Introduction by Allan C. Carlson

The “Sixties” actually opened as a continuation of the equally iconic “Fifties.” Through 1963, the social life of the United States remained defined by a seemingly strong culture of marriage and family. The average age of first marriage stood at record lows: 22 for men; 20 for women.  The proportion of adults who were or had been married stood at 95%, another record. The “baby boom” continued in high gear: average completed family size approached four children per couple. The divorce rate seemed to have stabilized. The burgeoning suburbs provided pleasant shelter, fresh air, and good schools for an ever-growing number of families. Even the nagging American problem of race relations between African-Americans and whites seemed to be moving toward resolution.

The years 1964-1965 witnessed the onset of a moral revolution. In quick and stunning sequence, the family in America came under fresh assault from: the new feminists; the advocates of population control; sexual radicals; the “counter-culture”; and the “New Left.” With far too few exceptions, those responsible for protecting ordered liberty and morality—clerics, judges, college and university administrators, publishers, legislators—were either absent-without-leave or joined in the debauch.

Allan Sherman’s  crude, but insightful, “Official History of the American Sex Revolution”—entitled The Rape of the A*P*E* (*American *Puritan *Ethic) appeared, appropriately, from the Playboy Press in 1973. I can do no better than to pass along his summary of the consequences:

“What happened to America after the Revolution? . . . Everything got devalued. Not just the dollar, but everything in American life. Virginity. Love. God. Motherhood. Mom’s Apple Pie. General Motors has less value now, and so does the Bill of Rights. War was devalued, and so was the air we breathe. The quality of men available to lead was devalued. Our technology was devalued; our institutions and our customs were devalued; the worth of an individal was devalued. All the Pleasures were devalued.”[1] 

This special issue of The Family in America focuses on the family policy legacy of the 1960s. How did the social and moral revolutions of that decade reshape law and public policy? To what degree are contemporary American family pathologies—the decay of marriage, tumbling fertility, “fatherless” children, the “hook-up” culture, easy divorce—the consequence of the 1960s? What lessons from the past might help us in the task of family reconstruction which lies ahead?

Allan C. Carlson, Editor

March 2015

[1]     Allan Sherman, The Rape of the A*P*E*: The Official History of the Sex Revolution (Chicago: Playboy Press, 1973), 389.