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Book Chapter

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Linda C. McClain and Daniel Cere




New York University Press




Extraordinary changes in patterns of family life – and family law – have dramatically altered the boundaries of parenthood and opened up numerous questions about debates. What is parenthood and why does it matter? How should society define, regulate, and support it? Despite this uncertainty, the intense focus on the definition and future of marriage diverts attention from parenthood. Demographic reports suggesting a shift away from marriage and toward alternative family forms also keep marriage in constant public view, obscuring the fact that disagreements about marriage are often grounded in deeper, conflicting convictions about parenthood. This book (as the posted Introduction explains) brings together a stellar interdisciplinary group of scholars with widely varying perspectives to consider parenthood. Law is the disciplinary center of the conversation, but the volume also includes scholars from anthropology, education, globalization and immigration studies, medicine, psychology, religious ethics, and sociology. As an organizing device, the book proposes two contrasting models of parenthood: the integrative model and the diversity model. The questions addressed by contributors include: (1) are the integrative and diversity models a fruitful way to make sense of contemporary debates about parenthood?; what are the bases for these models?; (2) is parenthood separable from marriage (or couplehood) when it comes to fostering child well-being and what light does anthropological study shed on this question?; (3) how should the rights of adults and children shape the law of parenthood?; (4) does one model produce, on average, better outcomes for children?; (5) how much does biology matter to secure parent-child attachment and how can attachment research inform the parenthood debate?; (6) are there gender differences in parenting and, if so, how should they inform public policy?; how should family law’s commitment to gender equality shape the law of parentage?; (7) how do family immigration and transnational parenting shape parenthood and how should these experiences inform law and policy?; and (8) given current indicators about family life, in what direction should law and policy about parenthood move? The Introduction posted with this abstract explains the book’s aims, provides an overview of the two models, and previews the questions taken up in the volume and the approaches taken by contributors in answering them.


Boston University School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 13-18

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