The Canadian Family in Crisis. 5th ed.


319 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55028-798-2
DDC 306.85'0971




Reviewed by Elaine G. Porter

Elaine G. Porter is an associate professor of sociology at Laurentian


It is hard to argue against a book that is in its 5th edition, but not
impossible. It is not that Conway fails to marshal a substantial amount
of old and new documentation for his assertions. On comprehensiveness of
coverage, there are no complaints. Conway dedicates separate sections of
the book to the negative consequence of family patriarchy for mother,
father, and children. Their roles, both inside and outside the family,
are thoroughly examined. Although men are seen as more crisis-ridden
than women, an array of arguments is laid out for needed changes to
men’s family roles for women’s “full emancipation.” Conway is
steadfast against neoconservative movements, but discusses family and
feminist policy separately, as if they could be isolated from each

Despite its virtues, the “family” in the eye-catching title remains
vaguely defined. Nonetheless, Conway is clear that he hopes to preserve
the heterosexual egalitarian dual-parent family, the nuclear family
refashioned “to reconcile the family and sexual intimacy with the
liberation and independence of women.” The “crisis” in the title
refers to what he sees as transitional family forms, shaky in their
economic and social stability, created largely through divorce and in
need of “well-family clinics.”

Most problematic is Conway’s presentation of evidence of a wide
variety of social changes that he then tweaks to show linkages with
family crises. For example, having noted that traffic accidents have
become the leading cause of death among teenage boys and girls, he muses
whether family changes could be causal factors. Without further
evidence, he assigns causal significance to lack of parental
supervision. Similarly, having linked patriarchy to child abuse, he then
dismisses it since patriarchy is currently threatened. He goes on to
link economic insecurity in single-parent families to child abuse, as if
patriarchy were being eroded only by the greater assertiveness of women
and not by economic insecurity. Not surprisingly, his advocacy of
governmentally funded NGO’s as major policy initiative falls short of
Eichler’s social-responsibility model, which he sees as too radical
and impractical to implement.


Conway, John F., “The Canadian Family in Crisis. 5th ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,