1st Edition

The Double Life of the Family Myth, hope and experience

By Michael Bittman Copyright 1997
    326 Pages
    by Routledge

    326 Pages
    by Routledge

    The modern family is under strain. What we crave most from our families is intimacy, warmth and self-fulfilment but we often find this difficult to achieve. We hold onto these expectations of our families even in the face of contradictory experiences, so the family sustains a double life.

    The authors explore the gap between our values, expectations and yearnings, and our experiences of everyday family life. Family ritual, political rhetoric, advertising images and television family sitcoms are all windows onto what we want and expect - our myths of the family. Yet our aspirations for intimacy and self-fulfilment are frustrated by unacknowledged inequalities between men and women, and parents and children. The inequalities have their origins in the division of domestic labour and in labour markets that disregard family responsibilities.

    The Double Life Of The Family argues that our expectations of family life are more powerful than is usually believed and have enormous influence on both the way governments structure social policy and on the decisions made by ordinary people.

    List of tables and figures

    List of abbreviations



    1 Is the myth of the nuclear family dead?

    2 The other life of the family

    3 The rise of intimacy

    4 Working for nothing

    5 At home: the more things change, the more they

    stay the same

    6 Pseudomutuality: the disjunction between domestic

    inequality and the ideal of equality

    7 Economics, breadwinning and family relations

    8 How the family is a problem for the state

    9 The greatest welfare system ever devised?





    Michael Bittman is Seniro Research Fellow in the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales and author of Juggling Time (1991).

    Jocelyn Pixley is Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of New South Wales and author of Citizenship and Employment (1993).