Nuclear Family Values, Extended Family Lives shows how the current emphasis on the nuclear family – with its exclusion of the extended family – is narrow, even deleterious, and misses much of family life. This omission is tied to gender, race, and class.
This book is broken down into six chapters. Chapter one discusses how, when promoting "family values" and talking about "family as the basic unit of American society," social commentators, politicians, and social scientists alike typically ignore extended kin ties and focus only on the nuclear family. Chapters two and three show that the focus on marriage and the nuclear family is a narrow view that ignores the familial practices and experiences of many Americans – particularly those of women who do much of the work of maintaining kin ties and racial/ethnic minorities for whom extended kin are centrally important. Chapter four focuses on class and economic inequality and explores how an emphasis on the nuclear family may actually promulgate a vision of family life that dismisses the very social resources and community ties that are critical to the survival strategies of those in need. In chapter five, the authors argue that marriage actually detracts from social integration and ties to broader communities. Finally, in chapter six, the authors suggest that the focus on marriage and the nuclear family and the inattention to the extended family distort and reduce the power of social policy in the United States.
Natalia Sarkisian is Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston College. Her interests include family sociology, race, gender, and class, aging and the life course, and quantitative methods. Her research, published in Social Forces, American Sociological Review, the Journal of Marriage and Family, Contexts, and Family Relations, examines variation in kin and community ties by race/ethnicity, gender, age, and marital status, and explores the structural circumstances and cultural values that may account for this variation.
Naomi Gerstel is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her most recent articles have examined the ways class and gender shape work hours, effects of class, race, marriage, and women’s employment on families and caregiving, labor union policies, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Her co-authored and co-edited books include Commuter Marriage, Families at Work, Families and Work, and Public Sociology.