COM 597 Research in Family Communication

Spring, 2012










Questions to Guide Your Readings of The Way We Never Were, Chps. 1-6

Don't forget your "remarkable" idea!

Chapter 1

Tease out a description of families in colonial times, 1920's, 1950s or now (70's to present day). What are the strengths and weaknesses of each era in terms of families?

Chapter 2 (MacKenzie)

1. "Not only was the 1950s family a new invention; it was also a historical fluke, based on a unique and temporary conjuncture of economic, social, and political factors" (p. 28). Do you think another fluke, with an "impact of such prosperity on family formation and stability ...magnified by the role of government, which could afford to be generous with educational benefits, housing loans, highway and sewer construction, and job training" (p. 29), could create a new "traditional" family? Perhaps following the current recession?

2. "The reality of these families was far more painful and complex than the situation-comedy reruns or the expurgated memories of the nostalgic would suggest" (p. 29). In 60 years, what do you think reruns of family-based sitcoms from the 90s and now (Home Improvement, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, King of Queens, Modern Family, etc.) will convey about today's family? Will this be an accurate portrayal?

3. According to Coontz, "Even for people not directly coerced into conformity by racial, political, or personal repression, the turn toward families was in many cases more a defensive move than a purely affirmative act" (p. 33). What are your thoughts on this statement? Do people today still feel this pressure to form a family?

4. Many of the statistics Coontz cites differ greatly from the ideas many have about the 1950s family. For example, In the 1950s, "Teen birth rates soared, reaching heights that have not been equaled since" (p. 39), whereas the 1950s are seen as "a bastion of 'traditional' sexual morality" (p. 38). Why does the 1950s family remain an "ideal, traditional" family for many people when it is apparent that much of that idealism stems from maintaining appearances?

Chapter 3

This chapter talks about independence and dependence, what proportions of each do you feel are ideal for family members, for families with society? Why?

Chapter 4

What is the myth of the self-reliant family?

Chapter 5

Comment on the following quotes:

p. 118: Private family relations take place against a background of rules set by public authorities; public inequities of gender, race, or class get transferred into private relations; and family norms affect the quality of individuals to exercise public rights.

p. 120: The effective adult, at work and in public, is independent, individualistic, rational, and calculative. The effective family member, by contract, shares, cooperates, sacrifices, and acts nonrationally.

Chapter 6

In what areas of family life should the state intervene? What are some of the problems inherent in such "helpful" intervention?