In Defense of Single-Parent Families

Format: Hardcover
Pub. Date: 1997-01-01
Publisher(s): New York University Press
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Single-parent families succeed. Within these families children thrive, develop, and grow, just as they do in a variety of family structures. Tragically, they must do so in the face of powerful legal and social stigma that works to undermine them.As Nancy E. Dowd argues in this bold and original book, the justifications for stigmatizing single-parent families are founded largely on myths, myths used to rationalize harshly punitive social policies. Children, in increasing numbers, bear the brunt of those policies. In this generation, more than two-thirds of all children will spend some time in a single-parent family before reaching age 18. The damage done in the name of justified stigma, therefore, harms a great many children.Dowd details the primary justifications for stigmatizing single-parent families, marshalling an impressive array of resources about single parents that portray a very different picture of these families. She describes them in all their forms, with particular attention to the differential treatment given never-married and divorced single parents, and to the impact of gender, race, and class. Emphasizing that all families face significant conflicts between work and family responsibilities, Dowd argues many two-parent families, in fact, function as single-parent caregiving households. The success or failure of families, she contends, has little to do with form. Many of the problems faced by single-parent families mirror problems faced by all families.Illustrating the harmful impact of current laws concerning divorce, welfare, and employment, Dowd makes a powerful case for centering policy around the welfare and equality of all children. A thought-provoking examination of the stereotypes, realities and possibilities of single-parent families,In Defense of Single-Parent Familiesasks us to consider the true purpose or goal of a family.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi
PART I Myths and Realities 1(52)
The Stories of Stigma: What We Say about Single-Parent Families
The Realities: What We Know about Single-Parent Families
The Poverty Justification
The Developmental Justification
The Morality Justification
Implicit Justifications: Race and Gender Stories
PART II Law Single Parents 53(64)
Divorced Single Parents
The Context of Work and Family
Family Law
Employment Law
Conclusion: Law, Stigma, Equality, and Choice
Nonmarital Single-Parent Families
The Context: Nonmarital Single Parents
Nonmarital Families and the Law
Single Parents as Positive Role Models
Black Single Mothers and Their Families
General Characteristics of Single-Parent Families
PART III Law Reform 117(53)
Policies for Single-Parent Families
Lessons from Where We Are Now
Elements of Changed Policy Toward Single-Parent Families
Legal Strategies
Defining Family
Family Support
Epilogue 170(3)
Notes 173(8)
References 181(18)
Index 199

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