Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is the Idea of Pre-Marital Sex Obsolescent?

This week I will blog on a fine family sociology conference I am attending at Princeton.

Mark Regnerus suggests that with the rising age of marriage, widespread cohabitation, even cohabitation with children, and the general separation of sex from reproduction, in fifteen years the term "pre-marital sex" will seem archaic.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Gifted Givers

This week I will blog on a fine family sociology conference I am attending at Princeton.

Many programs aimed at preventing unmarried motherhood try to convince women, especially poor women with little education, that they could maximize their individual profits if they just prevented babies. This is an argument that works with many richer, more educated women and men, such as those who make up such policies.

Helen Alvare argues that such policies fail because they fail to understand what these women want. They are not trying to be individual profit maximizers. They are trying to be "gifted givers." The love and care they give to their children are a gift to the children themselves, and to the community as a whole. Giving that love is something these moms are good at. Being good mothers, according to the standards of their community, is something that any mother can understand. Facing up to the responsibilities of motherhood, even without a husband, is an honorable way to face their community.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Donor Kids Want to Know Who Their Fathers Are - But Also Support Sperm Donation

This week I will blog on a fine family sociology conference I am attending at Princeton.

Elizabeth Marquardt and colleagues have produced a fascinating new report, "My Daddy's Name is Donor" on the lives and views of adults conceived by sperm donation.

She found that about half of them were bothered about the circumstances of their conception, especially that money changed hands. At the same time, almost two thirds support the existence of sperm donation, and a fifth of them have donated sperm or eggs themselves - a much higher rate than the general population.

The donor-conceived children have serious questions about their own identity. They do worse on a number of behavioral measures than either natural or adopted children. Yet most also embrace the idea that "parents have a right to a child" and think just about all methods to achieve that end should be allowed.

I believe the public discussion of donor-conceived children is just beginning. The ideas of donor offspring, which are not entirely coherent, will, I believe, shift and solidify - and polarize - as the discourse develops. I commend Marquardt for getting the ball rolling.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Authentic Happiness 2: The Main Point

Positive Psychology has made an elaborate effort to identify the different strengths that people can have. They have set out to create a positive alternative to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the summary text of psychology. Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness makes an interesting claim: don't try to have all strengths possible to people, but concentrate on your signature strengths. The main point of the book, I believe, is this:

“the good life is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification. This is something you can do in each of the main realms of your life: work, love, and raising children.”

This raises a further question for a sociologist: do groups of people have distinctive signature strengths?

And beyond that, what kind of society would emerge if each person pursued his or her signature strengths?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Communion Technology

Danville hosted its big event of the year, the Great American Brass Band Festival. This morning saw the traditional community church service on the college lawn. The Canadian Salvation Army band supplied the music, and most of the downtown churches participated in the service. This is practical ecumenism at its best.

We had a new piece of communion technology this year. We each received a little plastic cup of grape juice. It was sealed at the top. Above the seal was another layer with the text "This is my body, which is broken for you. Take, eat: do this in remembrance of me."

The most amazing part was that in between the top layer printed with the text, and the second layer which sealed the cup, was a little tiny communion wafer.