Disturbing The Nest / Edition 1

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Disturbing the Nest assesses the future of the family as an institution through an historical and comparative analysis of the nature, causes, and social implications of family change in advanced western societies such as the United States, New Zealand, and Switzerland by focusing on the one society in which family decline is found to be the greatest, Sweden.

The founding of the modern Swedish welfare state was based in large part on the belief that it was necessary for the state to intervene in society in order to improve the situation of the family. Of great concern was the low birthrate, which was seen as a threat to the very survival of Swedes as a national population group. The Social Democrats pioneered welfare measures that aimed to strengthen the family, to alleviate its worst trials and tribulations, and to make possible harmonious living. With the Social Democrats remaining in power continuously until 1976, a period of almost forty-five years, Sweden went on to implement governmental "family policies" that are among the most comprehensive (and expensive) in the world.

In view of this major policy goal of family improvement, the actual situation of the Swedish family today presents a genuine irony; some have claimed that Swedish welfare state policies have had consequences that are the opposite of those originally intended. Comparing contemporary Swedish family patterns with those of other advanced nations, one finds a very high family dissolution rate, probably the highest in the Western world, and a high percentage of single-parent, female headed families. Even marriage seems to have fallen increasingly out of favor, with Sweden having the lowest marriage rate and latest age of first marriage, and the highest rate of children born out-of-wedlock. The early pronatalist aspirations of the Swedish government have been spectacularly unsuccessful, as Sweden continues to have one of the world's lowest birthrates and smallest average family sizes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Disturbing the Nest provides an excellent, empirically supported sociological analysis of the family. Popenoe’s book is more than a discussion about family change, it is a picture of the future post-nuclear family in modernized(ing) nations… Popenoe succeeds in placing the family at the center of society, and without moralizing, he challenges the citizenry to be socially responsible for preserving and supporting our greatest national attribute, the cultural value of famialism.”

—Kimberly A. Folse, Sociological Inquiry

Disturbing the Nest is based on a simple but provocative thesis: The family in postindustrial nations is in decline and the society that most manifests this decline is Sweden, usually regarded as a model for progressive family policy… Popenoe presents statistics to show how all these trends are well entrenched in Sweden.”

—Linda Haas, Journal of Marriage and Family

“During the last quarter century the family in industrialized countries has undergone a transformation from the closely knit nuclear family of the era immediately following World War II to the less stable post-nuclear form of today. Rising rates of cohabition and procreation outside of marriage, high and rising rates of dissolution of unions, and low fertility are among the characteristics of the post-nuclear family that cause concern to many… Popenoe’s analysis focuses primarily on Sweden, where he considers the decline to have proceeded the furthest… Popenoe has produced a significant book on an important topic and has given us a useful framework for comparative analysis.”

—Alison McIntosh, Population and Development Review

“The book raises a number of important questions for sociologists, policy-makers, and social workers the world over… It is important for its presentation of the subject, for the wealth of up-to-date information it provides in tracing the development of this type of family, and for making the reader aware of the positive and negative implications of the post-nuclear family for the individual, the community, and the entire society.”

—Ruth Katz, European Sociological Review

“In this provocative and ambitious book David Popenoe sets out to describe and explain long-term changes in family life in Western societies… The book is successful in laying out a number of interesting hypotheses. It should help motivate cross-cultural comparative studies of family change to evaluate the impacts of socioeconomic, cultural, and governmental factors on family life, an agenda that is becoming increasingly important for scientific and public policy issues related to the family and individual well-being.”

—Arland Thornton, Contemporary Sociology

“David Popenoe’s Disturbing the Nest is no ordinary jeremiad about the decline of the family. Popenoe posits a global trend of family deinstitutionalization in advanced societies; he maintains that we are now entering a post-nuclear-family era… Using the rich ethnographic sources on the Swedish family, Popenoe describes the evolution of family patterns and norms.”

—Barbara Hobson, American Journal of Sociology

“David Popenoe hereby joins the ranks of the decline theory of family sociology, a membership that stretches back to the 19thcentury and includes sociologists of conservative and radical persuasion alike… His main concern here is to underline the connection between on the one hand the weakening of family and on the other the increase in the cultural value that individualism is given by society. He shows how this change in cultural values can have serious consequences for the relationship between adults, between children and adults and note the least for children, whom he sees as the real losers in this harsh game.”

—Lis Höjgaard, Acta Sociologica

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Product Details

Meet the Author

David Popenoe is professor of sociology emeritus and was co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. He is the author or editor of numerous books and articles and as co-chair of the Council on Families in America, he was the primary author of its pioneering 1995 report Marriage in America: A Report to the Nation. Some of his other works include Promises to Keep: Decline and Renewal of Marriage in America and War Over the Family.

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