Boston University School of Law


What is Parenthood?: Contemporary Debates about the Family

Linda C. McClain (editor)
Boston University School of Law

Daniel Cere (editor)
Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University

New York University Press, 2013
Boston University School of Law Working Paper 13-18
(May 22, 2013)

Linda C. McClain and Daniel Cere, "Introduction to WHAT IS PARENTHOOD?: CONTEMPORARY DEBATES ABOUT THE FAMILY" (New York University Press, 2013)
(NYU holds the copyright and this material is being posted -- table of contents, acknowledgements, and Introduction -- with their permission)


Extraordinary changes in patterns of family life – and family law – have dramatically altered the boundaries of parenthood and opened up numerous questions about debates. What is parenthood and why does it matter? How should society define, regulate, and support it? Despite this uncertainty, the intense focus on the definition and future of marriage diverts attention from parenthood. Demographic reports suggesting a shift away from marriage and toward alternative family forms also keep marriage in constant public view, obscuring the fact that disagreements about marriage are often grounded in deeper, conflicting convictions about parenthood. This book (as the posted Introduction explains) brings together a stellar interdisciplinary group of scholars with widely varying perspectives to consider parenthood. Law is the disciplinary center of the conversation, but the volume also includes scholars from anthropology, education, globalization and immigration studies, medicine, psychology, religious ethics, and sociology.  As an organizing device, the book proposes two contrasting models of parenthood: the integrative model and the diversity model.  The questions addressed by contributors include:  (1) are the integrative and diversity models a fruitful way to make sense of contemporary debates about parenthood?; what are the bases for these models?; (2) is parenthood separable from marriage (or couplehood) when it comes to fostering child well-being and what light does anthropological study shed on this question?; (3)  how should the rights of adults and children shape the law of parenthood?;  (4) does one model produce, on average, better outcomes for children?; (5) how much does biology matter to secure parent-child attachment and how can attachment research inform the parenthood debate?; (6) are there gender differences in parenting and, if so, how should they inform public policy?; how should family law’s commitment to gender equality shape the law of parentage?; (7) how do family immigration and transnational parenting shape parenthood and how should these experiences inform law and policy?; and (8) given current indicators about family life, in what direction should law and policy about parenthood move? The Introduction posted with this abstract explains the book’s aims, provides an overview of the two models, and previews the questions taken up in the volume and the approaches taken by contributors in answering them.

Size 212 KB

Adobe Acrobat Reader v3.01 or greater is required to view this paper.
To obtain a free copy, click the button below

Linda C. McClain Contact Information
Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: (617) 358-4635
Fax: (617) 353-3077

Daniel Cere Contact Information
Faculty of Religious Studies
McGill University
Phone: (514) 398-4195

This draft can be also found at the link below: