Modern Marriage

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Abstract This paper presents an in-depth discussion about the changing relationship between women and marriage. Economic factors, a rise in feminism, parents' influence, attitudes about sex, educational pursuits, and divorce statistics are discussed and their influence on women's attitudes toward marriage are explored. Cultural changes that have impacted women's lives are also examined. The purpose of the paper is to explore the changes affecting women, their attitudes toward marriage, and their expectations of marriage. This paper will primarily concentrate on the question of why women delay marriage. The sources used to develop this paper are published journals, the text for this course along with other books related to this issue, and the Internet. The Changing Relationship Between Women and Marriage Over the past four decades there has been substantial changes in the attitudes toward marriage among women in the United States. These attitudes relate to gender roles and social changes in today's society and have contributed to women marrying later than their ancestors married. Studies show American women are waiting longer than ever to get married. Their median age at first marriage hit a record high of 24.5 years in 1994, up from 20 years in the mid 1950's (Crispell, 1996). That's the oldest age since the Census Bureau started to ask about age at marriage in 1890. Of course postponing marriage means an increase, at any given time, in the number of people who have never wed, and that is also reflected in the census study. From 1970 to 1994 the number of Americans aged 18 and over who never married more than doubled from 21.4 million to 44.2 million. Additionally, women may be less likely to marry in the future. Projections show the proportion of never married women increasing between 1992 and 2010 for all age groups under 55 (Crispell). According to Allen & Kalish (1984), the timing of a first marriage is related to the attractiveness of the alternatives to marrying. When women value roles that provide viable alternatives to the role of wife, they delay marriage. The role of women has undergone significant transformation brought about by changes in society. Today's families are smaller and live longer, thereby allowing women to devote a smaller part of their lives to raising children than was the case in earlier times (Allen & Kalish). Thus, more time is left for other pursuits. A woman who enters her first marriage at an older age is less likely to exchange dependence on her parents for dependence on a husband (Unger & Crawford, 1992). Elder (1974) found that women who married later were more likely to have careers, financial stability and be middle class as opposed to lower class background. What has transformed societal attitudes toward marriage so that young women delay it, older women get out of it, and some women skip it altogether? Economic factors, a rise in feminism, parental influences, attitudes about sex, educational pursuits, and the divorce rate have all undergone significant cultural changes and are among some of the reasons being credited for influencing the ideas women have about marriage. Let's examine these influences and the attitudes of women which determine their decision to marry or delay marriage. We will also examine the expectations of marriage that today's educated women may have and how these expectations differ from other women's expectations. Economic factors have resulted in women working outside the home, and have had a strong influence over a woman's decision to marry. "The ever increasing opportunities for women to work outside the home make her less and less dependent, economically, upon a husband" (Casler, 1974, p. 30). Late marrying women indicated that careers took relative precedence over marriage during the period of their lives when their "less achievement - oriented peers were opting for marriage" (Allen & Kalish, p. 141). Women now in the labor market want more than just a "job",...
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