The Age of Independence: Interracial Unions, Same-Sex Unions, and the Changing American Family / Edition 1

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Michael Rosenfeld offers a new theory of family dynamics to account for the interesting and startling changes in marriage and family composition in the United States in recent years. His argument revolves around the independent life stage that emerged around 1960. This stage is experienced by young adults after they leave their parents' homes but before they settle down to start their own families. During this time, young men and women go away to college, travel abroad, begin careers, and enjoy social independence. This independent life stage has reduced parental control over the dating practices and mate selection of their children and has resulted in a sharp rise in interracial and same-sex unions—unions that were more easily averted by previous generations of parents.

Complementing analysis of newly available census data from the entire twentieth century with in-depth interviews that explore the histories of families and couples, Rosenfeld proposes a conceptual model to explain many social changes that may seem unrelated but that flow from the same underlying logic. He shows, for example, that the more a relationship is transgressive of conventional morality, the more likely it is for the individuals to live away from their family and area of origin.

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Editorial Reviews

Family Forum
The book offers an original argument about the sources of family change, and about the past and future of the American family.
International Journal of Sociology of the Family
Rosenfeld's book is meticulously researched, carefully argued, and beautifully written, and it deserves a place on the "must-read" list of social demographers as well as other social scientists working in the areas of family, race and sexuality...This book has so much going for it that I believe it is destined to rank as a classic in the fields of family demography and sociology of the family.
— Kathleen E. Hull
Population and Development Review
Michael Rosenfeld's The Age of Independence is perhaps the most intellectually provocative study of family change in the United States to be published in the past decade. Weaving together strands of literature from social history, demography, and cultural movements, it proposes an explanation of how and why Americans shifted their marriage practices to embrace greater tolerance for "alternative unions," including cohabitation and interracial and same-sex partnerships...The Age of Independence, slim in pages but not in content, is engaging reading and should be especially attractive to those of us who are always on the lookout for worthy books for graduate seminars on the family...Rosenfeld's book provides a rich lode of ideas for empirical examination. Whether he is right or wrong in all of the particulars, he has written a valuable book.
— Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674024977
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.41 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael J. Rosenfeld is Associate Professor of Sociology at Stanford University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     vii
Introduction     1
Family Government     18
The Independent Life Stage     42
The Rise of Alternative Unions     66
Alternative Unions and the Independent Life Stage     85
Childhood     124
The Rise of Tolerance     138
Privacy and the Law     156
Same-Sex Marriage and the Future of the American Family     169
Appendix Tables     191
Notes     203
Index     261
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2007

    A reviewer

    This is a terrific book about changing attitudes toward marriage in America. I'm very interested in the topic 'mostly because my girlfriend thinks I should be', but I was afraid the writing would be too technical for me. In fact it's an easy read, well-written and to the point. It really opened up the subject for me. Rosenfeld covers non-traditional unions in America from a variety of angles 'historical, cultural, statistical, and legal, among others' and includes compelling narratives from the lives of gay and interracial couples. I came away with a new appreciation for the subtleties of the issues involved, and was convinced by his analysis of the factors influencing progressive change in this country. Marriage is one of those topics for which 'expert' opinions are offered freely. Everyone from my green-grocer to my aunt Gertrude seems to be ready to tell me who should and shouldn't be married. I'd like to buy a dozen copies of this book and hand it out to all of them. If you're at all interested in the institution of marriage, this book is a must-read.

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