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Understanding Family Change and Variation

Toward a Theory of Conjunctural Action

  • Book
  • © 2011


  • Provides a new theoretical framework for understanding fertility variation and change
  • Integrates family demography with social theory
  • Synthesizes knowledge from social and cognitive sciences
  • Provides a number of innovative ideas to explicate mechanisms of family change

Part of the book series: Understanding Population Trends and Processes (UPTA, volume 5)

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About this book

Fertility rates vary considerably across and within societies, and over time. Over the last three decades, social demographers have made remarkable progress in documenting these axes of variation, but theoretical models to explain family change and variation have lagged behind. At the same time, our sister disciplines—from cultural anthropology to social psychology to cognitive science and beyond—have made dramatic strides in understanding how social action works, and how bodies, brains, cultural contexts, and structural conditions are coordinated in that process. Understanding Family Change and Variation: Toward a Theory of Conjunctural Action argues that social demography must be reintegrated into the core of theory and research about the processes and mechanisms of social action, and proposes a framework through which that reintegration can occur. This framework posits that material and schematic structures profoundly shape the occurrence, frequency, and context of the vital events that constitute the object of social demography. Fertility and family behaviors are best understood as a function not just of individual traits, but of the structured contexts in which behavior occurs. This approach upends many assumptions in social demography, encouraging demographers to embrace the endogeneity of social life and to move beyond fruitless debates of structure versus culture, of agency versus structure, or of biology versus society.

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Table of contents (5 chapters)


This volume authored by renowned socio-demographers is a remarkable "enterprise".

European Journal of Population 28:2 (2012)

Authors and Affiliations

  • , Department of Demography, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, USA

    Jennifer A. Johnson-Hanks

  • Columbia, USA

    Christine A. Bachrach

  • , Sociology Department, Duke University, Durham, USA

    S. Philip Morgan

  • , Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA

    Hans-Peter Kohler

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Understanding Family Change and Variation

  • Book Subtitle: Toward a Theory of Conjunctural Action

  • Authors: Jennifer A. Johnson-Hanks, Christine A. Bachrach, S. Philip Morgan, Hans-Peter Kohler

  • Series Title: Understanding Population Trends and Processes

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Springer Dordrecht

  • eBook Packages: Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: Springer Netherlands 2011

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-94-007-1944-6Published: 28 August 2011

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-94-007-3700-6Published: 27 November 2013

  • eBook ISBN: 978-94-007-1945-3Published: 27 August 2011

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XX, 180

  • Topics: Demography, Family, Anthropology

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