Articles by Stephanie Coontz

Articles by Other Authors

Taking the Nostalgia of Trump Supporters Seriously

Nostalgia often arises out of a real experience of loss. It needs to be addressed and redirected, not ridiculed or denounced. And that applies to the nostalgia that motivates a considerable number of Trump supporters.More...

The Nostalgia Trap

Few people today call a doctor when they feel a bout of nostalgia coming on. But for 200 years, nostalgia was considered a dangerous disease that could trigger delusions, despair, and even death. More...

For a Better Marriage, Act Like a Single Person

Especially around Valentine’s Day, it’s easy to find advice about sustaining a successful marriage, with suggestions for “date nights” and romantic dinners for two. More...

How unmarried Americans are changing everything

It wasn't long ago that being single after a certain age was considered a recipe for lifelong misery. More...

Nixon was right about women

In 1973, when President Richard Nixon proclaimed August 26 Women's Equality Day -- commemorating the day in 1920 that women won the right to vote -- a woman could still be denied housing by a real estate broker or credit by a bank, simply because of her gender. More...

Ivanka Trump is right

In a letter to The Wall Street Journal this week, Ivanka Trump gave a robust defense of the Trump administration's proposed paid family leave program. The Journal's editorial board had denounced it as a government "entitlement" that "could create another disincentive for work and advancement." More...

Do Millennial Men Want Stay-at-Home Wives?

Millennials, generally defined as people born between 1982 and 2000, were supposed to be the generation that forged what has been called "a new national consensus" in favor of gender equality. Indeed, in February the prominent Columbia professor Jeffrey Sachs labeled the 2016 election, where an extremely qualified female candidate lost to a man with a history of disrespecting women, "a blip"; on the road to the egalitarian society that will be achieved once millennial voters outnumber their conservative elders. More...

How 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' made a difference

I first discovered "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when I was 25, and I immediately fell in love with it. But a few years ago, when I showed some episodes to a family studies class I was teaching, my students were far less impressed than I had expected them to be. More...

Strengthening the Case for Policies to Support Caregiving

Women have made impressive gains in the past forty-five years. But progress toward family-friendly social policies has been exceptionally slow. More...

Why the white working class ditched Clinton

Since the presidential election, pundits have struggled to explain Donald Trump's upset win. Liberal columnists are united in shock that so many people voted for a man who inflamed racial, ethnic and religious tensions, insulted and mistreated women, and was deemed temperamentally unfit to be president, even by many of his supporters. More...

The Shell-Shocked White Working Class

CNN By Stephanie Coontz, September 23, 2016

The problems bothering white Americans without a college degree have less to do with immediate economic insecurity or material hardship, although those are widespread, than with the collapse of a whole way of life. More...

Generation X and millennials may have found a new secret to sexual happiness

The Washington Post By Stephanie Coontz, August, 5, 2016

Older generations always seem to fret about the sexual behavior and romantic lives of the younger crowd. More...

Can the Working Family Work in America?

The American Prospect By Stephanie Coontz, 17 May 2016

America still hasn't adjusted to family realities in the 21st century. Here's what needs to be done and why we need to do it.More...

The awkward truth of 'make America great again'

CNN By Stephanie Coontz, April 29, 2016

For all the hand-wringing about how we've never seen a presidential primary season like this before, in fact, it bears a remarkable resemblance to that of 1992. Back then, we had a flamboyant millionaire, several crusaders demanding a return to "traditional" families, calls for a wall to keep out immigrants and of course another Clinton and Bush (although the 1992 Bush candidate didn't crash and burn so early). More...

Revolution in Intimate Life and Relationships By Stephanie Coontz, 4 March 2015

At the Council on Contemporary Families, we are fond of saying that the right research question in today's world is not “What kind of family do we wish people were living in?” but “What do we know about how to help every family identify and build upon its potential strengths and minimize its characteristic vulnerabilities?”More...

The Moynihan Family Circus By Stephanie Coontz, June/July/August 2015

How a fifty-year-old report on the black family and poverty continues to distort American social policy. More...

The Real Story of the American Family

The American Prospect By Stephanie Coontz, May 14, 2015

Two new books explain how rising inequality shattered the working-class family of the mid-20th century. More...

Now Who's the Moral Majority?

CNN Opinion By Stephanie Coontz, April 6, 2015

The public outrage over the "religious freedom" bills recently passed in Arkansas and Indiana caught the governors of those states completely off-guard, judging by their confused and contradictory responses. More...

Want Better Sex, Dads? Then Take Paternity Leave

The Guardian By Stephanie Coontz, April 2, 2015

Next week a new parental leave policy goes into effect in the UK, extending the length of leave for up to 50 weeks after the birth or adoption of a baby, with 39 of the 50 weeks subsidised. After the first two weeks, a mother in a two-earner family can transfer all or some of the remaining weeks to the father, allowing her to go back to work earlier and him to stay home longer than in the past. More...

The New Deal and Civil Rights Helped Make the Dream More Attainable

The New York Times By Stephanie Coontz, January 1, 2015

For most of America's history, people typically aspired to acquire "a competency" rather than great riches. A competency meant the ability to comfortably sustain a household without depending on others. More...

Marriage and Gender Equality Today: An Interview With Stephanie Coontz

Huffington Post By Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, September 8, 2014

Omega: You say marriage has changed more in the past 30 years than in the past 3,000 years. You've said that the very traits that make marriage in our contemporary society more rewarding have also made it less stable. How so? More...

The New Instability

The New York Times By Stephanie Coontz, July 26, 2014

Over the past 40 years, the geography of family life has been destabilized by two powerful forces pulling in opposite directions and occasionally scraping against each other, much like tectonic plates. One is the striking progress toward equality between men and women. The other is the equally striking growth of socioeconomic inequality and insecurity. More...

Women have come a long way, but still have far to go

courier-journal By Stephanie Coontz, March 16, 2014

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, which initially outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin — but not on the basis of gender. The word "sex" was added to the act as a last-minute amendment by a senator who opposed racial integration and may have hoped to thereby kill the bill entirely. Even after the law passed, few people expected the prohibition of gender discrimination to be enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the group charged with implementing the act. More...

Who still can't sit at America's table

CNN Opinion By Stephanie Coontz, February 10, 2014

Fifty years ago today, the House of Representatives passed the Civil Rights Act, which made it illegal to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, national origin, religion or gender. We've come a long way since then, according to a report issued last week by the Council on Contemporary Families. Yet troubling inequalities persist. More...


How Can We Help Men? By Helping Women

The New York Times By Stephanie Coontz, January 11, 2014

This week Maria Shriver brings together a star-studded cast of celebrities, from Hillary Rodham Clinton to Beyoncé, to call attention to the economic plight of American women and demand that women's needs be put "at the center of policy making." More...

Why 'war on poverty' not over

CNN Opinion By Stephanie Coontz, January 6, 2014

In a State of the Union address 50 years ago this month, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared "unconditional war on poverty." More...

Coontz on Marriage Tips

Salon By Tracy Clark-Flory, October 12, 2013

Next to my desk there is a fallen pile of relationship-advice books. It looks like a miniature city of ruins, a very pink Parthenon. I can't even begin to fathom picking up all the rubble — mostly because I'm not sure if there's anything worth saving in there. More...

There Is No Such Thing as the 'Traditional Male Breadwinner'

Time Ideas By Stephanie Coontz, September 23, 2013

If we're ever going to fix our problems accommodating both work and family in our lives, we have to stop thinking that the dilemmas we face today stem from the collapse of the traditional male-breadwinner family. More...

Yes, I've folded up my masculine mystique, honey

The Sunday Times of London By Stephanie Coontz, February 24, 2013

Fifty years ago last week, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, igniting an impassioned debate over her claim that millions of housewives were desperately unhappy, suffering from "the problem that has no name". More...

The Disestablishment of Marriage

The New York Times Sunday Review By Stephanie Coontz, June 22, 2013

AT first glance, the prognosis for marriage looks grim. Between 1950 and 2011, according to calculations by the University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen, the marriage rate fell from 90 marriages a year per 1,000 unmarried women to just 31, a stunning 66 percent decline. If such a decline continued, there would be no women getting married by 2043! More...

The Not-So-Good Old Days

The New York Times Sunday Review By Stephanie Coontz, June 15, 2013

MY column last month about the dangers of nostalgia inspired many readers to write to me about their family memories of the 1950s and '60s. Some shared poignant stories about the discrimination they encountered as blacks, women, gay men or lesbians. Others described how much easier it was for their working-class fathers to support a family back then. More...

Progress At Work, But Mothers Still Pay a Price

The New York Times Sunday Review By Stephanie Coontz, June 8, 2013

HERE’S an old riddle: a boy and his father are in a car crash and the father is killed instantly. The boy is airlifted to the best hospital in the region and prepped for emergency surgery by one of the top surgeons in the country. The surgeon rushes in, sees the boy, and says “I can’t operate on this patient. He’s my son.” Who is the surgeon? More...

The Triumph of the Working Mother

The New York Times Sunday Review By Stephanie Coontz, June 1, 2013

FIFTY years ago, Betty Friedan made a startling prediction in her controversial best seller, "The Feminine Mystique." If American housewives would embark on lifelong careers, she claimed, they would be happier and healthier, their marriages would be more satisfying, and their children would thrive. More...

When Numbers Mislead

The New York Times Sunday Review By Stephanie Coontz, May 25, 2013

IT'S always seductive to know where one stands in relation to the average. As an overly confident college freshman, the first time I received a below-average score on an exam was a needed wake-up call. Today, I find it encouraging to read that I exercise more than the average woman my age. More...

Beware Social Nostalgia

The New York Times Sunday Review By Stephanie Coontz, May 18, 2013

AS a historian, I've spent much of my career warning people about the dangers of nostalgia. But as a mother, watching my son graduate from medical school on Thursday, I have been awash in nostalgia all week. More...

Why Gender Equality Stalled

The New York Times The Opinion Pages By Stephanie Coontz, February 16, 2013

This week is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan's international best seller, "The Feminine Mystique," which has been widely credited with igniting the women's movement of the 1960s. More...

Marriage Courting Marriage Success

natural awakenings By S. Alison Chabonais

Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington, shares her learned perspective in an intriguing oeuvre of books. More...

Marriage Should governments encourage their citizens to marry?

The Economist, December 10, 2012

In 2009, marriage rates in England and Wales hit their lowest levels since records began in 1862. In 2011, barely half of all American adults were married-another record low. More...

Marriage: Should governments encourage their citizens to marry? Rebuttal statements

The Economist, December 14, 2012

Many thanks to our spirited debaters, Ron Haskins and Stephanie Coontz, who have gamely and courteously set the framework for this debate. Thanks too to our readers who have voted and commented. More...

Blame affairs on evolution of sex roles

CNN Opinion, November 18, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

How could they not have known they were asking for trouble? In the past few years, Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana had an affair with the staff member who had helped him produce a video promoting sexual abstinence. More...

Stephanie Coontz on feminism and the American family, Part 2

The Washington Times, October 20, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

All too often, people mistake fiction for fact. Considering that we live in an era where the lines between entertainment and information have been blurred almost beyond comprehension, this becomes an indescribably challenging problem. More...

Asking Stephanie Coontz: What's the deal with "family values"? Part 1

The Washington Times, October 19, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

The American family can only be described as a work in progress. The times are changing very quickly, which has resulted in the traditional family unit being questioned. More...

The Rise of Women Does Not Mean the End of Men

Slate, October 4, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

I completely agree with Hanna Rosin on how much - and for the most part, how irreversibly - women's options and gender power relationships have changed. More...

The Myth of Male Decline

The New York Times, September 29, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

SCROLL through the titles and subtitles of recent books, and you will read that women have become “The Richer Sex,” that “The Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys,” and that we may even be seeing “The End of Men.” More...

Marriage is not antidote to poverty

CNN Opinion, September 12, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

Here we go again. Just as in the 1980's, some conservative moralists and pundits are trying to blame America's current economic insecurity, joblessness and social inequality on the very people most victimized by these socioeconomic trends. More...

What signal is Marissa Mayer giving to Yahoo employees?

CNN Opinion, July 19, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

The news that Yahoo knowingly chose a pregnant woman as its new CEO has rightly been heralded by working women and their allies as another hole in the glass ceiling. More...

Why is 'having it all' just a women's issue?

CNN Opinion, June 25, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

One side accepts the author's argument: that feminism has set women up to fail by pretending they can have a high-powered career and still be an involved mother. The other side accuses Slaughter, who left her job as the first female director of policy planning at the State Department, of setting women back by telling them to "rediscover the pursuit of happiness," starting at home. More...

Five myths about marriage

The Washington Post, May 25, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

Modern Americans do put less emphasis on marriage as an institution that should organize everyone's life, but they put much more value on it as a relationship based on fairness, intimacy and fidelity. That is, paradoxically, one reason they have become more tolerant of divorce. More...

How Straight Marriage's Evolution Led to Obama's Gay-Marriage Endorsement

The Daily Beast, May 14, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage last week was certainly historic. But it was not a historical game changer. While Obama may pay a political price for outraging the well-funded minority that passionately opposes gay marriage, he is actually swimming with a strong historical tide. More...

On Women's Day, a reality check

CNN Opinion, March 8, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

When Philip Morris introduced Virginia Slims cigarettes for women back in 1968, their marketing slogan was "You've Come a Long Way, Baby." More...

Santorum's stone-age view of women

CNN Opinion, February 14, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum is unhappy with last week's compromise over whether Catholic institutions should be required to cover contraception for their employees, arguing that birth control "shouldn't be covered by insurance at all." More...

The M.R.S. and the Ph.D.

The New York Times, February 11, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

TODAY women earn almost 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees and more than half of master's and Ph.D.'s. Many people believe that, while this may be good for women as income earners, it bodes ill for their marital prospects. More...

Marriage: Saying 'I don't'

Los Angeles Times, January 19, 2012. By Stephanie Coontz

As of 2010, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, married couples had fallen to barely 51% of U.S. households, with a full 5% drop in new marriages between 2009 and 2010 alone. The data for 2011 aren't in yet, but if that decline continued last year, less than half of American adults are in a legal marriage now.. More...

Women in the Obama White House: sexism and progress

CNN Opinion, September 25, 2011. By Stephanie Coontz

Back in 1971, I was present as top leaders of two political organizations met to negotiate common actions they could take despite their differences. One of those leaders was a woman. Over and over, she raised points for consideration, only to be ignored by both sides. More...

Marriage evolves

Newsday, June 26, 2011. By Stephanie Coontz

For the past several years, we've heard predictions that legalizing same-sex unions will overturn marriage as the Western world has known it for 5,000 years, destroying a tried-and-true institution. But history reveals that marriage has been an evolving arrangement throughout the centuries, remaining relevant only by adjusting to changing social norms and values. More...

Kate Middleton and the great 'housewife' myth

The First Post, May 10, 2011. By Stephanie Coontz

The flurry of publicity around Kate Middleton's decision to try being "an ordinary RAF wife" has been used by social conservatives to bolster their contention that this is the ultimate ambition of most women. More...

When We Hated Mom

The New York Times, May 7, 2011. By Stephanie Coontz

ONE of the most enduring myths about feminism is that 50 years ago women who stayed home full time with their children enjoyed higher social status and more satisfying lives than they do today. All this changed, the story goes, when Betty Friedan published her 1963 best seller, "The Feminine Mystique," which denigrated stay-at-home mothers. Ever since, their standing in society has steadily diminished. More...

British Monarchy Catches Up with Modern Marriage Trends

Nexus, April 26, 2011. By Stephanie Coontz

As Prince William prepares to take his oath to Kate Middleton on Friday, the ceremony will represent not only a new chapter in his life, but in the history of the monarchy. After all, he's the first heir to the throne granted the right to freely choose his own mate on the basis of love, an ideal the rest of the Western world embraced in the late 18th century. More...

Women's equality not quite there yet

Special to CNN, March 7, 2011. By Stephanie Coontz

Last week the White House released a comprehensive statistical report on "Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being," the first such assessment since President John F. Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women released its findings in 1963. More...

Decades After 'The Feminine Mystique,' Many High-Achieving Women Find Satisfaction in Marriage

AlterNet, February 26, 2011. By Elissa Strauss

Stephanie Coontz begins her new book, A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s, with the results of a 1962 Gallup poll examining the outlook of the "typical American woman." The ladies interviewed were, on average, 35 years old, married with two children, white and full-time homemakers. They were also, reportedly, deeply satisfied and quite comfortable with the idea that "the man should be number one," an outlook reinforced in many states by "head and master" laws. More...

Mad Men? Mad Women! Looking Back at The Feminine Mystique

Ladies' Home Journal, February 25, 2011. By Lorraine Glennon

I got together with my friend Stephanie Coontz the other day to talk about her new book, A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s (Basic Books), which has drawn rave reviews from The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and a host of other publications. Stephanie is the country's foremost expert on marriage—she wrote the 2005 bestseller Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage—as well as a frequent advisor to Ladies' Home Journal. More...

The allure of The Feminine Mystique

The Spiked Review of Books, February 25, 2011. By Nancy McDermott

When it comes to American women's status in the Fifties and Sixties, it's the little things that shock the most: the thousands of petty laws, customs and assumptions of that time. Like the fact that women were required by law to take their husband's name after marriage, or the insidious double standards surrounding divorce. It's all these things we never knew about our mothers' and grandmothers' lives that make Stephanie Coontz's new book, A Strange Stirring: 'The Feminine Mystique' and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s, such a compelling read. More...

Stirring Up 'The Feminine Mystique' for a New Generation

The Huffington Post, January 19, 2011. By Christine Whelan

I am a young professor of sociology teaching classes on gender, marriage and social change -- and I have never read Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique." Like many women of my generation, I thought I had. More...

Why feminism was good for marriage

Salon, January 12, 2011. By Tracy Clark-Flory

Believe it or not, Betty Friedan was a romantic. The author of the groundbreaking 1960s treatise "The Feminine Mystique" may have detested certain traditional values, but she clung to the fantasy of heterosexual love and marriage -- here's the key -- among equals. In fact, Friedan once said that her tombstone should read: "She helped make women feel better about being women and therefore better able to freely and fully love men" -- and yet she had been memorialized by many as anti-male and anti-marriage. More...

Gay marriage isn't revolutionary. It's just next.

January 9, 2011. By Stephanie Coontz

Opponents of same-sex marriage worry that allowing two men or two women to wed would radically transform a time-honored institution. But they're way too late on that front. Marriage has already been radically transformed - in a way that makes gay marriage not only inevitable, as Vice President Biden described it in an interview late last year, but also quite logical. More...

Economic disparity takes toll on marriage

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 9, 2011. By Stephanie Coontz

For 30 years, we've watched the hollowing out of the broad middle sector of America, as the gap between rich and poor widens and fewer working-class families are able to secure the living-wage jobs that once gave them a foothold in the middle class. Studies have revealed a growing class divergence in marriage as well. Yet, surprisingly, we're finding that those who might benefit most from a two-income household are becoming the least likely to marry. More...

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Declaration of Liberation

The Wall Street Journal, Bookshelf, January 4, 2011. By Melanie Kirkpatrick

In the 1950s, a cartoon appeared in this newspaper's "Pepper . . . and Salt" column that was intended to bring a smile to the lips of Wall Street Journal readers, then almost exclusively male. The drawing showed a middle-age woman—severe hairstyle, eyeglasses, hefty bosom—seated at a large desk in what appeared to be a private office. More...

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A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz, January 3, 2011. By Johanna Fateman

Though The Feminine Mystique is often cited as a founding text of second-wave feminism, reading it today reveals it to be a brilliant artifact—not a timeless classic. More...

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Is marriage becoming obsolete, November 22, 2010. By Stephanie Coontz

According to a TIME/Pew research poll released last week, 40 percent of Americans believe that marriage is becoming obsolete, up from just 28 percent in 1978. More...

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Why 'Mad Men' is TV's most feminist show

The Washington Post, October 10, 2010. By Stephanie Coontz

Historians are notorious for savaging historical fiction. We're quick to complain that writers project modern values onto their characters, get the surroundings wrong, cover up the seamy side of an era or exaggerate its evils -- and usually, we're right.. More...

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Why Gore breakup touched a nerve

Special to CNN, June 4, 2010. By Stephanie Coontz

Olympia, Washington (CNN) -- The news that Al and Tipper Gore are breaking up after 40 years of marriage has generated an outpouring of emotion. Although we don't have -- and shouldn't seek -- the inside details, the couple says the decision was mutual and the process will be mutually supportive. Friends have told journalists that no third party was involved; the two simply grew apart. More...

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Stop Blaming Betty Friedan: No, she is not responsible for all of our unhappiness.

Slate Magazine, May 5, 2010. By Stephanie Coontz

The impact of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique on American women has been hotly debated ever since the book hit the best-seller lists in 1963. In the last year, Friedan's legacy has been the target of yet another round of attacks, prompted by the finding that women in the United States and most of Europe now report themselves slightly less happy and satisfied with their lives than they did 35 years earlier, while men report themselves happier now than in the past. More...

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Divorce, No-Fault Style

The New York Times, June 16, 2010. By Stephanie Coontz

FORTY years after the first true no-fault divorce law went into effect in California, New York appears to be on the verge of finally joining the other 49 states in allowing people to end a marriage without having to establish that their spouse was at fault. More...

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Stop Blaming Betty Friedan

Slate, May 5, 2010. By Stephanie Coontz

The impact of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique on American women has been hotly debated ever since the book hit the best-seller lists in 1963. More...

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Fisher: What's new with the American family?

San Jose Mercury News, April 12, 2010. By Patty Fisher

What's tougher on a teenager: being raised by a single parent or changing schools in the middle of the year?

Among women older than 40, who is more likely to be married: college grads or those who didn't finish high school?

Which couples older than 50 have the best sex lives? More...

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Getting Your Family through Hard Times

The New York Times, April 8, 2009. By Stephanie Coontz

The historical record isn't pretty. Job and income loss are strongly associated with increases in marital conflict, separation and divorce. During the Great Depression, economic hardship was so severe that many couples could not afford to divorce. More...

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Till Children Do Us Part

The New York Times, February 5, 2009. By Stephanie Coontz

HALF a century ago, the conventional wisdom was that having a child was the surest way to build a happy marriage. Women's magazines of that era promised that almost any marital problem could be resolved by embarking on parenthood. More...

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Intimacy Unstuck

Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, January 18, 2009. By Stephanie Coontz

Husbands do it by gassing up their spouse's car. Wives do it by having a heart-to-heart confessional. Each is expressing intimacy, but in a stereotypical Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus fashion. As Framingham State College sociologist Virginia Rutter notes, "Both men and women value a feeling of closeness with their partner, but they get to that feeling by somewhat different routes." And they often think their partner is taking the wrong route. More...

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The Feminine Mystique Revisited

Appeared in 38 newspapers across the country, in 10 different languages, between August 21 and September 4, 2008 , By Stephanie Coontz

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique . Today, many social conservatives still blame Friedan and feminism for inducing women to abandon the home for the workplace, thus destabilizing families and placing their children at risk. More...

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Separate Peace

Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2008, By Stephanie Coontz

In March, comedian Robin Williams and his estranged wife, Marcia Garces Williams, filed for divorce after 19 years of marriage. But tabloids hoping for a juicy celebrity battle may be disappointed. In court papers filed last month, the couple announced they would conduct a collaborative divorce, pledging to be "honest, cooperative and respectful" and to put their children's interests first. More...

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Spitzer scandal shows gender politics' inequality

Newsday, March 14, 2008, By Stephanie Coontz

To most Americans, the most heart-rending image of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal had to be that of his ashen-faced wife standing silently beside him at the podium Monday as he apologized for his transgressions and then again, on Wednesday, when he resigned. More...

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Taking Marriage Private?

New York Times, November 26, 2007, By Stephanie Coontz

WHY do people gay or straight need the states permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didnt, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity. More...

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Real Men Marry Rich Women

The First Post, October 23, 2007, By Stephanie Coontz

T he US census has just reported that in at least five major American cities, the majority of women in their twenties now earn more than men of the same age group. You might think people would have seen this coming. In most of Western Europe and North America, females have been a majority of university students for the past 10 years. In the United States, they now comprise almost half the students in traditionally male fields such as law, business, and medicine. More...

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Feminism has not made women unhappy. Expectations have risen, says stephanie coontz

The First Post, October 8, 2007. By Stephanie Coontz

A recent study shows that, on average, American men now report themselves happier than women do. This is the opposite of what polls found in the early 1970s, when women tended to report themselves happier than men. More...

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The Romantic Life of Brainiacs

Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, February 18, 2007. By Stephanie Coontz

College-educated, highly successful women have long had a reputation for marrying less (and having lousier sex). But in a historic reversal of past trends, these women now triumph in matrimony. A marriage historian explains. More...

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Motherhood Stalls When Women Can't Work

The Hartford Courant, May 13, 2007. By Stephanie Coontz

Over the past seven years, two small changes in the participation of mothers in the workforce have generated almost as much attention as the initial entry of wives and mothers into the working world in the 1960s. More...

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How to Stay Married

The Times of London, November 30, 2006. By Stephanie Coontz

As married couples become a minority, our correspondent argues that the best way to keep a marriage strong and healthy is to retain a close network of friends. Now, for the first time, married-couple households are a minority in both the UK and the US, outnumbered by single-person households and cohabiting couples. More...

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Too Close for Comfort

The New York Times, November 7, 2006. By Stephanie Coontz

Ever since the Census Bureau released figures last month showing that married-couple households are now a minority, my phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from people asking: "How can we save marriage? How can we make Americans understand that marriage is the most significant emotional connection they will ever make, the one place to find social support and personal fulfillment?" More...

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The American Family: Where We Are Today

U.S. Society and Values, U.S. Department of State electronic journal, Voll 6, January 2001. by Stephanie Coontz

Modern life can be stressful -- in the family as anywhere else in our fast-paced society. And yet, with all the challenges and concerns about relationships, marriage and raising children, people in the United States today have higher expectations of parenting and marriage. More...

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Marriage as Social Contact/The Decline in Married-Couple Households

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 20, 2006. By Stephanie Coontz

For the first time in 150 years, households headed by single adults and unmarried couples now outnumber married-couple families. In 1960, married-couple households represented more than 78 percent of American households. More...

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Three 'Rules' That Don't Apply

Newsweek, June 5, 2006. By Stephanie Coontz

Marriage has changed more in the last 30 years than in the previous 300. People today have unprecedented freedom about whether, when and whom to marry, and they are making those decisions free from the huge social and economic pressures that once had them marching in lockstep. More...

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Activism or facing reality?

Philadelphia Inquirer, March 15, 2006. By Stephanie Coontz

With several state supreme courts due to rule on suits from same-sex couples demanding access to marriage, conservatives must be delighted to have a Justice Samuel Alito. During his confirmation hearings, Alito argued that judges should interpret the Constitution based "on the meaning that someone would have taken from the text... at the time of its adoption." . More...

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Myth of the opt-out mom

Christian Science Monitor, March 30, 2006. By Stephanie Coontz

In 1998, Brenda Barnes quit her job as head of Pepsi's North American Division to spend more time with her kids. Since then, hardly a month has gone by without some media outlet reporting that affluent, highly educated mothers are opting out of their jobs to become full-timehomemakers. More...

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'Traditional' marriage has changed a lot

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 23, 2006. By Stephanie Coontz, Guest Columnist

Pundits and politicians love to pontificate about strengthening traditional marriage. But as someone who has studied marriage forms and family life for more than three decades, I wonder how many of them have the faintest idea of what they're talking about. More...

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A Pop Quiz on Marriage

New York Times, February 19, 2006. By Stephanie Coontz

Usually Valentine's Day comes and goes with just a day or two of news media attention to courtship and marriage. More...

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Past, present, future of marriage

The Examiner, November 25, 2005. By Stephanie Coontz

Many people believe that the instability of modern marriage exists because husbands and wives don't take their relationships as seriously as people did in the past. More...

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Uncle Sam should give working families a hand

Newsday, September 7, 2005. By Stephanie Coontz

At first glance, labor this year seems to have much to celebrate. Of the world's 20 richest industrial countries, the United States has the highest per capita income, as measured by the actual purchasing power of wages. More...

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The Heterosexual Revolution

The New York Times, July 5, 2005. By Stephanie Coontz

THE last week has been tough for opponents of same-sex marriage. First Canadian and then Spanish legislators voted to legalize the practice, prompting American social conservatives to renew their call for a constitutional amendment banning such marriages here. More...

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Why marriage today takes more love, work - from both partners

The Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2005. By Stephanie Coontz

For hundreds of years, marital advice books have been written for women rather than men, because women were responsible for making a marriage work. More...

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The Family in Upheaval

Philadelphia Inquirer, June 19, 2005. By Stephanie Coontz

Everyone knows that the intensification of work in the global economy and the erosion of the male-breadwinner family have created a crisis for parents organizing child care and couples trying to juggle work and married life. More...

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Great Expectations

Baltimore Sun, June 9, 2005. By Stephanie Coontz

THE PROBLEM with modern marriage, according to conventional wisdom, is that today's couples don't make marriage their top priority and put their relationship above all else. More...

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Family Values: Action louder than words

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 13, 2005. By Stephanie Coontz, Guest Columnist.

Since the last presidential election, "values" has been a buzzword for political pundits and talking heads. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have rushed to affirm their commitment to strong family values and the traditional value of marriage. More...

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Our Kids Are Not Doomed

Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2005. By Stephanie Coontz.

For the last 30 years, rising rates of youth violence, substance abuse and suicide have been blamed on two social pathologies: divorce and unwed motherhood. We have been told that unless we can reverse the tide of family dysfunction, these trends will engulf us. More...

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Not Much Sense in Those Census Stories

Washington Post, July 13, 2001. By Stephanie Coontz

Nearly every week, the U.S. Census Bureau releases a new set of figures on American families and the living arrangements they have been creating in the past decade. And each time, as the media liaison for a national association of family researchers, I'm bombarded with telephone calls from radio and television producers seeking a talking head to confirm the wildly differing -- and usually wrong -- conclusions they've jumped to about what those figures say about the evolving nature of family life in America. More...

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For Better, For Worse

Washington Post, May 1, 2005. By Stephanie Coontz.

Thirteen years ago, Vice President Dan Quayle attacked the producers of TV sitcom's Murphy Brown for letting her character bear a child out of wedlock, claiming that the show's failure to defend traditional family values was encouraging America's youth to abandon marriage. His speech kicked off more than a decade of outcries against the "collapse of the family." Today, such attacks have given way to a kinder, gentler campaign to promote marriage, with billboards declaring that "Marriage Works" and books making "the case for marriage." What these campaigns have in common is the idea that people are willfully refusing to recognize the value of traditional families and that their behavior will change if we can just enlighten them. More...

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Historically Incorrect Canoodling

New York Times, February 2005. by Stephanie Coontz

For all the hand-wringing about how modern Americans have separated sex from love and devalued marriage, Valentine's Day is a reminder of just how romantic we are. Restaurants are reserved months in advance for romantic dinners for two. Thousands of lovers use the occasion to "pop the question." Married couples vow to renew their ardor. The focus is on passion, sure, but passion in a marriage or a long-term relationship. More...

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The American Family

Life Magazine, November 1999. Essay by Stephanie Coontz.

As the century comes to an end, many observers fear for the future of America's families. Our divorce rate is the highest in the world, and the percentage of unmarried women is significantly higher than in 1960. Educated women are having fewer babies, while immigrant children flood the schools, demanding to be taught in their native language. Harvard University reports that only 4 percent of its applicants can write a proper sentence. There's an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases among men. Many streets in urban neighborhoods are littered with cocaine vials. Youths call heroin "happy dust." Even in small towns, people have easy access to addictive drugs, and drug abuse by middle class wives is skyrocketing. Police see 16-year-old killers, 12-year-old prostitutes and gang members as young as 11. America at the end of the 1990s? No, America at the end of the 1890s. More...

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Mothers In Arms

New York Times, May 10, 1992. By Stephanie Coontz.

Hilo, Hawaii -- Criticism has become as much a cliché as the holiday itself. Most people believe that Mother's Day started out as a private celebration of women's family roles and relations. We took Mom breakfast in bed to thank her for all the meals she made us. We picked her a bouquet of flowers to symbolize her personal, unpaid services. We tried to fix in our memory those precious moments of her knitting sweaters or sitting at our bedside, all the while focusing on her devotion to her family and ignoring her broader social ties, interests and political concerns. More...

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Managing Old and New Family Traditions

Baby Talk, Dec/Jan '98. By Stephanie Coontz.

Combining traditions has always been a challenge. But it's particularly difficult today because so many older family members embrace rituals that were developed long ago when the wife was home full-time and could spend her days cooking and preparing for the holidays. These traditions are totally inappropriate for today's families, when women work and men share in the household responsibilities, so it makes sense that families are struggling to rethink them. I've seen a number of responses that have worked for families. More...

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In Search of Men Who Are In Search of Commitment

The Washington Post, Sunday, September 7, 1997. By Stephanie Coontz.

At a recent talk in Chicago I gave about the dangers of romanticizing "traditional" families, a young man asked me if I didn't think the mass rallies of the men's group Promise Keepers in football stadiums across the country represented "potential fascism." I argued, to considerable skepticism from my audience, that however disturbing the ideology of the leaders, the motivations that bring thousands of men together for these events are not fascist, or even explicitly right-wing. More...

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Our family myths

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday March 26, 2006. By Staff

Families have never been perfect, says Stephanie Coontz, author and director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families in Chicago.

Yet many of us still perpetuate the myths, says Coontz, one of several family scholars scheduled to speak at a free public conference Thursday and Friday at Emory University. More...

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real, the idealized often at odds, experts say

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday March 26, 2006. By Gracie Bonds Staples - Staff

He was divorced, with a son. So was she. And so when Cathy and Denny Dobbs merged their families nearly 20 years ago, it was much like the popular 1970s sitcom "The Brady Bunch." More...

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Following the State of the Union Address, Childcare is Poised to Become the Next Emotive Issue in the National Debate. A Leading Family Historian Offers Her Solutions.

Photo By Karen Moskowitz. Click to enlarge.
Mother Jones, June 1998. Interview By Sarah Pollock.

On February 4, 1997, when English au pair Louise Woodward fractured the skull of her 8-month-old charge, Matthew Eappen causing his death five days later she unleashed a storm of outrage. One of the targets was Deborah Eappen, the child's mother, who had returned to work as an ophthalmologist (albeit part time) after her son's birth. Eappen was vilified as selfish and irresponsible for leaving her son in the care of an 18 year-old. More...

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The Way We Weren't

The Star Tribune, Wednesday May 7, 1997. By Cecelia Goodnow, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The key to regaining a sense of stability during this period of wrenching social, cultural and economic change isn't reclaiming 'traditional family values.' According to historian/author Stephanie Coontz, it's adapting our social institutions.

Stephanie Coontz, who studies the history of American families, was riding to the airport when her taxi driver started railing against the welfare system. More...

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Author Coontz Sums Up Hot-button Issues of the 90's

The Star Tribune, Wednesday May 7, 1997. By Cecelia Goodnow, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with American's Changing Families, offers her take on the following social issues: Wayward Teens, Social Support, the Role of Marriage. More...

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