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Historical Perspectives on Family Studies

Stephanie Coontz
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 62, No. 2 (May, 2000), pp. 283-297
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1566740
Page Count: 15
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Historical Perspectives on Family Studies
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Abstract

This article explores the relationship of historical research to contemporary family studies. Family history was influenced greatly by fields such as sociology and anthropology, leading it to make several contributions to those fields in turn. The continuing collaboration of these disciplines can significantly enrich current family research, practice, and policy making. History's specific contribution lies in its attention to context. Although historical research confirms sociologic and ethnographic findings on the diversity of family forms, for example, it also reveals that all families are not created equal. The advantage of any particular type of family at any particular time is constructed out of contingent and historically variable social relationships. Historical research allows researchers to deepen their analysis of family diversity and family change by challenging widespread assumptions about what is and what is not truly new in family life. Such research complicates generalizations about the impact of family change and raises several methodological cautions about what can be compared and controlled for in analyzing family variations and outcomes.

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