Gerson, Kathleen. The Unfinished Revolution: How a Generation is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. xi + 297 pages. Cloth, $24.95.
Every semester when I ask my students, on the topic of integrating work and family in the course on work and organizations, how they or their families attempt to balance work and family life, the common response is: "Combining work and family is a tricky balancing act," or "It depends on individual or family situations, experiences, and aspirations." Sociologist Kathleen Gerson's The Unfinished Revolution focuses on this issue, providing a fresh perspective on the controversial public debate regarding the rise of single, two-paycheck, and same-sex family configurations. The vast changes in American family life have been blamed on declining morality and unhappy children. But does this popular notion tell the whole story? Gerson's groundbreaking research provides a vivid account of the gender and family revolution that has transformed American society, viewed through the prism of the children of the gender revolution.
The book begins with an introduction on the "Shaping of a New Generation" and then dovetails into two parts: "Growing Up in Changing Families" and "Facing the Future." What situations or experiences shaped the new generation? Most young adults today grew up in changing circumstances. First, they were "reared in households where volatile changes occurred when parents altered their ties to each other or to the wider world of work" (p. 4). Second, they grew up during a period of increasing divorce or were raised by a single mother or cohabiting parents. Third, the new generation came of age at a time when women's entry into the labor force was perceived as a challenge to the traditional pattern of home-centered motherhood. Lastly, these young adults grew up in a period
when a growing number of men faced unpredictable economic prospects, in terms of declining secure, well-paid careers. Consequently, the new generation has no well-defined path to follow and, therefore, have to wrestle with individual options and choices in the face of changes engendered by the gender and family revolution and its subsequent impact on vibrant and committed family and work life. These changes include the fact that marriage no longer guarantees the vow of commitment and permanence, nor is it the only option for bearing and rearing children. Most men no longer assume they...