Life Without Father

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The American family is changing. Divorce, single parents, and stepfamilies are redefining the way we live together and raise our children. Is this a change for the worse? David Popenoe sets out the case for fatherhood and the two-parent family as the best arrangement for ensuring the well-being and future development of children. His argument has two critical assumptions, which he supports with evidence from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, and history. The first is that children ...
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1996 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. new...Has Remainder mk on bottom edge. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 288 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

The American family is changing. Divorce, single parents, and stepfamilies are redefining the way we live together and raise our children. Is this a change for the worse? David Popenoe sets out the case for fatherhood and the two-parent family as the best arrangement for ensuring the well-being and future development of children. His argument has two critical assumptions, which he supports with evidence from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, and history. The first is that children flourish best when raised by a father and a mother with their differing psychological and behavioral traits. The second is that marriage, which serves to hold fathers to the mother-child bond, is an institution we must strengthen if the decline of fatherhood is to be reversed. "Life without Father is a gracefully written and courageously argued contribution to the national discussion concerning the crisis of fatherlessness ... This book deserves the respectful attention of everyone worried about the consequences of family breakdown in contemporary America." -William A. Galston, University of Maryland at College Park "Written with lucidity and force ... a fine analysis of an urgent culture-wide problem and some remarkably astute recommendations for how we might begin grappling with it." -Maggie Scarf, author of Intimate Worlds: Life inside the Family "Combining compassion with broad scholarship, this book is a thoughtful, sobering contribution that should be widely read and discussed." -Judith S. Wallerstein, Ph.D., author of The Good Marriage David Popenoe is Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, and author of Disturbing the Nest: Family Change and Decline in Modern Societyand The Suburban Environment: Sweden and the United States.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Popenoe follows in the footsteps of David Blankenhorne's Fatherless America (LJ 1/95) with this second major study of American fatherhood. The author, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University, is also cochair of the Council on Families in America. Popenoe's research findings on fatherlessness parallel many of Blankenhorne's. Most notably, children from single-parent families are more prone to poverty, juvenile delinquency, and dropping out of school than their two-parent counterparts. The chief cause: lack of a father role model and difficulties of single-parent supervision. While the author does not negate the value of substitute father figures as does Blankenhorne, he concurs there should be a reversal of the "new family" trend back to traditional nuclear families, with strong emphasis on fatherhood and marriage as basic cultural fundamentals. Popenoe concludes that fathers are indispensable for children and society and that the growing rate of fatherlessness is a looming disaster. Essential for public and academic libraries.-Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Libs., Ind.
Gilbert Taylor
Every unhappy family may be unhappy in its own way, but a common denominator of familial misery is an absent father. To convert doubters of that proposition, sociologist Popenoe offers conclusions pulled from empirical studies, which overlay his frequent enunciation of the child's viewpoint: don't most kids in single-mother households prefer, if given a choice, also having a good father in the family? That 40 percent don't have one occupies Popenoe's search for the root of the problem, which takes him on a historical excursion through the American family from Puritan patriarchy to contemporary patterns of self-defined families. In contemporary patterns, Popenoe detects a source of fatherlessness in "radical individualism." Lest some readers recoil from that thesis, Popenoe takes pains not to idealize the Victorian or the 1950s nuclear family: he admits their stifling aspects but also insists that the responses to them--easy divorce and the elimination of social sanctions against illegitimacy--ineluctably lead to current rates of fatherlessness. Stern but readable analysis similar to David Blankenhorn's "Fatherless America" (1995).
Kirkus Reviews
The "massive erosion" in the role of the father is to blame for drug abuse, violence, depression, and juvenile delinquency, according to Popenoe (Sociology/Rutgers Univ.), and nothing can substitute for the biological, mother-and-father, nuclear family.

The alarming epidemic of vanishing fathers has come about, writes Popenoe, because of skyrocketing divorce rates and "a veritable explosion" of unwed motherhood. While he decries divorce and single-parenting as exemplified by television's Murphy Brown, he rejects the notion that there are acceptable substitutes to the presence of the biological father. According to data (whose source he does not cite), "a child is better off in terms of the chances for overall success in life with a dead rather than a surrogate father." Active fatherhood was crucial to human evolution, and fathers, Popenoe contends, have a unique, essential role to play in parenting. Children, he stresses, "need a committed male and female couple," and marriage must be reestablished as a strong social institution. The role of fatherhood itself must be redefined by rethinking what he says are traditionally negative male attitudes toward gentle nurturing, housework, cooking, doing laundry, and other once-womanly chores. Men must strive for an active role as parents, but at the same time they must eschew the idea of role reversal. Popenoe looks toward tax and governmental policies that reward men who stay married and calls for revamped welfare programs intended to actively promote marriage. He doesn't explain how to go about it but wants divorces to be more difficult to obtain when there are children.

Vacuous and warmed-over solutions aside, his contention that the two-parent, nuclear family is the only healthy familial unit denies both history and reality.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684822976
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 4/5/1996
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
1 The Remarkable Decline of Fatherhood and Marriage 19
2 The Human Carnage of Fatherlessness 52
3 Victorian Fathers and the Rise of the Modern Nuclear Family 81
4 The Shrinking Father and the Fall of the Nuclear Family 109
5 What Do Fathers Do? 139
6 The Essential Father 164
7 Reclaiming Fatherhood and Marriage 191
Notes 229
Index 265
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