Thursday, March 13, 2008

Conference on Today's Families in Chicago

On April 25th and April 26th the Council on Contemporary Families is holding a conference called "Family Issues in Contention."

Here's some information from the press release:


Teen sexuality and "hooking up": Should we be worried?

We've all heard the stories: teenage girls performing oral sex on boys they just met at a party; college students avoiding lasting relationships by "hooking up" on weekends. What is a hook-up? Who does it? What are its effects on women? On men? And does it endanger commitment and marriage as life goals? Hear the differing perspectives of Stanford sociologist Paula England—who has interviewed students around the country on this topic; Laura Sessions Stepp, reporter for the Washington Post and author of Unhooked; and psychologist Deborah Tolman, research associate and former director of San Francisco State University's Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality.

Cohabitation: Is cohabitation is "good" for love or for marriage?

"The conventional wisdom is that living together before marriage is associated with a higher chance of divorce," explains Pamela Smock, a University of Michigan demographer who will present her research at the CCF conference. Updated research evidence, Smock argues, throw these conclusions into doubt. But marriage researcher Scott Stanley (University of Denver) warns that when cohabitors "drift" into marriage, they face heightened risks. Other panelists include psychologist Jaslean LaTalliade (University of Maryland), and sociologist Catherine Kenney (Bowling Green State University).

Divorce: Should they stay or should they go?

What are the latest thoughts on divorce versus sticking it out? Relationship expert Pepper Schwartz (University of Washington) explains that this panel will examine several key questions about marital stability. "First, what is the latest research on whose marriages are lasting or dissolving? Second, what is the debate among clinical professionals over the counselor's role in advising couples to stay or go? Third, what is the role of sex in maintaining a stable relationship and what role should sex play in deciding to end one?" Along with Schwartz, speakers include law professor Nancy Polikoff (American University, author of Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law) and psychologist Linda Young (Seattle University). In addition, sociologist Alan Jui-Chung Li (Rand Corporation) will present a new study that challenges conventional research methods for assessing the impact of divorce on children. (His sure-to-be controversial findings will be released for advance perusal by the press in early April.)

Adoption -- Is Transracial and Transnational Adoption the Right Policy for Parents? Children? Society?

Consider this: Roughly 80-100 million Americans have adoption in their families. We don't talk about it much, but adoption touches nearly all our lives.

"The world of adoption is changing rapidly and radically. The issues adoption raises affect a huge cross-section of Americans. And the issues couldn't be more touching, personal, or controversial," explains Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and author of Adoption Nation. This panel will examine topics ranging from Caucasians adopting African Americans, to gays and lesbians becoming parents through adoption, to whether Americans should be adopting from abroad when so many children in this country need homes.

Along with Pertman, other presenters include University of Texas-Austin professor of social work Ruth McRoy; Illinois State University professor and foster care expert Jeanne Howard; and University of Illinois-Chicago professor of education and author of Adoption in a Color Blind Society Pamela Quiroz.

Finding consensus on these topics is difficult, partly because they are surrounded by myths and misinformation, and partly because new research comes in every day, sometimes with contradictory findings. Our speakers aren't here to have a polarized debate, but they won't shy away from differing interpretations. The panels are designed to represent different bodies of research and clinical work -- sociological, economic, psychological, public policy—that can help us get the story right when it comes to understanding these controversial topics that affect families everywhere.

Each year, the CCF conference successfully creates an environment of dialogue and participation. Presenters limit their prepared remarks to 10 minutes; this means that presenters and conference participants convene for focused, lively deliberation on provocative questions. The conference is geared towards addressing key policy and public issues of the moment, moving beyond simple party-line solutions. Informal meeting times extend the discussion and give reporters ample opportunity to find new contacts and new stories to enhance another year of stories.

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