Families, Labour and Love: Family Diversity in a Changing World by Maureen Baker Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2001, Xii + 320 Pp., $42.95 (Paperback)

Topics: Sociology, Health care, Research Pages: 18 (5656 words) Published: May 21, 2013

Families, Labour and Love: Family Diversity in a Changing World By Maureen Baker
Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2001, xii + 320 pp., $42.95 (Paperback)

Maureen Baker is Professor of Sociology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The idea for this book was conceived when, on moving to Auckland from McGill University, Canada, she was unable to find a recent New Zealand text on the sociology of families. Further, most analogous texts from countries with broadly similar social histories-Australia and Canada-failed to mention New Zealand, let alone each other. This book, then, is written to fill a gap. It is a scholarly textbook for academics and students in Australia, Canada and NZ (p. xi), a comparative study of these three "settler societies" that share a broadly similar history of colonisation and subjugation of Indigenous culture-but exhibit significant differences within their individual histories. The treatment of the topic is both comprehensive and thorough. An introductory chapter provides an overview of the personal and social worlds of families, identifying trends common to all three societies, including rising life expectancies, declining fertility, declining legal marriage rates, rising rates of remarriage, and greater participation of women in the paid workforce. Subsequent chapters discuss cultural variations in families; issues involved in conceptualising families; intimacy, cohabitation and the quality of marriage; childhood, reproduction and child care; families and paid/unpaid work; separation, divorce and remarriage; state regulation of family life; and the future of family life. At the end of each chapter a set of discussion questions encourages reflection on key issues and their implications. These questions are designed, presumably, as tutorial guides, but they also offer a valuable review fr.lmework for individual readers. An extensive glossary is proVided for readers unfamiliar with the language of family studies.

A particular strength of the book is the multiple approaches through which the SOciology of the family is investigated and illustr.lted. Maureen Baker has assembled a large amount of comparative statistical data across the three societies under review. She proVides a social historical context for each issue discussed. She reviews a range of ways for interpreting these data, whilst preferring feminist and political economy approaches, a combination that permits examination of power relations along economic as well as gender lines. The result is a solid overview of the continuing and complex negotiation of what constitutes the family today, and the relationship of family with the state. While implications for health are not examined explicitly in this text, the book provides a major resource for students and practitioners of public health and health policy. Health care provision, of necessity, must mediate between social relationships as they are in fact, and social relationships as they are constituted in legislation. The contrast between legal and social understandings of family is a recurring theme in this book, and the concluding chapters on state regulation of the family and the future of family life merit cardul attention from health care providers and policy-makers. Health policy that fails to discern the new patterns of caring and intimacy emerging within society risks becoming ineffective and irrelevant. This book offers the means by which the at-timesvague health care rhetoric about family support and community care might become focused and intentional.

Bruce Rumbold School ofPublic Health La Trobe University Victoria 3086 Australia


Australian Journal of Primary Health -

Vol. 9, No.1, 2003

Book Reviews

Social Research Methods
By Alan Bryman
Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, xiv + 540pp., $75.00 (Paperback)

This book covers a range of research methods for data collection and differing ways of analysing data. Social research has many...
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