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For example, the encyclopedia alludes to the early twentieth-century emergence of status offenses, but does not discuss later changes either in the definition and enforcement of status offenses or of recent changes in juvenile law.
The failure to think “fourth-dimensionally” also makes it difficult for readers to identify relevant historical trends.
In 1,838 double-columned pages within four volumes, the encyclopedia contains fifty entries that describe family life in specific countries, eleven entries on religion, and twelve entries on ethnic groups, ranging from the Basques and Canada’s First Nations to the Yoruba. The volumes contain a wealth of information that women’s historians and historians of the family and of childhood are sure to find fascinating: Yet while the entries are highly attentive to gender and encompass a vast range of societies, certain crucial questions go unaddressed.
Contributors include leading authorities on divorce, domestic violence, fatherhood, and gender, such as Scott Coltrane, David H. Why, for example, does Italy have the lowest birth rate and the most pronounced shift to a “post-modern” pattern of delayed exit from the natal home and late marriage (27 for women, 30 for men), while having lower rates of female employment outside the home than many other developed countries?
Especially useful are the entry’s summaries of current scholarship, such as the findings that migration does not necessarily increase marital conflict but often increases spousal solidarity, and that the birth of a child prompts many couples to reassert a more “traditional” division of familial roles while producing a sharp decline in reported marital happiness.
Another cost is a blindness to the way that knowledge and social problems are constructed.Along with a few entries of historical interest (e.g., bundling), a number of entries contextualize contemporary behavior through brief historical prefaces, while others present a history of sociological and psychological thinking on a particular topic (e.g., gangs).The history the encyclopedia contains tends to take one of two forms: historicism–highly generalized long-term historical narratives and contemporary history–or a history that often goes back no further than the 1970s.The heavy reliance on entries on specific countries, as opposed to broader comparative entries, makes it difficult for readers to identify or understand the causes of national differences.
Nevertheless, the encyclopedia’s cross-cultural, if not comparative, approach does suggest that public policy can be formulated in ways quite different from those followed in the United States: The encyclopedia also includes a great deal of information about the construction of social science knowledge about families.Given the highly fragmented, multidisciplinary character of the literature on marital and family relations, this encyclopedia meets a real need.