Brave New Families: Stories of Domestic Upheaval in Late Twentieth Century America, by Judith Stacey (Basic Books, 352 pp.; $12.95, paper); Children at Risk: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Our Kids, by James Dobson and Gary Bauer (Word, 291 pp.; $17.99, hardcover). Reviewed by Margaret Koch, professor of history at Bethel College, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

In the latest works by Judith Stacey and James Dobson, we witness the two poles of the heated debate over the health of, and prospects for, the modern family. Running through Dobson’s book, Children at Risk—much of which is authored by Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council, the Washington office of Focus on the Family—is an unabashed nostalgia for the patterns that “served us so well … through the ‘Happy Days’ of the 1950’s.” In Brave New Families, Stacey, a sociologist at the University of California-Davis and a feminist, rejects this “mythical homogeneity” and instead accepts, with some discomfort, the “diverse, fluid, unresolved” current family patterns. While Dobson and Bauer have outlined the terms of battle in a “second civil war,” Stacey has stepped into the no man’s land to see what she might learn from the enemy.

Traditional Surprises

Christians may quarrel with some of Stacey’s presuppositions, but we should applaud the honesty and integrity of her text. Stacey represents a growing minority of feminists who do not see women’s resistance to feminist positions simply as a matter of “false consciousness.” Feminist formulations have sometimes had unforeseen, harmful consequences. And perhaps, Stacey suggests, “anti-feminist” choices empower women in ways feminists have not understood. This is courageous talk from a feminist.

Stacey set out to study ...

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