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The Big Answer

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New Families, No Families?

a book by Frances K. Goldscheider and Linda J. Waite

(our site's book review)

This book is about two revolutions confronting the family: “The first revolution is putting pressure on families to change by limiting the time and energy women have available for traditional family tasks. Slowly, ‘new families’ are being formed, in which men and women share family economic responsibilities as well as the domestic tasks that ensure that family members go to work or school clean, clothed, fed, and rested, and come home to a place where they provide each other care and comfort. The second revolution, in which unmarried adults live independently, is providing an alternative to change, by giving men and women the opportunity to avoid marriage and parenthood or living in families at all. We call this option ‘no families.’"

Marriage is no longer a given, and many reject it entirely
Marriage is no longer a given, and many reject it entirely

The authors report that with so many women going to work, many social scientists assume the home will be abandoned. Kids of divorced parents (half of all kids) grow up and increasingly choose not to marry. They are cohabiting or living outside of family-like relationships altogether, in fear of having to experience the divorce thing yet again. The rise in nonfamily living means that for the first time the privacy, independence, and control of having one's own place doesn’t require any marriage.

Information on how to strengthen and support relationships, increase communication, and develop mutuality is targeted at women. Such info is found only in women's magazines, rather than in general mass-market or men’s magazines. Consequently, men have become relatively less competent in the social skills needed to nourish and maintain relationships.

Valuing the workplace more than the home has been leading to both new families and non-familial living. New families evolve when men and women demonstrate a willingness to change to accommodate the new realities of changed sex roles; “no families” happen when no such willingness occurs and people try to stay with the roles of the 1950s.