Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships

Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships


Publication Date




2015 Prose Award Honorable Mention for Law and Legal Studies

Exploring the connection between families and inequality, Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships argues that the legal regulation of families stands fundamentally at odds with the needs of families. Strong, stable, positive relationships are essential for both individuals and society to flourish, but from transportation policy to the criminal justice system, and from divorce rules to the child welfare system, the legal system makes it harder for parents to provide children with these kinds of relationships, exacerbating the growing inequality in America.

Failure to Flourish contends that we must re-orient the legal system to help families avoid crises and, when conflicts arise, intervene in a manner that heals relationships. To understand how wrong our family law system has gone and what we need to repair it, Failure to Flourish takes us from ancient Greece to cutting-edge psychological research, and from the chaotic corridors of local family courts to a quiet revolution under way in how services are provided to families in need. Incorporating the latest insights of positive psychology and social science research, the book sets forth a new, more emotionally intelligent vision for a legal system that not only resolves conflict but actively encourages the healthy relationships that are at the core of a stable society.


Family Law | Family, Life Course, and Society | Law




Oxford University Press


New York, NY


"A riveting read on how the law tears at the precious bonds that tie families together, even making legal strangers of kin, and what we can do about it. A clarion call for a paradigm shift in how the law ought to intersect with the family."
Dr. Kathryn Edin, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins University

"This wonderful book, written by one of the most interesting and thoughtful young scholars working in the field of family law today, moves beyond the stalled polarized debates to advocate for a new approach to the law's role in regulating the family that is both sensible and somewhat radical. Huntington argues that contemporary family law largely fails to even pursue what should be its overriding purposes – to proactively support stable, positive family relationships, and resolve disputes between parents in ways that reduce, rather than exacerbate, the costs of family conflict. This proposed shift from a crisis intervention model of family regulation to one based on prevention and repair offers a critique and a model for reform that is both insightful and thought-provoking. Failure to Flourish is a book that should be read by every academic, policy expert, and informed citizen with an interest in children's welfare."
Elizabeth Scott, Harold R. Medina Professor of Law, Columbia

"Failure to Flourish is a sober but ultimately hopeful examination of the legal and political changes needed to help today's diverse families develop and sustain more positive, nurturing relationships. A must-read for policy-makers and family advocates."
Stephanie Coontz, Professor of History and Family Studies, The Evergreen State College, Olympia WA

"Clare Huntington's Failure to Flourish is both an insightful critique of how the legal system fails families, and an optimistic roadmap for reform. I highly recommend this book to legal and psychological professionals, students, and to anyone concerned with reforming the legal system to better serve children and their families."
Robert E. Emery, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law, University of Virginia

"Excellent for collections on family law, gender studies, and education ... Highly recommended. All readership levels."
D. Schultz, Hamline University, CHOICE

"Failure to Flourish is a brave, rigorously produced, carefully researched, and politically astute book. Huntington seeks to persuade a wide swath of the American political landscape, and at every turn she chooses her words carefully to accomplish that end."
Wendy A. Bach, Associate Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law, Michigan Law Review

"Huntington persuasively argues that American law contributes to this crisis by generally failing to consider the well-being of families."
Maxine Eichner, Harvard Law Review


Also available as an eBook through the Columbia University Libraries.

Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships

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