MORE PERFECT UNIONS: The American Search for Marital Bliss. By Rebecca L. Davis. Harvard Univ. Press. 317 pp. $29.95
It’s taken a long time to grasp the consequences of the ice storm that hit the American family in the late 1960s. In the decades since, as the number of divorces and unwed mothers climbed into what previous generations would have thought of as the Twilight Zone, social scientists were reassuring. The American family was simply adapting to changing times, they said. Children are resilient, and at any rate they would be happy as long as their mothers were happy. (Scholars tended not to notice that the same revolution that was liberating women from dependence on men was also liberating men—from their children.) But by the early 1990s, better data and more-sophisticated methodologies began to lead sociologists, demographers, and economists who study the family to change their minds. One after another, the nation’s most prominent researchers—Sara McLanahan, Andrew Cherlin, Frank Furstenberg, Paul Amato, and others—looked at the data and saw trouble for kids.
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Kay Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal, is the author, most recently, of Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post- Marital Age (2006).more from this author >>