Families and Children – Myths and Reality

I have mentioned before that Stephanie Coontz is the only person worth reading when it comes to marriage and family issues, especially since she’s pretty much the only one with access to Big Media. Via Historiann, Stephanie Coontz has an op-ed in the New York Times today, on the impact of parenting on happiness. I know, I know, parental blogging is extremely boring. Stephanie Coontz is the only reason why I am mentioning this, because she makes a couple of interesting points with the usual nuance.

Well, when it comes to discussing marriage and family issues, the media in general relies on a mythical version of reality, and then, based on that, praises or condemns people (especially mothers) for not always living up to that myth).

Also, forget about getting nuance and complexities:

Ha, but it is not allowed, in the mainstream media, to be ambivalent or even reluctant when it comes to having children. Children are a blessing, they are our future and the slightest failing on the part of their parents (again, especially mothers) condemns them to horrible things. And it is often the parents who do not fit the so-called traditional role that get condemned by the likes of Dr Phil.

Oops. But it is important though that the fiction be maintained because otherwise, we might have to think about providing decent benefits to support families, as any other Western country does. As it stands, much family policy – whatever little there is – is still designed with an outdated conception of family structure(s) and is still punitive.

Also, Coontz debunks the other myth of the "decline" of family "values" because women work and the whole country is full of maladapted latchkey kids:

The problem is that there is a business and media side to family studies and that it is full of hacks more interested in pushing a largely discredited conservative agenda as opposed to sound studies that account for variations and nuances. The other problem is that the former has a much larger megaphone than the latter.

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