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Reinventing the Family: In Search of New Lifestyles

ISBN: 978-0-7456-2213-2
184 pages
April 2002, Polity
Reinventing the Family: In Search of New Lifestyles (0745622135) cover image


The traditional image of the family as a life-long unit is fading fast. There are fewer marriages, more divorces, and ever more children born to unmarried or single parents. The forms of our private life are changing rapidly, and people are embarking on new lifestyles based on cohabitation, separation and same-sex partnerships. In this lively and accessible new book, Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim looks at the future of our lives after the family. Examining the breakdown of the conventional family unit, she explores the new choices that are open to individuals, and analyses our anxiety over the ensuing loss of stability.

In Reinventing the Family, Beck-Gernsheim describes how men and women are being confronted with competing and often incompatible demands. Our areas of personal choice have been redrawn, but in a space that involves new social regulations and controls. The talk of ‘family values' sits uneasily with the reality of long working-hours, business trips, weekend seminars and career moves. At work, we are encouraged to pursue competition, speed and change; at home we are expected to find community and conciliation. Beck-Gernsheim examines the impact of these conflicting expectations on the relationships between men, women and children, and searches for possible solutions.

Reinventing the Family is an important and timely contribution to the growing debate about the family and its future. It will be ideal reading for students of sociology and gender studies, but will also appeal to a wide general readership.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the English Edition.


Chapter 1: The New Confusion about the Family.

Chapter 2: When Divorce Becomes Normal.

Chapter 3: Life as a Planning Project.

Chapter 4: Generational Contract and Gender Relations.

Chapter 5: We Want a Special Child.

Chapter 6: Towards the Multicultural Family.




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Author Information

Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim is Professor of Sociology at the University of Erlangen.
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The Wiley Advantage

  • Considers the future of the family in contemporary society

  • Investigates the growing tension between demands at work and at home

  • Examines the breakdown of the conventional family unit

  • Explores new choices open to individuals and the anxiety over the ensuing loss of stability

  • A lively and accessible book on a very topical theme
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"This book is a ‘must-read' for those interested in where family diversity is leading in terms of present-day relations between the sexes and generations, and the increasing tensions and incompatible demands of employment and family care. Beck-Gernsheim blends careful appraisal of evidence with bold speculation about future trends. She brings a welcome note of optimism, suggesting that the ‘reinvention' of family life expands opportunities, and that multicultural families can help heal ethnic and national divides. The book provides a new and relevant angle on old debates about family decline, family diversity, and social change. Beck-Gernsheim makes clear why family is much more than just another lifestyle choice." Jackie Scott, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Cambridge
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