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But in the late 1950s, there was a "democratization of personhood" in which people could make a serious effort to develop themselves. It is this change that people often mistake for narcissism, holding it up as the reason why American families are falling apart at the seams. The myth has certainly taken hold with the conservative Right, and Skolnick explains how this has become a dominant viewpoint. Her theories are strengthened by the academic research on families that we have reviewed.

Section 4: Impressions

I do agree with the author's main ideas about the changes in the family being a reflection of considered change in society. As I see society becoming more tolerant of diversity -- and as I observe the inevitable backsliding that occurs as conservatives lament the loss of something that is truly only imaginary -- I recognize how significant this forward progress is to the development of a healthy society that does not permit structural violence and does not condone cultural violence.

Doubtless, my gender tends to give me a different perspective when reading this book than I might have if I was male. Further, my political leaning is decidedly liberal. This combination creates in me an acceptance of social change -- which in the 21st century, has been largely beneficial to women -- and does not make me fearful of movement away from tradition or convention. Quite the contrary, it is reference to a nostalgic no-woman's land that causes me to be anxious and guarded.

I applaud Skolnick's argument that the field knows more about families and gender roles than it ever has -- ever! That is remarkable and laudable. And that I champion this position clearly exposes my elitism with regard to academic and scientific knowledge. I am less inclined to accept conventional wisdom than an evidence-based corpus of knowledge. Moreover, my understanding of research in the area of marriage and family generates a medley of emotions. I am proud of the progress that women have made in developed countries. I am sickened by the inequities that exist in less developed countries, and by the threat of erosion of the status and rights of women in my own society. Further, I am inordinately saddened by the knowledge that the children of single parents are more likely to live in poverty, and that the children of divorced parents do often report that their parents' divorce was inordinately hard on them.

I don't agree that divorce is a social phenomenon with little repercussions. That said, I do believe in divorce and agree that dissolution of a marriage -- despite the impact on family members, from children to in-laws, and to friends and acquaintances -- is in most instances the preferred arrangement. Studies exist that successfully argue about the harmful impact of divorce on the children of divorced parents and that assert children of divorced parents are no worse off, at least psychologically, than children from intact families.

As with much of life, I concede that there are no perfect solutions -- that moving life forward is often about embossing an arc rather than slicing a straight line to a certain bulls-eye. Given this perspective, I am able to embrace most of the ideas that Skolnick puts forth. I feel that if I grasp the points, mark those I believe to be true, and pull back for perspective, I will be able to clearly see the arc -- where it begins and where it ends. All points in between areā€¦