In over half a century, marriage has transformed from being a social requirement to simply being an option in today’s society. What has caused this change? Many institutions in our society have changed drastically along with marriage. Although these institutions have not caused marriage to be optional, they do strongly correlate with the decreased value. The economy, education, religion, and government have all altered since the 1950s. When any institution encounters a change, all other institutions are affected. Family is a major institution in society, and I believe that marriage is an important aspect of this institution. Cohabitation, religion, women in the work world and divorce have all effected the way marriage is viewed today.
In the 1950s, it was practically assumed that every person would get married. If you did not get married, society thought there was something wrong with you that made you unwanted by the opposite sex. Half a century ago, there were very few cohabiting relationships. Cohabiting relationships are couples that live together, possibly even have kids together, but are not married. Living together without being married was frowned about back then. Mostly because of religious beliefs, parents did not want their daughters to live with a man before marrying him.
Religion has had a huge impact on American marriage today. In the 1950s, church attendance was at an all-time high (Cherlin 85-86). Then, religious style stressed that the importance of being together in a holy place was just as important as families being together at home. Churches frowned upon divorce. They believed that you should work through your problems and divorce should be a last resort. Another thing churches didn’t have back then was childcare for mothers.
Church never thought of the day that they would need to have a daycare for working mothers. Wives stayed at home in the 1950s and the husbands’ income supported their families(Human Resources). Men could get a high-school education and be qualified for a factory job that could hold their families for the rest of their lives. With these factory jobs being shipped overseas, it has become hard for high school educated men to get a job that is able to support a wife and children. The competition of college educated working force men has taken the jobs that the past high school graduates would have employed in the 1950s. Job competition has also increased. It is now socially acceptable for women to be in the job force. Not until recently, women were rarely seen holding a full-time job. However, these days women have to work in able to create enough income to support their family. The change in the job force also relates in the change in the economic institution. It is an obvious observance that the economy today is recessed. This causes stress on all the other institutions. If economy is low, then the family is stressed to pay bills, and to pay for higher education for their children. Higher education is crucial to obtain a well paying job.
American views began changing around the time of the 1960s. Practices and values began changing around the turn of the 20th century. However, in the 1960s the changes were the most rapid. For example, Americans today are much more likely to have sex outside of marriage. Not only is it more frequently practiced, it is also more likely to be socially accepted. In the 1960s, only 5% of adults were involved in a cohabiting relationship. However today, more than half of adults will cohabit in their lives. (Campbell and Wright 329). Another statistic that has significantly change since the 1960s is the amount of children being born outside of marriage. In the 1960s, only a small 5% of children were born outside of marriage. Today, one third of all children are born to mothers who are not married (Qian, Lichter, and Mellott, 2005; U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, 2003). Unmarried Americans can experience the things that were once reserved...
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Cherlin, Andrew J. The Marriage-go-round: the State of Marriage and the Family in America Today. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Print.
Fagan, Patrick F., and Robert Rector. "The Effects of Divorce on America." World & I 15.10 (2000): 56. Web.
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Qian, Z., Lichter, D. T, & Mellott, L. M. (2005). Out-of-wedlock childbearing, marital prospects and mate selection. Social Forces, 84,473-491.
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