Book Reviews -- Families under Stress: Community, Work, and Economic Change by Stewart Crysdale

By Hayford, Alison | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Autumn 1994 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- Families under Stress: Community, Work, and Economic Change by Stewart Crysdale


Hayford, Alison, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


CRYSDALE, Stewart, FAMILIES UNDER STRESS: Community, Work and Economic Change. Toronto, Ontario.: Thompson Educational Publishing, Inc., 1991, 151 pp., $14.95 softcover.

The title of Families Under Stress: Community, Work, and Economic Change promises a lot. Sociological perspective on the family have changed over the last 30 years, and the family, once viewed almost as an institution-in-itself, is now seen as an integral and changeable part of society as a whole. A study such as this one promises to be, of families as they develop within communities, as they are tied in to processes of work, and as they are affected by the economy, would seem to be just what we need not only for courses on the sociology of the family, but for such courses as urban sociology and social problems as well.

Unfortunately, Stewart Crysdale's book is not the work we're looking for. Its aims are laudable--an integrative longitudinal approach covering two decades of change (1966-1986) in a Toronto neighbourhood. Indeed, one strength of the book is the author's sense of the neighbourhood; in this, Crysdale's work is in the Chicago tradition of community studies in which researchers wear out shoe leather as well as reams of paper. The book follows this tradition in other ways as well--its use of both quantitative and qualitative data and its integration of statements by research subjects into the text. But in the end, this work doesn't hold together in the way that the good Chicago community studies did; it tries to do too much, and succeeds at little.

There are a number of serious weaknesses in this book. One is that while the author promises to look at change over two decades, he doesn't really have the data to do this. Approaches to social research have changed considerably over the last 30 years, and the studies used as sources of data for this book, each reflecting to some extent the dominant approaches of its era, had different goals and are not fully comparable. Research design was different in each decade, with the projects in 1966 and 1976 using questionnaires that provided codable data (but differing from each other in some important ways), while the 1980s research was largely qualitative. …

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