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Marriage, Sex, and Childbirth

Graham Allan


As with ideas of community, public perceptions of family life highlight the extent to which change has been occurring. Usually the emphasis is on the “decline” of family values and family solidarities in comparison to some past, more stable and wholesome period. In most cases, these perceived changes are significantly exaggerated, with the past being idealized in a quite uncritical fashion. Under more rigorous examination, family relationships in the past can be recognized as somewhat less rosy than popular imagination usually supposes ( Gillis 1997 ). However, there is one sphere of family life in which there has undoubtedly been real – and significant – change occurring. This concerns the patterning of partnership and household formation and dissolution, and more specifically the relationships between marriage, sex, and childbirth. Importantly, these changes have been occurring, albeit at different speeds, across a wide range of economically advanced societies especially in Europe and North America. The changes there have been in these patterns have been radical, certainly in comparison to the trends that were dominant for much of the twentieth century. Each country is different; each has its distinct social and cultural influences; each develops its own legislative principles and welfare traditions which influence the dominant organization of sexual, domestic, and familial relations ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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