Marriages and Families : Changes, Choices, and Constraints / Edition 4

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Exceptionally comprehensive, innately interesting, and extremely readable, this best-selling exploration of contemporary marriages and families examines the diversity of American families--giving equal attention to all racial, ethnic, and other societal groups--and examines not only the choices, but the constraints that often limit our family-related choices today. Although written from a sociological perspective, it incorporates material from other disciplines as well--e.g., history, economics, social work, psychology, law, biology, and anthropology--all supported by both quantitative and qualitative research--most from the mid to late 1990s. Its open-minded approach, combined with a set of practical guidelines in each chapter, provide readers with a veritable handbook for understanding and dealing with the dynamics marriage and family life today. The Changing Family. Studying Marriage and the Family. The Family in Historical Perspective. Gender Roles and Socialization. Love and Loving Relationships. Sexuality and Sexual Expression Throughout Life. Dating and Mate Selection. Singlehood, Cohabitation, and Other Living Arrangements. Marriage and Communication in Intimate Relationships. To Be Or Not To Be a Parent. Raising Children: Contemporary Prospects and Pitfalls. Racial-Ethnic Families. Families and Work. Family Violence and Other Crisis-Related Issues. Separation and Divorce. Remarriage and Stepfamilies. Aging and Family Life: Grandparents, the Widowed, and Caregivers. For anyone who deals with families.
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Editorial Reviews

In this revamped 1996 edition, Benokraitis (criminology, criminal justice, and social policy; U. of Baltimore) incorporates new research, surveys, media illustrations, and Internet sites; and adds chapter opening outlines. The author maintains her global, cross- cultural perspective on the evolution of the family along with offering provocative questions, examples, and a data digest. Supplementary multimedia materials for both students and instructors include the New York Times "Themes of the Times" program, PowerPoint slide set/CD-ROM, and an online resource and study guide. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130341778
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 570
  • Product dimensions: 10.16 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Marriage and the Family in Perspective 1
Ch. 1 The Changing Family 2
Ch. 2 Studying Marriage and the Family 26
Ch. 3 The Family in Historical Perspective 49
Pt. 2 The Individual and the Developing Relationship 75
Ch. 4 Gender Roles: More Choices, More Constraints 76
Ch. 5 Love Is a Many-Splendoured Thing...or Is It? 105
Ch. 6 Learning to Be Sexual 131
Ch. 7 Sexual Expression throughout the Life Course 160
Pt. 3 Individual and Marital Commitments 189
Ch. 8 Becoming a Couple: Dating, Rating, and Mating 190
Ch. 9 Singlehood and Other Alternatives to Traditional Families 216
Ch. 10 Marriage and Marital Communication 238
Pt. 4 Parents and Children 269
Ch. 11 Becoming a Parent: Planning and Having Children 270
Ch. 12 Raising Children: Contemporary Prospects and Pitfalls 301
Ch. 13 Racial-Ethnic Families: Stereotypes, Stresses, and Strengths 330
Pt. 5 Conflicts and Crises 359
Ch. 14 Families and Work: Facing the Economic Squeeze 360
Ch. 15 The Violent Family and Health-Related Issues 392
Ch. 16 Separation and Divorce 423
Pt. 6 Changes and Transitions 451
Ch. 17 Remarriage and Stepfamilies: Life after Divorce 452
Ch. 18 Aging and Family Life: Grandparenting, Death of Spouse, and Care Giving 473
Ch. 19 The Family in the Twenty-First Century 502
Appendix A: Sexual Anatomy 523
Appendix B: The Evolution of the Sexual Revolution 526
Appendix C: Contraceptive Techniques 528
Appendix D: Sexually Transmitted Diseases 534
Appendix E: Nonmarital and Premarital Agreements 536
Appendix F: Conception, Pregnancy, and Childbirth 541
Appendix G: State-by-State Laws on Divorce, Child Custody, and Child Support 547
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Welcome to the fourth edition of Marriages and Families: Changes, Choices, and Constraints. As we embark on the new millennium, we are experiencing unprecedented changes that affect marriages and families. The shift in the racial and ethnic composition of the U.S. population is transforming families. As the number and variety of immigrants increase, the way we relate to each other becomes both more interesting and more complex. Medical technology continues to alter life spans. As this book goes to press, for example, a premature infant weighing only four ounces is thriving. At the other end of the life course, the number of people age 65 and over is surging. Living longer means that many of us will enjoy multigenerational families but will also have numerous elderly relatives who will need caregiving.

Other recent changes have also affected families. A booming economy during the 1990s has propelled some families into higher socioeconomic brackets but left many others poorer than ever. Though some complain about the "information overload," widespread access to the Internet has connected family members across the states and overseas. There has also been a groundswell of supporters who oppose divorce as well as a concerted effort to identify unwed fathers and enforce their financial child-support obligations.

Marriages and Families offers students a comprehensive introduction to these and other issues facing families in the twenty-first century. Although written from a sociological perspective, the book incorporates material from other disciplines—history, economics, social work, psychology, law, biology, and anthropology. Moreover, the researchthat supports this edition, most from the mid-1990s to early 2000s, encompasses both quantitative and qualitative studies. Nationally representative and longitudinal data are supplemented with insights from clinical, case, and observational studies.

A Continuity of Major Themes on the Contemporary Family

Marriages and Families continues to be distinguished from other textbooks in several important ways. It offers comprehensive coverage of the field, allowing instructors to select chapters that best suit their particular needs. It balances theoretical and empirical discussions with practical examples and applications. It highlights important contemporary changes in society and the family. It explores the choices that are available to family members as well as the constraints that often limit our choices. It examines the diversity of U.S. families, using cross-cultural and multicultural material to encourage students to think about the many critical issues that confront the family of the twenty-first century.

More Changes

Changes that are affecting the structure and functioning of today's family inform the pages of every chapter of this book. Also, several chapters focus on some major transformations in American society. Chapter 12, for example, examines the growing cultural diversity of the United States, focusing on African American, American Indian, Latino, Asian American, and interracial marriages and families. Chapter 17 discusses the ways in which the rapid "graying of America" has affected adult children and grandchildren, family members' roles as caregivers, and family relations in general. And Chapter 18 analyzes some of the social policy changes that affect the family.

More Choices

On the individual level, family members have many more choices today than ever before. People feel freer to postpone marriage, to cohabit, or to raise children as single parents. As a result, household forms vary greatly, ranging from commuter marriages to those in which several generations live together under the same roof. As reproductive technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, many infertile couples can now have children. Some states offer "covenant marriages" and mediation to stem the high divorce rates. And as the U.S. population continues to age, many elderly family members are implementing innovative housing arrangements (such as senior communes) and demanding legislation that allows them to die with dignity. Although some of these issues are highly controversial, they increase the options that family members have now and will enjoy in the future.

More Constraints

Although family members' choices are more varied today, we also face greater macro-level constraints. Our options are increasingly limited, for example, by government policies that ignore national health insurance coverage for families and child-care resources for middle-class and lower socioeconomic households. Economic changes often shape family life and not vice versa. Political and legal institutions also have a major impact on most families in terms of tax laws, welfare reform, and even in defining what a family is. Because laws, public policies, and religious groups affect our everyday lives, I have framed many discussions of individual choice within the larger picture of the institutional constraints that limit those choices.

Cross-Cultural and Multicultural Diversity

Because contemporary American marriages and families vary greatly in terms of structure, dynamics, and cultural heritage, discussions of gender roles, class, race, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation are integrated throughout this book. To further strengthen students' understanding of the growing diversity among today's families, I have also included a series of boxes that focus on families from many cultures. Both text and boxed materials are intended to broaden students' cultural "pool of knowledge" (as one of my college professors used to say) and to encourage you, the student, to think about the many forms families may take and the different ways in which family members interact.

New and Expanded Topics

In most chapters "a global view" adds new material to either the Data Digest or text. In addition, many chapters include more examples from the popular culture (television, videos, movies) to which students relate. Specifically, new, updated, and expanded coverage includes the following:

  • Updated and streamlined section on demographic changes, social class and racial-ethnic variations in using technological innovations, and the rise of social movements such as communitarianism, father's rights, and "saving marriages" (Chapter 1)
  • More emphasis on applied research in family studies, Internet-based research, and updates on ethical issues (Chapter 2)
  • New material on misconceptions about slavery (Chapter 3)
  • Updates on the nature-nurture debate and the gender division of family labor, and new material on the effects of violent video games and the recent interest in raising boys in "toxic environments" (Chapter 4)
  • New material on cyberstalking, narcissistic love, arranged marriages, and romance among older persons (Chapter 5)
  • Recent research on the genetics and politics of sexual orientation, sexual scripts among racial-ethnic families, teen-parent lack of communication about sexual behavior, changing attitudes about gay rights, and HIV/AIDS among gays and heterosexual black women and Latinas (Chapter 6)
  • New material on personal classified ads, Filipina mail-order brides, cyber romances, new rape drugs, and dating infidelity among college students (Chapter 7)
  • Civil unions in Vermont, cohousing communities, singles penalty taxes, life satisfaction of older, never-married people, cohabitation by race-ethnicity, and recent cultural shifts that encourage cohabitation (Chapter 8)
  • New data on marital satisfaction, domestic work, and interpersonal communication (Chapter 9)
  • New material on first-time parents, international adoptions, open adoptions, the decline of unmarried teen births, updates on reproductive technology, fatherhood, and variations in unmarried births by race, ethnicity, and age (Chapter 10)
  • New material on parental responsibility statutes, psychological aggression as a form of discipline, day care, and parenting during a child's early years (Chapter 11)
  • Section on American Indians revised extensively, new material on intergenerational relationships, the model minority myth, and parenting in black families (Chapter 12)
  • New material on middle-class families and work, a discussion of the "old economy" and the "new economy" and their effect on families, stay-at-home dads, black commuter marriages, and the increasing gender wage gap (Chapter 13)
  • Recent research on sibling abuse and elder abuse, domestic violence against women worldwide (including honor killings), intimate violence by race-ethnicity and marital status, and suicide among American Indian youth (Chapter 14)
  • New information on technology and getting a divorce, child support by race-ethnicity and gender, changing attitudes about divorce, and divorced parents who act like peers (Chapter 15)
  • Recent research on lesbian stepfamilies, successful stepfamilies, and longitudinal studies on remarriage (Chapter 16)
  • New material on centenarians, aging stereotypes (especially about women), grandparenting styles, grandparents' visitation rights, funeral rip-offs, and variations in racial-ethnic caregiving (Chapter 17)
  • Revised and updated sections on national health insurance, the Canadian health care system, the 1996 welfare reforms, and some results of Oregon's assisted suicide legislation (Chapter 18)

Features in the Fourth Edition

Much of Marriages and Families has been revised to incorporate new research (both in print and on the Internet), recent surveys, and current examples and illustrations from the media. I have maintained several popular features such as the Data Digest and the author's files quotations. In response to student and reviewer comments, I have revised many figures and end-of-chapter materials, including the Taking It Further sections.

Data Digest

I introduced the Data Digest in the second edition because "all those numbers" from the Census Bureau, empirical studies, and demographic trends often overwhelm students (both mine and others'). Because this has been a popular feature, I've updated the U.S. information and have included data from other countries. The Data Digest that introduces each chapter not only provides students with a thought-provoking overview of current statistics and trends but makes "all those numbers" more interesting and digestible.

The first question from my students is usually, "Will this stuff be on the exam?" Not in my classes. I see the Data Digest as piquing student curiosity about the chapter rather than for memorizing a lot of numbers they can look up. Some faculty tell me that their students have used the Data Digest to develop class presentations or course papers.

Material from the Author's Flies

Many faculty who reviewed previous editions of Marriages and Families, and many students as well, liked the anecdotes and personal experiences with which I illustrate sometimes "dry" theories and abstract concepts. In this new edition I weave more of this material into the text. Thus, many examples from discussions in my own classes are included (cited as "from author's files") to enliven theoretical perspectives and abstract concepts.


Many students tend to skip over figures (or tables) because they're afraid of numbers, don't trust statistics (see Chapter 2), or the material seems boring or complicated. Regardless of what textbooks I use, and in all the courses I teach, I routinely go over a number of figures in class because, as I tell my students, a good figure or table may be more important (or at least more memorable) than the author's explanation. To encourage students' looking at data, I have streamlined many figures and often provide brief summaries to accompany the figures.

Taking It Further

A common question from my own students has been, "Can't we do something about issue X?" And sometimes students have asked me for practical information—for example, "How can I find a good child-care center?" or "Can anyone help my sister get out of an abusive marriage?" The Taking It Further section addresses such questions and concerns. It tells students how to get information on particular topics; how to get personal assistance—such as counseling or therapy—for themselves or others; how to contact organizations that deal with specific problems; and provides URLs for a wealth of Internet sites that delve deeper into topics discussed in each chapter. Some of the Websites are fun (like love and dating), some provide up-to-date information (especially many of the Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control sites), and others offer practical advice and community resources on the workplace, family research, aging, sex and sexually transmitted diseases, gender, sexual orientation, and many other family-related topics.

What is on the Internet today may be gone tomorrow. I have tried, therefore, to include only the Websites that have been around for a while and will not vanish overnight.

Pedagogical Features

The pedagogical features in Marriages and Families have been designed specifically to capture students' attention and to facilitate their understanding and recall of the material. Some of these features are familiar from the earlier editions but some are new. Each has been carefully crafted to ensure that it ties in clearly with the text material, enhancing its meaning and applicability.

Informative and Engaging Illustration Program

Many chapters contain figures that, in bold and original artistic designs, demonstrate such concepts as the exchange theory of dating, romantic versus lasting love, and theories of mating and that present simple statistics in innovative and visually appealing ways. More than a third of the photographs are new. We have taken great care to select substantive photographs (rather than what I call "pretty postcards") that illustrate the text.

Thought-Provoking Box Series

Reflecting and reinforcing the book's primary themes, three categories of boxes focus on the changes, choices, and constraints that confront today's families. A fourth category discusses cultural differences, and a fifth, self-assessment quizzes, helps students evaluate their own knowledge and acquire insights about family life.

  • Changes boxes—some historical, some anecdotal, and some empirically-based—show how marriages and families have been changing or are expected to change in the future. For example, a box in Chapter 13 describes how the role of the working mother has evolved over the years.
  • Choices boxes illustrate the kinds of decisions families can make to improve their well-being, often highlighting options of which family members may be unaware. In Chapter 10, for instance, a box shows what mothers and fathers can do to increase the likelihood of having healthy babies.
  • Constraints boxes illustrate some of the obstacles that limit our options. They highlight the fact that although most of us are raised to believe that we can do whatever we want, we are often constrained by macro-level socioeconomic, demographic, and cultural factors. For example, a box on the ten biggest myths about the African American family reveals some of the stereotypes that black families confront on a daily basis.
  • Cross-Cultural/Multicultural boxes illustrate the richness of varying family structures and dynamics, both within the United States and in other countries. For example, one box contrasts the American style of dating with arranged courtship and marriage in Muslim societies.
  • Ask Yourself Self-assessment quizzes not only encourage students to think about and to evaluate their knowledge about marriage and the family but help them develop guidelines for action, both on their own and others' behalf. For example, "If This Is Love, Why Do I Feel So Bad?" helps the reader evaluate and make the decision to leave an abusive relationship.


Each chapter contains an opening outline. The outlines help students organize their learning by focusing on the main topics of each chapter.

Key Terms and Glossary

Important terms and concepts, boldfaced and defined in the text, are listed at the end of each chapter. All key terms and their definitions are repeated in the Glossary at the end of the book.


The supplements package for this textbook is of exceptional quality. Each component has been meticulously crafted to amplify and illuminate materials in the text itself.

Study Guide

This carefully written guide helps students better understand the material presented in the text. Each chapter consists of chapter summaries, definitions of key terms/concepts, critical thinking exercises geared to the questions in the text, a self-test questions page referenced to the text, and Study Tips written by the author.

Instructor's Manual with Tests

This essential instructor's tool includes detailed chapter outlines, teaching objectives, discussion questions, and classroom activities. Prepared by Lee Frank of Community College of Allegheny County, this manual also includes over 1900 test questions to include multiple choice, true/false, and essay questions—all page referenced to the text.

Prentice Hall Test Manager

This computerized software allows instructors to create their own personalized exams, to edit any or all test questions, and to add new questions. Other special features of this program, which is available for Windows and Macintosh, include random generation of an item set, creation of alternate versions of the same test, scrambling question sequence, and test preview before printing.

Sociology on the Internet: Evaluating Online Resources

This guide provides a brief introduction to navigating the Internet, along with references related specifically to the discipline of sociology. This supplementary book is free to students when packaged with Marriages and Families.

ContentSelect Research Database

Prentice Hall and EBSCO, the world leader in online journal subscription management, have developed a customized research database for students of sociology. The database provides free and unlimited access to the text of over 100 peer-reviewed sociology and family publications when a ContentSelect Access Code is packaged with a new textbook. Please contact your local Prentice Hall representative for more information on ordering ContentSelect.

ABCNEWS ABC News/Prentice Hall Video Library for Marriage and the Family

Video is the most dynamic supplement you can use to enhance a class, but the quality of the video material and how well it relates to your course still make all the difference. Prentice Hall and ABC News are now working together to bring you the best and most comprehensive video ancillaries available in the college market.

Through its wide variety of award-winning programs—Nightline, Primetime Live, This Week, and World News Tonight, ABC offers a resource for feature and documentary-style videos related to the chapters in Marriages and Families: Changes, Choices, and Constraints. The programs have extremely high production quality, present substantial content, and are hosted by well-versed, well-known anchors.

Prentice Hall and its authors and editors provide the benefit of having selected videos and topics that will work well with this course and text and include notes on how to use them in the classroom.

The New York Times Supplement

The New York Times and Prentice Hall are sponsoring Themes o f the Times, a program designed to enhance student access to current information relevant to the classroom. Through this program, the core subject matter provided in the text is supplemented by a collection of timely articles from one of the world's most distinguished newspapers, The New York Times. These articles demonstrate the vital, ongoing connection between what is learned in the classroom and what is happening in the world around us. To enjoy the wealth of information of The New York Times daily, a reduced subscription rate is available. For information, call toll-free: 1-800-631-1222.

Prentice Hall and The New York Times are proud to co-sponsor Themes of the Times. We hope it will make the reading of both textbooks and newspapers a more dynamic, involving process.

PH Marriages and Families PowerPoint Slides

Created by Roger J. Eich of Hawkeye Community College, this PowerPoint slide set combines graphics and text in a colorful format to help you convey principles in a new and exciting way. Created in PowerPoint, an easy-to-use widely available software program, this set contains over 200 content slides keyed to each chapter in the set.

Companion Website™

More than an online study guide, the Prentice Hall Companion Website™ to accompany Marriages and Families: Changes, Choices, and Constraints is a truly integrated text-specific resource, written and maintained by the text author, Nijole V Benokraitis. The site offers

  • Self-grading quizzes where students can test their knowledge of key concepts and obtain instant feedback.
  • Web destinations with chapter by chapter hotlinks that will help launch your students' exploration on the Web.
  • Key Word searches that are easy to use with built-in search engines.
  • Census Updates to reflect the release of statistics from Census 2000 and links to relevant census Websites.
  • Polling feature which allows students to delve more deeply into where they stand on issues facing the family.

Distance Learning Solutions

Prentice Hall is committed to providing our leading content to the growing number of courses being delivered over the Internet by developing relationships with the leading course management platforms. Please visit our technology solutions Website at for more information or contact your local Prentice Hall representative.

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