Family forms are changing rapidly in Western society, and with them, the microenvironments within which men, women, and children live together. Stuart Aitken argues that, whether environment is taken as physical space or as a metaphor for the social, economic, and psychological basis of families, there remains a tendency to keep defining the meaning of families and communities in terms of older, traditional, "imagined," and idealized structures of politics, gender, and geography.
Using the stories of several families in San Diego, Aitken describes geographies of everyday life that contest definitions of cities and communities as mosaics reflecting patterns of social relations. He begins inside the family circle, looking at patriarchal power and the subordination of women, men, and children. Moving beyond the household, he then stresses the importance of place in defining the social and political character of communities and families' interplay within them--whether "communities" are viewed as neighborhoods, towns, or organizations that provide space for fellowship and common purpose. In turn, he shows that as the individual child reaches beyond family life to find a place in these communities, political cultures are reproduced through the child.
Aitken suggests ways in which individual and family identities are complexly intertwined with the cultural politics of communities, cities, and regions. He concludes that family and community spaces reproduce and reconstruct themselves daily according to divisions of race, class, gender, and differential access to housing, work, and child-care.