A Demographic Perspective on Depictions of the Harmfulness of Single-Parent Families in U.S. Magazines and Social Science Journals, 1900-1998

Margaret Usdansky, Syracuse University

The number of U.S. children living in single-parent families has risen rapidly since 1960 due to increases in divorce and non-marital childbearing. But neither single-parent families created by divorce and non-marital childbearing nor controversy about them is new. This paper uses primary data to examine trends over the 20th century in depictions of the harmfulness of single-parent families in popular magazines and social science journals. Several aspects of harmfulness are depicted, including whether authors and commentators who write about single-parent families depict them as harmful and, if so, who or what is harmed and how. I establish trends over time in depictions of harmfulness and use multivariate models to explore factors likely associated with these depictions. These include trends in magazine and academic publishing, like the growth of women's magazines and empirical research; changing characteristics of authors and commentators; demographic trends in divorce and non-marital childbearing; and selected socio-economic factors.

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Presented in Session 114: Values, Attitudes, and the Family