In the controversial public debate over modern American families, the vast changes in family lifethe rise of single, two-paycheck , and same-sex parentshave often been blamed for declining morality and unhappy children. Drawing upon pioneering research with the children of the gender revolution, Kathleen Gerson reveals that it is not a lack of "family values," but rigid social and economic forces that make it difficult to have a vibrant and committed family and work life.
Despite the entrance of women into the workforce and the blurring of once clearly defined gender boundaries, men and women live in a world where the demands of balancing parenting and work, autonomy and commitment, time and money are left largely unresolved. Gerson finds that while an overwhelming majority of young men and women see an egalitarian balance within committed relationships as the ideal, today's social and economic realities remain based on conventionaland now obsoletedistinctions between breadwinning and caretaking. In this equity vacuum, men and women develop conflicting strategies, with women stressing self-reliance and men seeking a new traditionalism.
With compassion for all perspectives, Gerson argues that whether one decides to give in to traditionally imbalanced relationships or to avoid marriage altogether, these approaches are second-best responses, not personal preferences or inherent attributes, and they will shift if new options can be created to help people achieve their egalitarian aspirations. The Unfinished Revolution offers clear recommendations for the kinds of workplace and community changes that would best bring about a more egalitarian family lifea new flexibility at work and at home that benefits families, encourages a thriving economy, and helps women and men integrate love and work.
Gerson (No Man's Land), a sociology professor at New York University, refers to those adults born after the women's movement of the 1970s as “the children of the gender revolution.” They are more likely than their predecessors to have experienced parents divorcing, a mother working outside the home, being raised by a single parent or living with a stepparent. How do such changes affect their expectations for intimate relationships? Gerson attempts to answer this question with life history interviews with 120 men and women living in the New York area. Although her nonrepresentative sample does not lend itself to statistical analysis, it provides a revealing look at a generation of reflective young adults struggling to construct a meaningful life in largely uncharted waters, uncertain, even skeptical, about the possibility of juggling career ambitions and romantic commitment. The author urges flexibility and forging “innovative pathways.” Even if the soft data is disappointing, the book is valuable for the abundance and candor of the testimony from this unmoored generation pioneering through radically altered conceptions of personal and professional life. (Dec.)