/ Book Reviews

Bryan, Mark (1997). The Prodigal Father: Reuniting Fathers and their Children. New York: Potter/Random House. ISBN 0-51770-617-2. 278 pp.

Recent statistics show that 40% of the children of divorced parents have not seen their fathers in the past year and that 22% of noncustodial fathers have had no contact with their children in the previous five years. Where have all the fathers gone? In The Prodigal Father: Reuniting Fathers with Their Children, Mark Bryan contends that a majority of absent fathers have exiled themselves as an attempt to soothe the searing pain of separation. He offers many reasons why a man would opt for exile (e.g., anger over the divorce agreement; inability to deal with the mother's anger; difficulty in adjusting to "visitation" rather than daily contact; depression; or alcoholism). His message to these men is clear: Regardless of the length of the absence, a father can and must reconnect with his children. Reestablishing a relationship with his children is as important for him as it is for the children and their mother.

Bryan draws upon his own experience as an absent-then-reunited father—as well as on his years as a counselor working with fathers and families—to challenge men to move beyond the media-enhanced facade of the "toughing-it-out man" and to do the emotional work necessary for a healthy re-connection. He offers The Prodigal Father as a "how-to-guide"—complete with exercises and questions at the end of each chapter that are designed to assist a man through stages of "emotional bootcamp" towards reunion.

Bryan stresses the personal responsibility of each man to go inward and accept his absence and to forgive himself and the others he feels have wronged him. He is to make emotional and, if necessary, financial amends to his children's mother and re-commit his involvement to his children as a co-parent. He must be willing to go the distance. While the book is presented as a self-help tool, Bryan highly recommends the use of support groups, mentors, and/or therapy for the man committed to reunion. He even offers an outline for the development of a study group.

This book is written—first and foremost—for the absent father wishing to do the personal growth work essential in the reestablishment and development of an ongoing relationship with his children. The power of the text lies in Bryan's ability to take the reader beyond the recently accepted "Deadbeat Dad" depiction of absent fathers and present the other side of the same man, which he has termed "the Brokenhearted Dad." It is from this perspective he believes the true healing begins, thus making the reuniting of fathers and their children not only possible but rewarding for all involved. The Prodigal Father is a must-read for any father—absent or living with his children. The unique perspective Bryan offers into the life of an absent father also provides beneficial insight for women—mothers or not. Any helping professional will find this book useful.

Christopher A. Veihl
Lakeside Family Counseling
Clinton Township, Michigan

LaRossa, Ralph (1997). The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Political History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-22646-903-4. 287 pp.

Drawing primarily on historical data from child-rearing books, popular magazine articles, and parent/childcare-expert correspondence of the 1920s and 1930s, historian Ralph LaRossa chronicles the social processes of the era that spawned a "New Fatherhood." Limited in scope to the machine age, the book weighs the cultural and economic shifts, social climate, and gender politics that brought fathers into closer partnership with their wives in the rearing of children. Three questions are revisited in a circular fashion throughout the study: 1) Did this "New Fatherhood" or greater domestication of men result in or from the domestic masculinity of men (father as a pal and "daddy") or the masculine domesticity of men (father as a role model to his children)? 2) Who was responsible for the continued marginalization of men in the parenting process—the men themselves, mothers, or the child development experts in the field? 3) How synchronous was the stereotypical image of fatherhood at any one time during the period with the actual behavior of men on a day-to-day basis?

Noting that men's identities as fathers always hinge on drawing distinctions between the past and present, LaRossa patiently wades through a series of library holdings, seriously testing the patience of readers who might not be so inclined to do so. Often, he asks the question, "What do we make of all this?" and then concludes that it is "hard to tell," since much of the data he uses as primary sources cannot be assumed to "mirror everyday life." Toward the end of the book, the author describes a quantitative study of his central questions. For this, he randomly sampled a set of 1,000 letters sent by parents to Angelo Patri, a New York City middle school principal, popular newspaper columnist, and radio show host—a "Dr. Dobson" or "Dr. Laura" of the machine age who dispensed parenting advice. In analyzing the correspondence to and from Patri, LaRossa attempts to establish a more authentic perspective of parenting during the time. Still, there are reservations about how representative these parents were of the general population, muddying conclusions that are drawn.

The book could be somewhat better organized. For example, there are confusing returns to such topics as the importance of Father's Day in the modernization of fatherhood when the reader could benefit from a more compact handling of that issue and others. However, the text is valuable and impressive in its preservation of the machine age's contributions to today's vision of the role fathers play in the lives of their children—and the social forces that exacerbated that status. Family historians will savor LaRossa's page-by-page examination of the culture of daddyhood, while others may want to move directly to his thoughtful conclusions.

Anne K. Soderman
Department of Family and Child Ecology
Michigan State University

Levine, James A. (1997). Working Fathers: New Strategies for Balancing Work and Family. New York: Addison Wesley. ISBN 0-20114-938-9. 279 pp.

The mega-bookstores display Working Fathers in the Business Reference section, which may be taken as a good sign of the times. Corporate consciousness is emerging from the Stone Age. The book is a combination of social analysis and how-to advice which will likely inspire many parents and corporations to strive toward balancing work and family priorities. Although the main title of the book at first seems rather uninspired, it reflects an important message: The time has come to balance the high degree of attention paid to working mothers with a reasonably equal amount paid to working fathers (and, thereafter, to attend to working parents as a whole). The book also attempts to take a wholistic systems approach to viewing the life of the working father, challenging the often-assumed dichotomy between work life and family life by demonstrating that they are so interwoven and interdependent that they cannot be separated. For example, the case is made that good Dads make better workers and vice versa: that the same skills that are effective in business are effective in parenting.

Part 1 is a description of the central problem ("Daddy Stress: The Invisible Dilemma") and the far-reaching benefits to be accrued from addressing it—benefits for fathers, mothers, children, business, and society. Part 2 maps out strategies for work and includes creating the father-friendly workplace, changing parental and corporate attitudes in beneficial ways, and managing paternity leave. Part 3 specifically addresses strategies for home, such as connecting with one's family, staying connected while traveling, and connecting with children through involvement with school, day care, and significant others in the children's lives. This last suggestion may be one of the more controversial ideas in the book, since it posits that maximizing the time to do things and just be with one's children may not be as necessary as previously thought—if one stays connected indirectly through these other channels. This recommendation begins to sound more like child administration and rationalization than truly involved fathering. Certainly involvement with the school and doctor are important, but nothing comes close to the value of one-on-one contact with your child.

Since Levine makes much of his living consulting with corporations, he does not bite the hand that feeds him, even when it may deserve a good nip. Nevertheless, Working Fathers is a well-written and well-thought-out analysis and strategic map from which business people at every echelon, mental health and health practitioners, academics, other professionals—and especially fathers and mother—can benefit.

Jon B. Clark
Family Therapist
Rochester, Michigan

Leving, Jeffery M. & Dachman, Kenneth A. (1997). Father's Rights: Hard-Hitting & Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute. New York: Harper/Collins. ISBN 0-46502-443-2. 224 pp.

Leving and Dachman emphatically believe that a father is essential to his children's lives and development. The authors share with their readers the portrayal of an on-going social dilemma: Fathers who are being arbitrarily removed from interaction with their families deprives the children of the important involvement dads can provide. Leving and Dachman discuss the complexity of a court system that, unfortunately, is seemingly indifferent at times to the plights of committed fathers in maintaining this relationship. The authors effectively and realistically answer the practical question of one father who bemoans, "What can we do to stay in our kids lives?" A central concern of this book is on the "legalized abuse" that children suffer when their parents are involved in an adversarial battle over control of them. That fathers must be paramount in decreasing the trauma that inevitably is inflicted upon their children is sharply conveyed to readers.

The intermingling foci of this book are the father's rights in divorce and custody issues, the needs of the children, and legal issues. Practical advice is given on finding an effective attorney, staying in control of your emotions, protecting the relationship with your child, and overcoming the "tender years" bias that remains intact in some courts. The book provides details on important issues—such as parental alienation syndrome; the severe consequences that families and society must endure when fathers are prevented involvement with their children; shared parenting time; and the arena of negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Unlike other books, Father's Rights also addresses the ever-increasing number of unmarried fathers involved in paternity cases facing courts across the country; their case examples are real and may be considered inflammatory by some readers.

Father's Rights has much practical information and is recommended for fathers either contemplating or experiencing the separation/divorce process, clinicians involved with the courts in preparing evaluations, attorneys and educators who deal with families enduring this trauma. This direct and simply presented book surely will assist many fathers in their quest to remain viable and integral parts of their children's lives.

David L. Manville
Family Counseling and Mediation
3rd Judicial Court, Detroit, Michigan

Mackey, Wade C. (1997). The American Father: Biocultural and Developmental Aspects. New York: Plenum. ISBN 0-30645-337-1. 279 pp.

This book illustrates the power of interdisciplinary research. The American Father combines history, sociology, psychology, and biology to offer rare insights into the neglected and misunderstood topic of fatherhood. Mackey argues that the human father evolved to aid his children by provisioning and protecting them; this role is universal, unique, and indispensable. Mackey's own observational research in 21 countries indicates that care by fathers differs around the world from care by mothers. Fathers provide less direct care than mothers and interact more with sons and with older children.

Mackey laments the rise of single motherhood and divorce (befalling 85% of African American children under 18), which hurt both fathers and children by separating them and by reducing resources for all parties. Furthermore, fatherlessness is associated with numerous developmental problems; child abuse and incest are disproportionately committed by stepfathers and boyfriends. Also, crime and venereal disease rise with the number of single men. Cross-cultural data indicate that single motherhood is associated with women's higher education and economic independence. Thus there is a downside for children of women's autonomy. Mackey argues that government further undermines the family by acting in loco patris: Many mothers choose welfare payments or child support over dependence on a low-income husband. (About twice as many U.S. divorces are initiated by women than men.) Government day care may increase single motherhood even more.

Thus, the American father is condemned for not spending more time with his children—even though U.S. fathers are typical of fathers elsewhere—but if he does not earn enough, he risks divorce and separation from his children. This dilemma has received scant attention and should intrigue anyone concerned with children's well-being.

Glenn Weisfeld
Department of Psychology
Wayne State University

Parke, Ross D. (1996). Fatherhood: The Developing Child Series. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-67429-518-8. 319 pp.

When Ross Parke first wrote about fathers for The Developing Child series, one could argue that fathers were on the verge of breaking out of their specialized roles as breadwinners and were soon to be viewed as more active participants in the rearing of their children. Over the past three or four decades, a variety of technological, economic, and ideological changes have been redefining what it means to be a father. Specifically, the combination of an increased number of women working full time outside the home and of the higher geographic mobility prevalent in the new economy was having the effect of reducing the amount of support that a nuclear family could expect from its network of aunts and grandparents. The result often was perceived by psychologists and other researchers as a strain on the family unit that would stimulate a new popularity in fathering and encourage fathers to assume more active roles in activities once stereotypically considered maternal. But has the revolution materialized, and has the modern father answered the challenge? These are the primary issues addressed in Parke's thorough and lively revision of his 1981 book.

Unfortunately for many of us who were more optimistic then, the change now looks more like a slow, steady, gradual evolution rather than a dramatic revolution. In exploring the changes that have been noticed, Parke specifically asks why it has been so slow and difficult to achieve, and then guides the reader through a number of issues that govern fathers' involvements with their children. He does this by adopting a life-span family systems perspective to demonstrate how, for example, a father's involvement with his children is a product of his own relationship with his parents, his relationship with his wife, and his attitudes concerning the importance of being an active parent. Indeed, the most notable addition in the 1996 edition is an extensive chapter entitled "What Determines Fathers' Involvement?" Here Parke summarizes the findings of numerous researchers on individual influences such as the relationship with one's family of origin, timing of entry into parenthood, and child gender; familial influences associated with the various dyadic and triadic subgroups of a family; extrafamilial influences from relatives, neighbors, and friends, or from institutions such as the work place; and finally, cultural influences that impact attitudes concerning mothering and fathering roles.

Throughout this interesting discussion, Parke emphasizes the complexity of studying fathering by noting that men are aware both of the mixed messages they receive in terms of cultural ideals (compare the characterization fathers found on television shows such as Cosby and The Simpsons) and of the ambivalence that many mothers have about giving up their own sense of control over the domain of care giving. In what may be viewed as a "progress report" of what we know today about how fathers act and how they influence their children, Parke presents convincing arguments that (a) fatherhood is a complex social construct; (b) there is no "average" father; (c) children need fathers; and (d) fathers need their children just as well.

Robert B. Stewart, Jr.
Department of Psychology
Oakland University

Popenoe, David (1996). Life without Father: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-68482-297-0. 275 pp.

In his latest book, David Popenoe, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University and Co-Chair of the Council on Families in America, makes a compelling argument that men should be more involved in children's lives. I couldn't agree more. However, in my opinion, Popenoe's biologically deterministic rationale for bringing men back into families is androcentric (i.e., male-centered) at its worst and unnecessary at best.

Popenoe argues that because of high divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births, American fathers are more removed from family life today than ever before; and that many American children are spending a large proportion of their childhood without fathers. Because of innate differences in cognitive skills, aggression and activity levels, sensory sensitivity, and sexual and reproductive behavior, women and men parent differently—according to Popenoe. And both parenting styles are necessary to produce complete, healthy adults. Men are equipped to teach proficiency in "things and theorems," while women teach proficiency in personal relationships. (Of course, in our contemporary society, it's clear which of the skills is more highly rewarded.) Fathers stress competition and risk taking in their interactions with children while mothers stress emotional security. Popenoe contends that fatherhood is not merely a social role that can be performed by any adult male. Children need their biological fathers because only men with a biological claim on children will invest in them. This, he implies, is securely demonstrated by existing sociobiological research on male reproductive strategies.

In Popenoe's view, father absence is not only detrimental for children, it's harmful to society as well. Unattached males are responsible for major social problems such as delinquency, premature sexuality, teen births, deteriorating educational achievement, substance abuse, and alienation and depression among youths. Popenoe sees marriage as a protective factor for men, encouraging responsibility and curbing anti-social behavior. "Family life is a considerable civilizing force for men . . . Marriage forces men to master their passions (p. 12)." Those who study domestic violence, however, might question the effectiveness of mariage as a restraining factor on male aggression. They would suggest that marriage privileges, rather than prevents, men's use of violence and redirects it toward "loved ones" rather than strangers.

Popenoe draws on research from the fields of anthropology, archeology, and sociobiology for biological support of his argument. He claims, for instance, that contemporary sex/gender roles have evolved from early human history, when males provided food through group hunting activities and protected pregnant and lactating females who were immobilized by their physical condition. This is, of course, not the first time family scholars have heard a biological justification for the contemporary gender-based—and inequitable—division of labor in family studies. The structural functionalist sociologist Talcott Parsons, for example, made a similar argument in the 1940s and 1950s. Feminist family scholars have published numerous studies over the past two decades which have identified the shortcomings of this perspective on intimate relationships and household living arrangements. Popenoe's argument rests unnecessarily, then, on shaky biological premises. Feminist reinterpretations of the archaeological record that supported the "man the hunter" theory throw his evolutionary argument into question. And recent meta-analyses of studies on gender differences in cognition and various forms of social behavior (e.g., altruism and dependence) in psychology cast profound doubt on his assumption of innate differences in parenting styles.

In closing, Popenoe offers an unfounded and convoluted evolutionist argument when a straightforward appeal to an ethos of responsibility might do. Shouldn't it be sufficient to say that since biological fathers are involved in creating a life they should also be involved in sustaining it? Rather than assuming that men are out-of-control, self-centered beasts could we not simply appeal to their sense of community and responsibility? Let's bring men back into families, as Popenoe pleads, but let's expand the father role beyond the "traditional" one of the 1950s that featured dad as protector, provider, and playmate. Let's encourage and enable men to share the full range of parenting work along with the joys because it's good for them, their children, and their female partners.

Constance L. Shehan
Department of Sociology
University of Florida

Wade-Gayles, Gloria (1997). Father Songs: Testimonies by African-American Sons and Daughters. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-80706-124-6. 336 pp.

An edited collection of African American experiences of fathering could be a recipe for formulaic understandings of black men: "the gangsta at home" or "the righteous blackman vindicates his family." In the hands of Gloria Wade Gayles, Father Songs: Testimonies of African-American Sons and Daughters is neither extreme. Instead, her skillful editing draws the reader into the reflections of several writers whose varied perspectives give testimony to the complexities of black family relationships in the United States. The fathers are seen as gifted, ragged, hated, loved—or some combination of the above. The writers from which the selections are drawn are diverse: from Langston Hughes to Patrice Gaines, from Gwendolyn Brooks to Houston Baker Jr., some from previously published works, many original to this volume.

The perspectives of these authors are not merely pleasant or painful memories; Gayles does not select simple father anecdotes. The writers make their reflections in order to analyze the present moment, responding to the impact of these loved or raggedy men—indeed songs about fathers. Ultimately the reader's personal memories of joy or pain are stirred; the imagination is engaged. Gloria Wade Gayles has textured a three-dimensional collage of African American families which centers fathers, and only occasionally slips into sentimentality. I understood how Gayles' collection could engage the imagination by my own response: I intend to send Father Songs to one of my brothers, whose parenting of a son and daughter I admire—in stark contrast to our own father. This powerful collection is an important addition to the growing body of African American literature.

Stephanie Mitchem
Women's Studies Program
University of Detroit Mercy