, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 449–465

The developmental paradigm, reading history sideways, and family change

  • Arland Thornton
Presidential Address

DOI: 10.1353/dem.2001.0039

Cite this article as:
Thornton, A. Demography (2001) 38: 449. doi:10.1353/dem.2001.0039


The developmental paradigm, reading history sideways, and cross-cultural data have converged to exert a profound influence on social scientists and ordinary people. Through the use of these tools, social scientists of the 1700s and 1800s concluded that family patterns in northwest Europe had undergone many substantial changes before the early 1800s. These conclusions were accepted until the last several decades of the 1900s, when almost all were seriously challenged; many were declared to be myths. Further, the developmental paradigm, reading history sideways, and the conclusions of generations of social scientists created a package of ideas—developmental idealism—that subsequently became a powerful influence for family change in many parts of the world during the past two centuries. This developmental idealism has been a substantial force for changing living arrangements, marriage, divorce, gender relations, intergenerational relationships, and fertility.

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arland Thornton
    • 1
  1. 1.Survey Research Center, Population Studies Center, and Department of SociologyThe University of MichiganAnn Arbor

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