The double life of the family: myth, hope and experience

Michael Bittman, Jocelyn Pixley

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Most of us don't live in neat conventional families but the myth of the nuclear family is extremely powerful. Bittman and Pixley analyse the facts and the myths of family life in the 1990s.

The modern family is under strain. What we crave most from our families is intimacy, warmth and self-fulfilment but we often find this difficult to achieve. We hold onto these expectations of our families even in the face of contradictory experiences, so the family sustains a double life.

The authors explore the gap between our values, expectations and yearnings, and our experiences of everyday family life. Family ritual, political rhetoric, advertising images and television family sitcoms are all windows onto what we want and expect - our myths of the family. Yet our aspirations for intimacy and self-fulfilment are frustrated by unacknowledged inequalities between men and women, and parents and children. The inequalities have their origins in the division of domestic labour and in labour markets that disregard family responsibilities.

The Double Life Of The Family argues that our expectations of family life are more powerful than is usually believed and have enormous influence on both the way governments structure social policy and on the decisions made by ordinary people.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherAllen and Unwin
Number of pages328
ISBN (Print)9781863736299, 1863736298
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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