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Dana Vannoy and Paula J. Dubeck, editors. Challenges for Work and Family in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Aldine De Gruyter Inc., 1988, 234 pp. $US 20.95, paper, $US 41.95 cloth.

Challenges for Work and Family in the Twenty-First Century is an edited volume that (with one exception) contains selected papers from an earlier conference proceeding on this topic. As a collective, the authors argue that structural changes in work and social policy are necessary to accommodate the changing family and employment needs of individuals. In so doing, they present a framework for examining work and family issues that stresses the interconnections between these two domains, as well as the linkages between changes in society and individual lives. The core of the book is divided into three main sections: I. Present Realities: Setting the Stage; II. Work and Family Adaptations in a Changing Context, and III. New Considerations for the Twenty-First Century.

The first section on Present Realities examines work and family issues at a structural level, considering their implications for individuals. For example, chapters include research on the impact of downsizing, as well as a study of the impact of non-standard work schedules on family life. Also included are essays, such as Kathleen Gerson’s piece describing the implications of changes in gender and family arrangements for the organization of work, and that of Maxine Baca Zinn, which illustrates the importance of including racial diversity in research concerned with social inequality, work and family. This latter chapter in particular stands out for its analysis of race at a structural level and consequently for its contribution to the family values debate. With attention to Latino groups in the United States, she demonstrates that a propensity to live in two-parent families is not enough to protect individuals from poverty, and thus challenges the perspective that family structure and “improper” family values are paramount in bringing about poverty.

The chapters in the second section, Work and Family Adaptations in a Changing Context, focus on a broad range of topics including determinants of economic well-being, a close look at part-time managers, the impact of industry changes on industry-dependent communities and how mothers and fathers manage their parenting needs and desires within a family-unfriendly work culture. Thus, attention is directed both at how families cope with changing economic conditions, and at some of these changing conditions. Throughout the book the editors have included research that recognizes family diversity, especially by gender, social class and race/ethnicity.

The focus overall is very much geared to a United States audience, either as a resource book or a reader for an advanced course in work and family. For example, in the third section, New Considerations for the Twenty-First Century, a chapter by Lisa A. Cubbins examines changing labour market conditions on employer-based health insurance by gender and race. All of the data presented are American, and thus are less relevant to a Canadian audience. Also within the third section is a piece by George Farkas and colleagues that considers ways to improve the reading skills of public school students. While interesting, this chapter draws the fewest connections to the work and family issues that run throughout the book. Dana Vannoy, in her concluding chapter, does a better job of situating this particular study within these themes.

As Vannoy notes in this final chapter, a goal of this book is to show that work and family issues are best conceptualized as woven together, rather than as two distinct spheres. The editors develop this argument further by recognizing that economic changes shape, and are shaped by work and family arrangements, at the centre of which are individuals. While there is obviously variation in the degree to which each contribution is successful in incorporating these issues, the book is worthwhile reading for anyone who does research in this area.

Lorrainie Davies
Department of Sociology
University of Western Ontario

June 1999
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