The American family is changing. Divorce, single parents, and stepfamilies are redefining the way we live together and raise our children. Is this a change for the worse? David Popenoe sets out the case for fatherhood and the two-parent family as the best arrangement for ensuring the well-being and future development of children.
His argument has two critical assumptions, which he supports with evidence from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, and history. The first is that children flourish best when raised by a father and a mother with their differing psychological and behavioral traits. The second is that marriage, which serves to hold fathers to the mother-child bond, is an institution we must strengthen if the decline of fatherhood is to be reversed.
Popenoe follows in the footsteps of David Blankenhorne's Fatherless America (LJ 1/95) with this second major study of American fatherhood. The author, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University, is also cochair of the Council on Families in America. Popenoe's research findings on fatherlessness parallel many of Blankenhorne's. Most notably, children from single-parent families are more prone to poverty, juvenile delinquency, and dropping out of school than their two-parent counterparts. The chief cause: lack of a father role model and difficulties of single-parent supervision. While the author does not negate the value of substitute father figures as does Blankenhorne, he concurs there should be a reversal of the "new family" trend back to traditional nuclear families, with strong emphasis on fatherhood and marriage as basic cultural fundamentals. Popenoe concludes that fathers are indispensable for children and society and that the growing rate of fatherlessness is a looming disaster. Essential for public and academic libraries.-Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Libs., Ind.