Modern Marriage Essays and Papers

This essay has a total of 3052 words and 10 pages.

Modern Marriage

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", and therefore,
actively pursue a "career". Between 1969 and 1979, for example, percentages of women
endorsing wanting to be "an authority in my field" increased from 54.3% to 70.5% and in
1979 were only 4.8% lower than the percentage for men. Women endorsing wanting "to raise a
family" declined in these years from 77.8% to64.8% which equals the percentage for men.
(Long, 1983). Becker's (1981) theories of marriage and family behavior hypothesize that
women's increasing labor force participation has had a critical and presumably
irreversible impact on the family. If half of all marriages are to fail, and with alimony
for ex-wives less common, a woman cannot count upon marriage for a lifetime of economic
security (Allen & Kalish). Men's economic status has substantially deteriorated since the
1970's (Oppenheimer, 1994). The median income of men aged 25 to 34 fell by 26% between
1972 and 1994 (Koontz, 1997). The institution of marriage underwent a particularly
rebellious and dramatic shift when women entered the work force. "People don't have to
stay married because of economic forces now . . . we are in the midst of trying to
renegotiate what the marriage contracts is - what men and women are suppose to do as
partners" (Gleick, 1995). Studies show the lowest marriage rate of all is for women
professionals (i.e., doctors, lawyers). While over three-fourths of all women in the
United States aged 35 to 39 are married, fewer than two thirds of these are professional
women. Further, when they do marry, professional women are more likely to divorce than
their age peers. As for childbearing, these women have significantly fewer children than
their nonprofessional counterparts, when they have children at all (Allen & Kalish). In
the case of having children Oppenheimer argues that "the major component of the cost of
children is the "indirect" cost - the cost of the mother's time" (p. 295). A rise in
feminism is credited for being another strong influence in women's lives. Feminism
movements, with emphasis upon educational and vocational achievements for women, seem to
encourage departure from traditional sex roles which were chiefly organized around
marriage and children, and toward more extensive careers for women, especially those who
are well educated (Becker). "Even though not all young women label themselves feminists,
the idea that women can and should have aspirations other than wife and mother has been
widely accepted" (Unger & Crawford, pg. 364). While it is true the woman's movement has
made significant progress in its attempt to equalize opportunities, the situation
continues to be blatantly unjust. "It has been said that marriage diminishes man, which is
often true; but almost always it annihilates woman" (Casler, p. 30). Women, struggling to
rise above the "housewife" role, have a strong desire to be valued for some of the same
qualities men are valued for: ambition, intelligence, and independence. Unfortunately,
subservient status of the married woman is deeply embedded in history. "Conventional
matrimony is seen by some to be a major stumbling block in the path toward women's
liberation" (Casler, pg. 177). "Modernization has inevitably led to the growth of
individualism with its emphasis on the importance of self fulfillment as opposed to the
subordination of individual needs" (Oppenheimer). As a result, women not only are
beginning to lead less traditional lives, but are also increasingly tolerant of
differences in life styles among others (Becker). The old status order that granted men a
privileged position in the family is crumbling. Proponents of women's empowerment have
emphasized the effect of women's education and income on their decision making authority
within the household (Lundberg & Pollack, 1996). Policies that empower women have been
supported with claims that they will increase the well being of children. The belief that
"kids do better" when their mothers control a larger fraction of family has been proven
(Lundberg & Pollack). Parental influence and upbringing, no doubt, have a penetrating
influence on a woman's ideas and her perceptions on marriage. Several studies have focused
on parents' influence on a woman's marital timing. Late marriers had less dating
experience and more parental restrictions than earlier marriers did (Elder). It was found
that the parents of late marrying women did not stress education and career over marriage
but, valued career in its own right in such a way that they provided their daughters with
permission to pursue a non-normative path (Allen & Kalish). So, it appears that parents of
late marrying women have put less pressure on their daughters to marry than parents of the
normative groups. In studies of women's educational achievements and family influences, it
seems that women who pursue higher education goals and careers during the average marrying
years have, if not encouragement, at least acceptance of their choice by their parents.
Furthermore, father's occupation and education and mother's education account for one-half
of the variance in marital timing for women, which is consistent with the idea that both
parents support their daughter in academic and career achievement if they themselves have
achieved more (Allen & Kalish). In another study, parents of high educational and
occupational level status, exert positive influences on their daughter's education and
career plans. Working mothers or mothers who are career oriented, tend to influence their
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