooks published from 1988 through 1993. In brief, discussions of abortion received greater coverage than adoption, emphasized a macro-level perspective, and omitted women's voices about their experiences. In contrast, adoption was primarily treated at the micro level, particularly in terms of the interests of adoptive parents, without addressing the social context in which individuals in the adoptive triangle operated. Thus, we ask if family studies has consistently applied a macro focus to the discussion of abortion and a micro focus to adoption over time or only recently?

Second, historical analysis is well suited to the examination of changing theoretical orientations in family studies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Historical Analysis of the Presentation of Abortion and Adoption in Marriage and Family Textbooks: 1950-1987
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.