I previously wrote a chapter for a scholarly volume on a topic that seemed to interest a lot of readers: “Single, no children: Who is your family?” Like many academic books, that one was outrageously expensive ($240 for the hardcover, $98 for the paperback). Happily, I now have permission from the publisher to reprint my chapter in a brief collection of a few other writings of mine on family (some new, some previously published). I’ve put them together into a book by the same name as that original chapter, Single, No Children: Who Is Your Family? And, this time, the work is very affordable ($8.98 for the paperback, $3.49 for the e-book).
Here’s the introduction to the new collection:
How can I write a book about the families of single people who have no children? Do those single people even have families? Oh yes they do.
We need to pay attention to them. There are more single people than ever before. Just in the U.S., the number of adults 18 and older who are not married is well over 100 million. That’s almost half of the adult population. (If you start counting at age 16 instead of 18, the United States became a majority-of-singles nation years ago.) In another significant demographic trend, more and more adults of all marital statuses are not raising any children at all.
The importance of family in the lives of single people with no children reaches beyond people who have been single all their lives and never had children. Many people who did marry are no longer married. Many who had children may find that once those kids are grown, they become busy with their own lives, or they end up moving hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
I had been thinking about the important people in the lives of single people even before I wrote my first book on single life, Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. I wrote articles for academic journals and chapters for scholarly books. One of those chapters had the same name as this book: “Single, No Children: Who Is Your Family?” It is republished here as the last chapter in this book. Academic books are often very expensive. The inclusion of the chapter in this collection makes it available at a reasonable price for the first time.
The first chapter in this book, “How Our Families Became So Much More Than Just Mom, Dad, and the Kids,” is new work that was not previously published. In it, I describe how our families have been changing over the decades, in ways that are both heralded and hidden. I also describe newly emerging family forms. As I did in How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, I also make the case that friendship – not marriage or romantic relationships or even relationships between parents and their children – is the key relationship of the twenty-first century.
The second chapter, “Innovative Families and Innovative Ways of Living,” was originally published in Quartz. In it, I describe some of the imaginative ways that people are creating families and designing new kinds of living arrangements. Fewer than 20 percent of all American households are nuclear family households. There are more households comprised of single people living alone, a remarkable demographic reversal of the way we used to live. That makes it more important than ever before to think about families and lifespaces in bigger, broader ways.
“Why Do People Get Angry at Women Who Stay Single and Don’t Have Kids?” is the very brief third chapter. It is an article I was invited to write that was published online in Time magazine.
“Single, No Children: Who Is Your Family?” is the last chapter. There, I consider many different ways of thinking about family. I show that according to most of those perspectives, single people with no children do indeed have families. I draw from scholarly research to document and explain the ways in which single people are especially important in maintaining ties among the members of their families of origin. I also explain and illustrate how single people with no children are creating families of their own.
This book is the second in a pair of brief books about non-nuclear families. The first was Single Parents and Their Children: The Good News No One Ever Tells You.
Here’s the table of contents from Single, No Children: Who Is Your Family?
- Welcome to Bigger, Broader Ways of Thinking about Families (the introduction)
- How Our Families Became So Much More Than Just Mom, Dad, and the Kids (new to this book)
- Innovative Families and Innovative Ways of Living (previously published in Quartz)
- Why Do People Get Angry at Women Who Stay Single and Don’t Have Kids? (previously published in Time magazine)
- Single, No Children: Who Is Your Family? (this is the chapter originally published in the expensive academic volume)