Social Science Takes a Second Look

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

Two reviews of books that offer a view counter to 'current wisdom.' What's nice here is that these are well researched books written with the scientific method rather than political correctness in mind. Gosh! Turns out 'correct' weren't so right after all!

The following items are excerpted from FIRST THINGS magazine, a monthly journal of religion and public life.

A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval.
By Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, Harvard University Press.

Reviewed by David Blankenhorn.

The view of most family scholar and professionals - and probably also of most adult Americans under the age of forty-five - is that parental unhappiness is worse for children than parental divorce...

Amato and Booth fundamentally challenge this notion. 'A Generation at Risk' analyzes longitudinal child outcome data from a large national sample of families, seeking especially to isolate the independent effects of divorce on children from the effects of preexisting marital conflict. Amato and Booth conclude that only 25 to 33 percent of parental divorces today end up being better for the children than if the parents had stayed together. By contrast, about 70 percent of divorces represent the termination of low-conflict marriges that, whatever their shortcomings, are distinctly better for children than the reality of divorce...

[The authors conclude that] For that 70 percent of marriages-in-trouble that are not fraught with conflict, 'future generations would be well served if parents remained together until the children were grown.'

This from two left-of-center social scientists, some of whose earlier writings have clearly suggested that one-parent homes are not especially harmful for children. It has been ten years since Norval Glenn of the University of Texas first observed that leading family scholars were becoming less likely to view current family trends as benign or even beneficial, and more likely to view them as socially harmful.A decade later, the shift among family scholars gather momentum.

Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman's Story.
By Mark Andrew Ritchie, Island Lake Press.

Reviewed by Preston James.

This book recounts the conversion of Shoefoot's village. [Since a majority of Chief Shoefoot's, a leading elder of a Yanomamo tribe in the Venezuelan rainforest, village have embraced Yai Pada (the God of the Bible, literally the Great Spirit)...they have enjoyed peace and relative prosperity...] It is also a polemic against academics given to clucking that the likes of poor Shoefoot, who speaks through an interpreter, has been duped by highly educated Westerners.

'I wish that more servants of Yai Pada would come to my village and that the anthropologists would stay away,' he said. 'The anthropologists just make things worse.' and in one monet of exasperation Shoefoot observed that nosy social scientists who discourage young Yanomamo from giving up their culture of revenge could someday find themselves at a spear's sharp end. Young people considering missionary work and students of the social sciences would do well to read Spirit of the Rainforest. All royalties from sales go to the Yanomano.

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A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval. Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman's Story.

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