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Book Reviews   |    
To Have and to Hold: Marriage, the Baby Boom, and Social Change
Reviewed by William Vogel, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2002; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.53.3.354
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by Jessica Weiss; Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2000, 299 pages, $45

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In the course of reviewing books in the behavioral sciences, I have been struck by how often truly thought-provoking, convention-challenging concepts originate with authors whose training has been outside the sciences. To Have and to Hold is a fine example. The author is a historian, and she has written a book that compellingly questions traditional concepts of the history of the American family.

Many observers see today's American nuclear family as having undergone revolutionary change and as being in a process in which it will become qualitatively different from what it was 50 years ago; some think of it as an "endangered species." Weiss, however, sees it as having undergone a steady process of gradual evolutionary change. The seeds of the American family of the 21st century, she argues, were present in the mid-20th century. Her analysis is based on data from the longitudinal studies of the Institute of Human Development (IHD) at the University of California at Berkeley. The institute's study subjects were interviewed repeatedly over decades, between childhood and late middle age. As a result, Weiss notes, "we are able to follow the effects of the fifties family pattern over time, permitting a much more nuanced and deeper understanding of postwar family life than the one-decade 'snapshot' view historians persist in portraying."

Weiss studied a sample of 100 couples from the first years of their marriages in the 1950s through the early 1980s. Her data reveal that "the idealized middle-class family pattern of the 1950s was both transitory and transitional"—not at all "traditional," as many have assumed. She argues, convincingly in my view, that "the differences of opinion between men and women—over parenting, homemaking, career commitment, sexuality—that come through so strongly in the IHD interviews … were the tools of change."

This is an exciting, important, innovative work. Although it certainly belongs in the libraries of health practitioners—physicians, psychologists, family specialists—and academicians whose focus is the family, it should also be of interest to the general public. Buy this book.

Dr. Vogel is affiliated with the department of psychiatry at UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester, Massachusetts.




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