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Copyright (c) 1999 Journal of Law & Family Studies  
Journal of Law & Family Studies

BOOK NOTE: The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Political History


1 J. L. Fam. Stud. 103


Robert Neill *


What do Ward Cleaver, CliffHuxtable, Mike Brady, Homer Simpson and Frank Costanza have in common? They are some of T.V.'s most popular dads, dads who reflect our nation's current image of fathers as economic provider, pal and male role model. In his book, The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Political History, n2 Ralph LaRossa focuses on the development of modern fatherhood and how our current image of fathers, such as those portrayed in our favorite T.V. sitcoms, has come to pass. LaRossa believes that fathers have not changed dramatically to make them new or modern, but argues that fathers, in some form or other, have always been viewed as the economic provider, childhood playmates, and male role models. LaRossa contends that our current idea of fatherhood was merely institutionalized early in this century during the 1920s and 1930s, a period he calls the Machine Age.

The Machine Age marks a period when the world became dominated by machines. From the time one woke up to an alarm clock in the morning to the time one turned off the electric light to go to bed, machines affected every aspect of American life. There were motorized vehicles, radios, motion pictures, telephones, and so forth. Along with novel devices, the Machine Age brought "modernism," new ways of doing old things. Scientific theory, from psychology to nutrition, infiltrated every field, including family relations. Child-rearing was becoming more than tradition, it was being researched, ...
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