- Those who yearn for a time when the American family supposedly
resembled Ozzie and Harriet may be better off hoping it can
be as cohesive as reality television's "The Osbournes."
society's ills on an increase in single parents raising children
and nontraditional families is short-sighted, said Tuesday's
University of Southern Mississippi University Forum speaker.
Stephanie Coontz's presentation, "The Way We Really Are:
Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families and the New
Roles of Women," was an attempt by the renowned author,
historian and family studies scholar to dispel myths associated
with the nostalgia some have for a 1950s lifestyle.
course two good parents are better than one," said Coontz,
who also cautioned that the adjective "good" should
be carefully examined. "Two cooperating parents are not
always easy to
said statistics show that poverty, teen births, teen violence
and suicide among youth issues many claim are connected
to the decline of the traditional two-parent family
began declining in the 1990s at a time when single parents
increased. She added that even now, more single, unwed parents
have a partner helping with child rearing and that surveys
show more divorced parents working to ease the stress of their
separation on their children through cooperation and positive
communication practices. Coontz claimed that, contrary to
popular belief, other statistics show working women are as
likely to spend as much quality time with their children as
stay-at-home moms. "They don't neglect their children,"
also described as a "hidden benefit" of families
with two working parents the increase in fathers engaged in
hands-on child care. Coontz said studies show boys who have
more contact with their father display more social-cooperation
skills and girls are more likely to achieve in academic areas
traditionally dominated by males, such as math.
pointed to the dark side of the alleged "good old days,"
including the 1950s and before, when the legal system turned
a blind eye to racism and even domestic violence as a man's
wife was viewed more as a possession than an equal partner.
"Romanticizing the '50s is not really helpful,"
she said of attempts to cope with issues in contemporary society.
in the rights of women and their economic power over time
allowed them to not only escape dysfunctional and abusive
marriages, Coontz said, but bring more prosperity to their
teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State
College in Olympia, Washington, and is the national co-chair
of the Council on Contemporary Families. She is the author
of six books on the history of the family, including The Way
We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (1992)
and The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms With America's
Changing Families (1997). Coontz has written for a variety
the Washington Post, The New York Times, and popular magazines
such as Vogue, and she has appeared on many television programs,
including The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN's Crossfire. Coontz
has also testified about her research before the House Select
Committee on Children, Youth, and Families in Washington,
D.C., and addressed audiences all over America and Europe.
She is currently working on a book on the history of marriage.
lecture was part of a series of events in recognition of Women's