Drawing both the ire and the praise of social commentators, Mary Eberstadt's new book Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes (Sentinel, 2004) opens the proverbial "can of worms" on the subject of how children are raised in America.
Some, as indicated by the New York Times book review title "New Salvo Is Fired in Mommy Wars," view the book as attacking working mothers. Others, such as scholar John Q. Wilson in the Wall Street Journal, have praised it, saying, "The great and, to me, unarguable theme of Mary Eberstadt's "Home-Alone America" is that families are a very good thing and parental care is of decisive importance in shaping the character of our children and thereby the culture of our country."
The Economist and the National Review Online comments include a discussion of how the book may affect culture. In the Economist the review concludes "her passionate attack on the damage caused by the absence of parents suggests that we may be approaching some sort of turning point in social attitudes, where assumptions about family life and maternal employment start to change. It has happened before—it could happen again."
So what is the controversial thesis of her book? For Eberstadt, a Hoover research fellow, it is the examination of "two established facts of our world-absent parents of both sorts and contemporary child problems of all sorts-and …some obvious, if necessarily blunt, questions about the relationships between the two."
The essence of Home-Alone America, Eberstadt says, is that "over the past few decades, more and more children, have spent considerably less time in the company of their parents or other relatives, and numerous fundamental measures of their well-being have simultaneously gone into what once would been judged scandalous decline. It is the argument of this book that the connection between those two facts cannot possibly be dismissed as coincidence."
This controversial book is sure to continue to provoke discussion, not only about the information it provides, but about the hard questions it forces us to ask ourselves.
For more information or to arrange an interview with Mary Eberstadt, please contact Allison Sweet, (212) 366-2762/ Allison.Sweet [at] us.penguingroup.com
Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes
by Mary Eberstadt
ISBN 1-59523-004-1 $25.95 Hardcover
218 pages November 2004
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