Book Reviews -- Painful Inheritance: Health and the New Generation of Fatherless Families by Ronald J. Angel and Jacqueline L. Angel

By Doherty, William J. | Journal of Marriage and Family, February 1995 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- Painful Inheritance: Health and the New Generation of Fatherless Families by Ronald J. Angel and Jacqueline L. Angel


Doherty, William J., Journal of Marriage and Family


Painful Inheritance: Health and the New Generation of Fatherless Families. Ronald J. Angel & Jacqueline L. Angel. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 1994. 288 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-299-13960-3. $52 cloth, $19.95 paper.

This book is an encyclopedic review of the literature on the health consequences for women and children of families without a biological father present in the household. Ronald Angel and Jacqueline Angel lay out their objective explicitly in the preface: "to document the impact of minority group status, gender, and poverty on the physical and mental health of children and adult women in fatherless families" (p. xv).

Eight chapters in the book provide detailed reviews and analyses of the literature on demographic, economic, physical, emotional, and social issues, along with policy recommendations. The authors also present original findings from their own research, illuminating in particular the interactions between class, race/ethnicity, and family structure. In fact, it is this careful attention to these often-overlooked contextual issues that most distinguishes this volume.

The authors note early in the book that this area of research is fraught with ideological conflict. This conflict is often between social conservatives who emphasize the deleterious effects inherent in family structures that lack the presence of a biological father, and social liberals who wish to normalize such families, maintaining that the negative "effects" stem primarily from lack of social and community support rather than from inherent deficiencies of family structure.

Having noted the controversy, the authors proceed to try to have it both ways, without acknowledging the possible contradictions or attempting to resolve or transcend the dichotomies. …

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