The Way We Really Are

Stephanie Coontz, Author, Coontz, Author Basic Books $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-465-07787-8
Family historian Coontz is up in arms over misconceptions in the media about what have been termed ""traditional"" families. The author of The Way We Never Were, which tried to debunk some of the myths about the American family through history, here turns her attention to family life today. Against the backdrop of the war over ""family values,"" Coontz set out to ""meet people from every type of background... struggling with today's family issues."" She found that the country is undergoing a ""distressful and disorganizing"" social and economic transformation made all the more difficult by our romanticizing of a past--the 1950s, for example--that never existed as we choose to remember it. The so-called traditional family is no longer the norm and, she notes, should not be made the ideal. Single-parent families cannot be considered abnormal anymore, and divorce is not an excuse for problem children: ""A mother's educational background has more effect on her child's welfare than her marital status."" One of the author's strongest arguments is that by blaming the ills of society on the breakdown of the traditional family, we fail to recognize the strengths of the new, more diverse families and to set about solving those ills in a practical way. Meticulously researched and annotated, this coolly reasoned study defines the way we live today, tells us how to make the most of what we have and offers no easy solutions. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
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