Running head: MARRIAGE AS AN INSTITUTION
The Importance of Marriage
Mrs. Kathy Erickson
August 30, 2009
The Importance of Marriage
From Colonial times to present marriage has been an integral part of American culture. The importance is has been evident in that it is one of the few institutions that started with the country and is still very popular. What makes marriage an important institution? This paper will discuss the perceptions of the importance of marriage for men and women, children’s influence in the marriage relationship, the links between psychological distress and martial conflict, attitude towards same sex marriages and the effects of cohabitation and marriage commitment. The first section of this paper examines the importance of marriage from male and female perspectives. Research from the National Survey of Families and Households suggested the following trends: Men and women both feel that marriage is more important to men; women view marriage as optional for both men and women for having a satisfying life; women are more likely to think that men cannot have a satisfying life without marriage; youthful and more educated individuals are less likely to put emphasis on marriage; religious individuals and those married who have children predominantly more inclined to think that men nor women can have fulfilling lives without the institution of marriage. Research from the National Survey listed above also suggests that men get a greater benefit from marriage than do women as stated below from a study conducted on whether or not men need a spouse and the importance of marriage. In the article entitled “Do Men “Need” a Spouse more than Women?: Perceptions of The Importance of Marriage for Men and Women” the authors state: “As Nock (1998:3) states, “Men reap greater gains than women for virtually every outcome affected by marriage.” Research results showing the greater benefit of marriage for men than for women on many dimensions, particularly physical and mental health (Bernard 1972; Grove 1973; Waite and Gallagher 2000), together with research has shown that women provide “kin-keeping” benefits to men by strengthening their relationships with their children and other relatives (Cooney and Uhlenberg 1990; Rossi and Rossi 1990), have led many to argue that it is men who “need” marriage more than women. This view is particularly prevalent among theorists of family who focus on its economic dimensions. By implication, they posit marriage to be a “normal good” for men but an “inferior good” for women when they argue that increased earnings lead men to “buy onto” family roles (Becker 1991; Cherlin 1992) while women use theirs to “buy out” of marriage (Espenshade 1985; Westoff 1986).” In many ways this research supports the fact that marriage meets the need of a man better than that of a woman. Next we will look at research conducted from the female perspective. An excerpt from the same article states: “The growth of female labor force participation that accelerated in the 1960’s (Goldin 1990), however, appeared to many observers to undermine what were by then conventional reasons for women to marry (Westoff 1986). As a result, women were thought to be questioning the desirability of a domestic life (Friedan 1962) and coming to believe that “women’s marriage” was less desirable than “men’s marriage” (Bernard 1972). Feminist theory has reinforced the notion that women and men face very different experiences in the family life and hence have different experiences in family life and hence have different interest’s vis-à-vis family roles, which are said to favor men (Ferree 1990). The benefits of simply “trading” housework for men’s wages (the basis for the economic argument) have declined, given the longer-term costs in terms of career development and the higher risks imposed by the increase in divorce (Thomson and Walker 1995), and the fact that wives’ expected role has added employment to...
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