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The Value of Family: A Blueprint for the 21st Century

The Value of Family: A Blueprint for the 21st Century

by Ruth Westheimer, Ben Yagoda, Dr Ruth Westheimer

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The challenge is great. Despite all the talk about "family values", the family is besieged. The percentage of children living below the poverty line rose 49 percent from 1973 to 1992; American children are less likely to be immunized than those of any other developed nation; and many corporations still lag behind in areas such as maternity leave, while rewarding


The challenge is great. Despite all the talk about "family values", the family is besieged. The percentage of children living below the poverty line rose 49 percent from 1973 to 1992; American children are less likely to be immunized than those of any other developed nation; and many corporations still lag behind in areas such as maternity leave, while rewarding workers for long hours away from home. Moreover, the skyrocketing divorce rate and boom in the out-of-wedlock birth rate has relegated the "traditional family" to the realm of myth. Against this grim backdrop, Dr. Westheimer sees tremendous hope. She argues that the family is actually redefining itself in ways that will become more important - and more accepted - in the 21st Century. She points to changes in social attitudes and corporate and governmental policies that will allow for more unconventional but functioning family units, such as "step-" or "blended" families, and families headed by a gay single parent or couple. In addition, she sees generations pulling together for the sake of today's children, as more and more grandparents become active in their grandchildren's lives. In this book, help is available. Compiling an exhaustive list of family programs, resources, and self-help groups around the country and on the Internet, Dr. Westheimer tells parents how to get help for themselves and their children. And, sternly taking issue with new governmental legislation that claims to be "pro-family", she points our leaders in a bold new direction.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Any realistic definition of the modern family, asserts bestselling sex therapist Westheimer, must include prominent roles for nurturing fathers, stepfamilies and grandparents, as well as for gay and lesbian parents. The so-called traditional nuclear family, she maintains, is largely an idealized fantasy that briefly predominated in the 1950s. Writing in the first person with Yagoda (Will Rogers: A Biography), Westheimer looks at tensions and ambivalences in the new extended family; assesses the negative impact of divorce and of absent fathers; surveys popular TV shows as mirrors of family life; and examines the special pressures on African American families. She revealingly discloses how her sense of family evolved out of personal experiencesthe deaths of her parents in the Holocaust, her flight from Nazi Germany, single motherhood in New York, two divorces followed by a happy marriage. She offers a practical guide to innovative private and government-funded family-support programs and sets forth policy proposals urging businesses and the federal government to help foster family solidarity and well-being. Finally, she outlines sensible steps for parents who want to implement a family-togetherness strategy. A humane, levelheaded, eye-opening look at changing family dynamics. Author tour. (July)
Library Journal
Both titles provide well-researched information on the nature of the family in the United States today, and both agree that we cannot turn back in history to an earlier view of the family, but each has a different focus and message. Westheimer (the famous "Dr. Ruth," author of Encyclopedia of Sex, LJ 7/94) and Yagoda examine what constitutes a family, defined in the traditional sense of a household, and then recommend how the family can be helped by individuals, government, and business. The authors recognize many variations of the family, arguing that it may be headed by same-sex partners, unmarried partners, single parents, stepparents, or grandparents. They conclude, "We will never bolster the family if we insist that it has to fit the old-fashioned, and in many cases outdated, model." Ahern (a professional writer) and Bailey (psychology, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.), on the other hand, define family as the people we choose to support us in our daily lives, not those people in our household or related to us by blood. In their view, "Our modern society, with its dysfunctional families, easily dissolved s family as the people we choose to supporing population, is forcing us to become increasingly skillful in developing `kin-like' relations with an ever-increasing range of individuals." In their study of kinship from its ancient roots to the 1990s, they emphasize intentional communities formed by many tieswork, neighborhood, the Internet, religious and social groups and show how to build such families. Both titles are recommended for public and undergraduate libraries.Kay Brodie, Chesapeake Coll., Wye Mills, Md.
Ilene Cooper
Westheimer's name is synonymous with sex, but here she takes that subject to its next logical step--family. Beginning with a summary of her own family life (adored only child; orphan of the Holocaust; single mother; two-time divorcee; and longtime wife), Westheimer goes on to discuss the state of the American family (not great) and what can be done to improve it (quite a lot). Although much of the ground covered here is familiar, Westheimer's directness and common sense overcomes the tiredness of her material. She's quick to nail those who verbally promote family values (like government officials and corporate spokespersons) while making family life ever more difficult with restrictive laws and antifamily policies. On the other hand, she readily gives a round of applause to organizations and individuals who are actually doing something to keep the American family on track (megabusinessman Walter Annenberg, for example, who donated hundreds of millions of dollars to schools). Westheimer also gives direct, useful suggestions for improving the quality of family life, and even though readers may have heard those suggestions many times before, perhaps they'll listen because it's Dr. Ruth talking.
Kirkus Reviews
Dr. Ruth takes on Dan Quayle and the politics of "family values" with a spirited book that packs the straightforward, common-sense punch she is noted for.

Best known as the dispenser of honest advice on sex (Heavenly Sex, 1995, etc.) and relationships between men and women, Dr. Ruth and her coauthor Yagoda (Will Rogers, 1993) examine the families that grow out of those relationships. She agrees wholeheartedly that the American family is not what it was, but she sees in a more optimistic light than many observers the new networks of blended families, extended families, families that include gay couples or are headed by single mothers or fathers. Putting a positive spin on virtually every aspect of the family values debate, from orphanages (they foster a "tremendous sense of belonging") to divorce (it has "created a kind of new extended family"), Westheimer also refuses to let "declining family values" take the blame for such events as the Los Angeles riots and the high teenage birth rate. She notes sensibly that falling employment, the rising cost of living, and other social factors (like women in the workplace) are forcing families to adapt. She argues that families could use a lot more help from government and business, and offers resources (including Internet addresses) likely to be of help to contemporary families. What gives this volume impact is the breadth of Dr. Ruth's personal experience (she lived in group homes, became pregnant out of wedlock, married, divorced her husband, and supported her daughter as a single mother) and the succinct and sensible marshalling of material.

Dr. Ruth's advice on sex has helped create new ideas about relationships; this feisty work may help stiffen the spines of the inventive men and women who are now trying to redefine the American family.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)

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