The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families

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9780066209838: The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families

In a time of unity and common purpose, why does it still feel as though we are a nation divided in half? On one side, are those with solid families, well-paying jobs, safe homes, and a sound education. On the other are those who were raised by one parent, live in poor neighborhoods, and lack the skills and support needed to hold down a steady job and steer clear of crime. How did this come to pass? In is penetrating new study, esteemed commentator James Q. Wilson argues that the answer lies in the state of modern marriage.Once a reliable thread in the social fabric, marriage is now a convenient promise easily made and just as easily broken. Long taken for granted, it is now under attack, and the result is devastating. The signs are everywhere, with the increase in cohabitation, the proliferation of single and teenage parents, and the high divorce rate, all of which are eroding family life and damaging children's futures. In fact, statistics have shown that children of divorce and single parenthood are the ones who continually have higher rates of school dropout and teenage pregnancy, as well as a greater propensity for emotional problems, drug use, and criminal activity. Drawing on meticulous research and an acute interpretation of American history, Wilson takes aim at the sweeping forces that have slowly but surely stripped away the value of one of our most important institutions.The Marriage Problem reveals that the seeds of today's crisis were planted over many years by unlikely sources -- from the glittering ideals of the Enlightenment to the shameful practice of American slavery. The exaltation of individual rights has made unmarried cohabitation -- with its lack of ultimate responsibility to another -- the lifestyle of choice among younger people. And in today's inner cities, families continue to feel the impact of slavery, which taught mothers and children not to rely on the presence of fathers, creating an environment prone to abandonment. With precision and persuasiveness, Wilson exposes the patterns that have allowed us to degrade marriage and shows us how we can reclaim it.Incisive, intelligent, and thought-provoking, The Marriage Problem is a clarion call to rebuild the family, and society, by returning a solid marital structure to its core.

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About the Author:

James Q. Wilson is the former James Collins Professor of Management at UCLA and Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard. He is the author of several books, including The Moral Sense, and has served on a number of national commissions concerned with public policy. He currently lectures at Pepperdine University.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Justly renowned for his gift for converting opaque sociology into lucid arguments, Wilson here ponders the cultural dynamics of America's remarkable retreat from wedlock. Though some have blamed the nation's epidemics of divorce and illegitimacy on the tumultuous1960s, Wilson probes much deeper. His careful scholarship uncovers the subtle ways in which ancient African kinship patterns still affect social life in the inner city and illuminates the legal traditions that turned eighteenth-century philosophizing into twentieth-century divorce statutes. But Wilson aims to explain not only how marriage has lost strength in modern America but also why that loss matters. With a raft of recent studies, he shows that once a society loses the anchorage of wedlock, riptides begin to pull entire communities into alienation and despair. Wilson particularly laments the suffering of children exposed to poverty and emotional confusion by the disintegration of their families. And it is precisely because the toll of family dissolution has run so high that Wilson challenges his readers to join in the search for ways to renew wedlock. That renewal, he makes clear, will require more than legislative finesse by shrewd lawmakers; it will require a profound shift in the entire culture. Wilson's sobering analysis will help spark the kind of public discussions that often presage such a shift. Bryce Christensen
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

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