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Marilyn Poole's Family: Changing Families, Changing Times seeks to captivate her audience through a reconstruction of nineteenth and twentieth century perspectives on the family which includes the political, economic, social, and the establishment of the family as an institution. This book contains a total of eleven essays all of which were written by Australian researchers. Interesting and fascinating are the thought provoking perspectives on the family in a Marxist age where labor moved from field to factory to service industry on the continents of Australia, Europe and North America. Poole and the contributors identify symbolism and perspective in the way in which family and children have been portrayed by subsequent generations.
Throughout this volume the economics if family are the central focus. More specifically five chapters, "Understanding the Family: Ideals and Realities", "History: The Rise of a Modern Institution", "Families and Economies: What Counts and What Doesn't", "Fathers: More Than Breadwinners", and "Children: The Consumer Generation" deals almost exclusively with the economics of family. In addition, the essay "Mother: The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same" is written by Australian economist, Barbara Pocock. Drawing from leading scholars of family economics like Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker, the post-modern family as an informal institution is the central focus of these essays. Quickly coming to the center of modern economic thought is New Institutional Economics. This volume concentrates on one of the informal institutions that is loosely defined and ever changing. As noted by Poole and her contributors, the definition of the family as an institution changed drastically even throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from one of an extended family that was often much larger than mother, father and the children to grandparents and even aunt and uncle. Not only were families extended beyond mom, pop, and the kids, but also the number of children in most households were substantially greater. Often those families contained ten to twelve children. As increasingly society became more industrialized and urbanized the number of children born became smaller by mid-twentieth century. As the twentieth century began to come to a close families began to increasingly be composed of a single parent.
The family as an institution changed largely because of political, social, economic, and cultural influences. Families that moved from the farm to urban areas became less inclined to have as many children to work on the farm. Women gained the right to vote and pay structures became more equaled and it became less essential to stay with their husbands for economic reasons. As with all institutions, the family also influenced social structures. Working parents now required day care services for children to balance work and family life.
Family: Changing Families, Changing Times would serve as a good undergraduate textbook resource for courses in sociology, child and family ecology, education, social work, and other fields. Each chapter has been especially tailored for classroom assignments and discussions with ending sections entitled Key Terms, Questions for Discussion, Further Reading, and References. Although written almost exclusively from an Australian perspective, Poole's book has broad implications to western culture and makes many references to family history and culture from virtually every region on earth. This volume draws primarily on secondary sources from North American and European literature as well as Australian publications.
© 2007 Steven Napier
Steven Napier, Planning Administrator, Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency
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