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Until very recently, individual level census data from the past had never been available for scholarly analysis.What we knew about family life in the past came from diaries, from the official records of a few towns and churches, or from travel writers such as Tocqueville.Now that we have individual level census records from 1850 through 2000, we are able to look into long term trends in family life in a way that inevitably must cast some of our previous assumptions aside.
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Links to news coverage about the "How Couples Meet" study is below, under prior media coverage. The argument revolves around the independent life stage, a life stage which has emerged since 1960.
My first paper from this project, "Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary" was published in the August 2012 issue of the American Sociological Review. Young adults experience the independent life stage after they have left their parents' homes, but before they have settled down to start their own family.
The How Couples Meet and Stay Together project has revolutionized our understanding of such topics as how couples meet, the role of technology and the role of family in personal relations, why couples stay together, and whether same-sex married couples stay together as long as heterosexual married couples do. During the independent life stage young men and women go away to college, travel, begin careers, and enjoy a period of relative social independence.
Note: This is my homepage, which I maintain myself. The sociology department website also has a profile of me, but the information there is not the most current.
Research Interests: I am a social demographer who studies race, ethnicity, and family structure, the family's effect on children, and the history of the family.
I am interested in mate selection as a social as well as a personal process.See the description of my book, The Age of Independence, below. You can also find the book, along with a selection from the text and the index, at the Harvard University Press website.The rise of the independent life stage has reduced parental control over the dating and mate selection choices of their children.The decline of parental supervision and control results in a sharp rise in interracial and same-sex unions, the kind of unions that previous generations of parents were able to prevent.Although most Americans and many scholars believe that young adults are returning home to the parental nest in ever greater numbers (a phenomenon the press has dubbed 'the boomerang effect'), this widely held perception has it exactly backwards.In fact what really distinguishes modern family life from previous eras is the new independence (geographic, residential, and social) of young adults from their families of origin.