Contemporary Families: An Equity Lens
Elizabeth B. Pearce, Linn-Benton Community College
Copyright Year: 2020
Publisher: Open Oregon Educational Resources
Conditions of Use
While there is much to admire in this text, I cannot recommend it for a sociology of families course as the main source. It would make a fantastic supplement. It is a really good book outside of the specific requirements of a sociology of families... read more
While there is much to admire in this text, I cannot recommend it for a sociology of families course as the main source. It would make a fantastic supplement. It is a really good book outside of the specific requirements of a sociology of families course.
Although brief, the text does an excellent job of introducing some key sociological terms like social construction, intersectionality, the sociological imagination, and Goffman's stigma. It's coverage of research methods is concise and excellent. I don't have many quibbles with its brief explanation of family theories, either. It maintains its foci of social construction and equity throughout the work in a clear and understandable manner, making good use of contemporary data, including Covid information. The coverage of history and policies on the social institutions in each chapter is outstanding and there are often causes for in the "Looking Ahead" segment of each chapter.
However, it really reads like a social problems text with a brief nod to families. For example, the chapter on health discusses health disparities, but not really in the context of families. The chapter on housing does a great job of explaining inequities but only mentions issues of domestic violence or effects on children in passing. Even when addressing families directly, like where families live, the focus seems to shift from families to a more generalized inequity.
The chapter on Connections is the closest to what I would expect in a traditional family textbook. It does lean a little more to psychology than sociology, but overall does a fine job of introducing ideas. This chapter could have provided more depth. The other sections I found directly addressing family issues is in the Justice chapter with the student essay "Real Laws, Real Families" and the final chapter about food and water.
There is simply too much missing--including a focus on equity, domestic labor, and work; domestic violence; divorce; effects of education on marital rates and success; the choice (or forced birth) of children, including alternative inseminations; etc. These topics would have fit in well with the equity and social construction themes of the book.
I caught just a few minor errors--defining the nuclear family as having "several children," the idea that a gendered division of labor (identified as separate spheres) came about during industrialization. Mostly, however, there is a high level of accurate content. Given the strong emphasis on equity, I think that the text is relatively unbiased (as unbiased as it can be!).
This book is up-to-date and focuses on many key issues of interest to students, especially in the context of a social problems course. Some of it also is highly relevant in a sociology of families course.
The writing and organization is clear and inviting. My community college students could easily manage the vocabulary and the personable tone would draw them in to the content.
The paired themes of social construction and equity are consistent and tie each chapter together into a coherent whole. The format from chapter to chapter is also easy to follow, even with the switch to mostly student authors in the last couple of chapters.
Each chapter could be separated and used on its own as long as the teaching professor reviews the ideas of social construction and equity. This would not need to be a long review! The text avoids redundancy in these definitions, so might need a sentence or two from a prof just to ensure everyone is clear on the definitions of these two key terms.
Especially because the text is highly modular, the organization makes sense. And if the teaching professor doesn't care for the organization, they can rearrange it! Each chapter is similarly organized so that the reader can predict what will come next.
Each key term is linked to a definition. There are several other links to additional information, articles, and videos. This is a fantastic feature of this text!
Although I was not proofreading for grammatical errors, I did not notice any.
With an equity focus and an inclusion of intersectional analysis, this text does a great job of "marking the unmarked category," showing the reader how whiteness, masculinity, cis-gender, heterosexual, and middle-to-upper class statuses are used to create norms. It then provides multiple examples from a wide variety of groups that shows how these norms can harm others and how others have constructed different ways of living in the world even in the face of hegemonic norms.
I feel a little bad about the low score for the comprehensiveness category. I am faulting the book for not being the book I need, which may not be fair. Because it seems like the text is written for a sociology of families course, I had to be clear about what I thought. Nevertheless, this is an excellenet text and I am anticipating using many parts of it in my upcoming teaching.
This was a very comprehensive book from the perspective through which the material was presented. There were so many things to consider in the book in terms of how axes of inequality and social institutions, as places of reproduction for social... read more
This was a very comprehensive book from the perspective through which the material was presented. There were so many things to consider in the book in terms of how axes of inequality and social institutions, as places of reproduction for social life and social inequality, overlap with families. Two areas that I was the most impressed by in the book were the attention to sleep and how sleep impacts the health of families (and individuals within them) as a part of the section on health care and health equity and the attention paid to the war on drugs. As this book incorporated some discussion of the larger framework of social problems into the introductory structure of the book, it was very comprehensive in this macro-to-micro connection sense regarding the role of families and overlap (again) of families to social inequalities.
Generally speaking, and extending beyond this, the book was also comprehensive in the the goal of connecting social inequality to the social construction of family life.
The reason that I gave the book a "4" and not a "5" is because if a person was using just this book as a resource for a typical "family sociology" course they would likely be missing some areas of content around topics like single-parenting, dating & courtship, remarriage & divorce and the like. While the book outlines that there is "no longer a dominant family form in the United States" as a keystone feature of the material, often course objectives for a family sociology course require more depth than on an assortment of topics (including those I mentioned above and others) that just were not expanded in the book, though a person could certainly use the conceptual and theoretical framework, and especially the emphasis on social construction as a dominant feature of the book, to anchor those discussions.
I would say the content is absolutely very accurate, error-free and unbiased, though one thing I did notice was that there were places where students might come with some assumptions or arguments (using a quote from Michele Obama, for example, might create the commentary that the associated content was political). Again, this can be easily remedied with discussion out setting-up for students, but, depending on the associated student audience, it may be important to acknowledge those places.
Here one (small) concern would be with the potential for "link rot" with some of the embedded YouTube links.
The book was very up-to-date using examples about COVID-19 precautions as a source of disagreement among spouses, featuring artwork that incorporates the murder of George Floyd, and many other very contemporary resources and examples. Even so, as contemporary and up-to-date as those feel in this particular moment, it's hard to say if they will age quickly even in the next few years.
One thing that might be important to note in a different aspect to considering relevance is that the book was written in Oregon, and in the section on "Water" following a discussion of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, there's a feature entitled, "Could this happen in Oregon?" There may have been other sections in a similar fashion in the book that I overlooked, but what I wanted to say about this is that an instructor teaching in another area of the country might have to be aware to update or modify that section for their relevant geographic/social area and at least know it's coming up in the book so that they can keep it relevant for their student audience.
Yes - the book was written well and the repeated emphasis on social construction as a way to orient the book and the content was very effective. Even if some of the theories and that repetition of content with regard to social construction may seem jargon-y, it's necessary to effective understanding, as well as helpful in continued examples and reinforcement of those ideas.
Yes, and, again, I come back to the way that the authors used the framework of social construction with continued emphasis.
Yes, this was very effective and relates also to the aspects of organization. The framing questions at the start of chapters also helped with the break-out and organization of the book.
I'm not sure I would assign the chapters in the exact order as they are presented, but that's not something that is on the authors as much as reflects another comment I had made about the book's organization and what is left out of it being important to cover in terms of needed course objectives and learning objectives for the material.
One thing that may have been helpful would be some explanation of what wasn't prominently featured, especially in terms of chapters. For instance, there wasn't a chapter on work and organizations and their overlap with families, which is an important issue of justice and equity also (and is sometimes combined with considerations of things like education as well). Maybe understanding what the logic of these exclusions were would be helpful in terms of understanding the overall comprehensiveness of the book.
This was good! I liked how the definitions populated when you hover your mouse over key terms and also that there was a nice integration of multi-media implements that instructors could use (or not) for students as requirements. Even if instructors did not assign these as a mandatory part of the reading and review, students can still see and engage them if they want to as well.
I didn't notice anything that would rise to the level of either significant or minor errors.
Since the book's entire objective is to enhance the understanding of family life as it relates to justice and diversity (in the United States, at least) the book does a good job at these representations, especially in making central the normalization of diverse family forms, including interracial and LGBTQ+ families and also showing the relevant legal and political histories and social movements that were attendant these histories and that bring us to the contemporary realities for these families.
The structure of this book gave me a lot to think about in terms of how I could use something like this while bringing in the other course requirements in my teaching. It was really a thought-provoking resource to examine, and I haven't had something challenge me in terms of the taken-for-granted structure of the way I teach families for a while. There were topics that I have seen as attendant to a social problems or a social inequalities class easily and readily incorporated into this material in ways I hadn't previously considered so this was just a really invaluable book to review in that regard.
Another comment I wanted to make about the book is that I really appreciated the authorship of the book including students!!
This is a thorough treatment of contemporary families with a solid introduction of core concepts and theory. Overall, key elements of contemporary issues are addressed and the table of contents is easy to use. read more
This is a thorough treatment of contemporary families with a solid introduction of core concepts and theory. Overall, key elements of contemporary issues are addressed and the table of contents is easy to use.
The authors do not present bias and the content is accurate.
The smart use of videos and content links makes this attractive to students and any updates should be fairly easy.
This is one of the book's greatest strengths - it is very accessible and conveys complex ideas in a way that students can understand.
The title of the book "an equity lens" is a consistent theme throughout.
The layout and organization is very well laid out - it will not overwhelm.
Although different, I particularly like the addition of food and health as contemporary issues that many families face.
The text is easy to navigate and visuals are used well.
There are no issues with grammatical errors.
While no text can address all cultures, the text does not offend and it does include diversity as something to pay attention to.
Great read! I can see how much work and passion the authors put into this. Thank you!
The text is very comprehensive, covering a variety of topics relating to contemporary families thoroughly, and from multiple angles. The authors take pains to provide different perspectives on topics, by raising questions, presenting different... read more
The text is very comprehensive, covering a variety of topics relating to contemporary families thoroughly, and from multiple angles. The authors take pains to provide different perspectives on topics, by raising questions, presenting different methods or theories for approaching topics, and including many clarifying examples. While comprehensive, the textbook could easily be expanded to include additional chapters since the bulk of chapters are thematic. I also greatly appreciate the authors' emphasis on diversity, and providing examples that show different experiences and perspectives.
The text appears accurate, error free, and unbiased. The authors make it clear that they seek to present materials in a multi-faceted and unbiased way, presenting different experiences, perspectives, and points of view.
The authors present content that is highly relevant to the contemporary reader. Each chapter is subdivided by topics and key concepts, and text descriptions are accompanied by many examples and illustrations. The examples and illustrations are far-ranging. For example, in the chapter on Visual Culture, examples range from image-making in the Paleolithic era to 21st-century street art. The text is structured in a way that necessary updates would be relatively straightforward to implement, for example by introducing even newer, more relevant examples and case studies.
The text is clear and prose accessible. Chapters are highly-structured and broken down by sub-topic. This makes reading the text manageable, and the material very digestible. This clarity is commendable given the broad subject of the book, and the very big and complex topics of the chapters (such as Chapter 1: Social Constructions and Chapter 2: Studying Families). While the text covers an almost dizzying number of topics and issues, the content never feels overwhelming. Key concepts and technical terminology are clearly defined. Another important factor that makes the text accessible are the numerous examples and illustrations that are provided throughout the text. I found the preview questions included at the beginning of each chapter to be very useful in understanding key issues and stimulating thought. I can see these being very useful in generating class discussions as well.
The chapters are very consistent in framework and layout. The reader is able to anticipate how topics will be presented and follow along easily. Preview questions are also helpful in understanding the framework and "big questions" of each chapter.
The text could easily broken down into sections. While the first chapter lays out many core concepts, the reader could pick and choose which chapters or sub-topics of chapters to read without encountering difficulties. The index with chapter headings and sub-headings is also useful.
One of the great strengths of the book is its clear organization. The text is anchored by core chapters (especially 1 & 2), followed by chapters addressing different topics related to the contemporary family. This modular format is easy to understand and follow. While I am able to see the logical progression of chapters, especially 1-3, I would have no problem skipping back and forth through the text.
The text is easy to navigate. While there are many illustrations, charts, and tables, these do not distract from the text or present technical issues.
The book is well-written and clear for the most part. There are some minor grammatical errors and inconsistencies in Chapter 6: Visual Culture. For example, the text sometimes is inconsistent in using terms such as "art," sometimes fluctuating between "art," and somewhat awkward terms like "art piece." A quick edit of the chapter could easily smooth out these minor inconsistencies.
The text is very inclusive, which is one of its greatest strengths. Topics are approached with an eye towards equity and diversity. Many different voices and experiences are represented throughout. All chapters are presented in a way that squarely centers inclusion. For example, Chapter 1, in presenting social constructions of families, emphasizes the fact that there is no "one size fits all" in the nature or composition of contemporary families. This is a welcome and refreshing perspective, and much needed. I also note that the text is inclusive in its design; it features multiple authors, including student authors, who lend their voices and unique perspectives. The "team structure" approach works well.
This textbook could be valuable to a diverse readership. While centered on studying the family, I believe that different chapters could be useful to readers in working in a variety of disciplines or contexts, or who have different interests. The Chapter on Visual Culture, for example, could be valuable for educators and students in art or art history, who wish to study the impact of art in contemporary culture. The chapter is an important contribution to visual studies, and expands and corrects some existing Eurocentric visual culture readers. The squarely inter-disciplinary approach of the authors has the potential to open many fruitful dialogues with diverse audiences.
I like how terms are defined and hyperlinked. read more
I like how terms are defined and hyperlinked.
This topic is strongly presented. The topic is relevant and to the contemporary reader who desires to learn more about equity and issues around families in the modern US, it is unbiased. The writing is factual and well-supported.
The content is highly relevant, touching on all aspects of identity, utilizing very timely references to events and contemporary personalities (Cardi B!).
The content is arranged is an extremely easy to read manner, with generous white space, large boxed quotes, and photos that really stand out. It is clear that some of the photos are from an open resource but it also seems likely that the author took many of the photos themselves. This text is presented in a warm, invited way; it draws the reader in with easy to read chunks of text and lively, interesting visuals that capture our modern, evolving society. There are some well-known graphics (Maslow's Hierarchy) and some images that students (especially younger ones) will find familiar from social media and memes.
The writing is academic and informative but accessible via the hyperlinks and clear explanations of the language of sociology.
Each chapter is arranged in a consistent manner. The reader is able to correctly anticipate the organization of each chapter after reading the first chapter or two. Also, the use of preview questions provides a solid framework for understanding each chapter's purpose.
If a student were to utilize the table of contents, they would see that each chapter is consistently organized into modular sub-units. Even the more academically-rich sections of the earlier chapters, the material is organized into easy-to-manage chunks and could easily be used in a different context.
The only chapter that seems out of place is that of "food and water" at the end, after topics such as "beauty" and "justice". But to be honest, I am not sure how one could re-organize the chapters more effectively. The text begins with chapters on "social constructions" and "studying families" which are the foundational chapters, but each chapter is highly important to the study of the contemporary family.
The book provided no distracting elements. The content flows easily from section to section.
The writing is clear and correct in all ways.
The author has taken extraordinary care to ensure that many voices are represented and a wealth of experiences are represented. The author presents the information bluntly, but with a clear compassion toward the experiences on which she draws for content.
I REALLY enjoyed reading this book, from cover to cover. I do not have much educational experience with sociology, but the content in this text piqued my interest significantly. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand the ever-changing and complex nature of contemporary families.
Table of Contents
- 1. Social Constructions
- 2. Studying Families
- 3. Health and Health Care
- 4. Housing
- 5. Connection and Love
- 6. Visual Culture: Art and Beauty
- 7. Representation and Belonging
- 8. Justice
- 9. Food and Water
About the Book
This openly licensed text, created with students, approaches contemporary families from an equity lens. It asks two questions relevant to the Difference, Power, and Discrimination outcomes at Linn-Benton Community College and Oregon State University: “What do families need?” and “How do society and institutions support or get in the way of families getting what they need?" Original content is licensed under CC BY, except as otherwise noted. More specific information can be found under Licenses and Attributions at the bottom of each section.
About the Contributors
Liz Pearce is proud to be a member of an institution that supports the work of this open pedagogy project and open educational resource, which strives to increase equity for students learning about about families in the United States. Creating opportunities and resources for transformative learning is her passion. She is a longtime faculty member at Linn-Benton Community College, teaching Human Development and Family Sciences courses and advising future Human Services and Social Work professionals. In addition she leads and mentors faculty in several areas: equity-based teaching, active learning, technology use, and open pedagogy.