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Contemporary Marriage

Contemporary Marriage

edited by Kingsley Davis
in association with Amyra Grossbard-Shechtman
Copyright Date: 1985
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Contemporary Marriage
    Book Description:

    This fascinating symposium is based on an assumption that no longer seems to need justification: that the institution of marriage is today experiencing profound changes. But the nature of those changes-their causes and consequences-is very much in need of explication. The experts contributing to this volume bring a wide range of perspectives-sociological, anthropological, economic, historical, psychological, and legal-to the problem of marriage in modern society. Together these essays help illuminate a form of relationship that is both vulnerable and resilient, biological and social, a reflection of and an influence on other social institutions.

    Contemporary Marriagebegins with an important assessment of the revolution in marital behavior since World War II, tracing trends in marriage age, cohabitation, divorce, and fertility. The focus here is primarily on the United States and on idustrial societies in general. Later chapters provide intriguing case studies of particular countries. There is a recurrent interest in the impact on marriage of modernization itself, but a number of essays probe influences other than industrial development, such as strong cultural and historical patterns or legislation and state control. Beliefs and expectations about marriage are explored, and human sexuality and gender roles are also considered as factors in the nature of marriage.

    Contemporary Marriageoffers a rich spectrum of approaches to a problem of central importance. The volume will reward an equally broad spectrum of readers interested in the meaning and future of marriage in our society.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-152-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Kingsley Davis
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION The Meaning and Significance of Marriage in Contemporary Society
    (pp. 1-22)

    THE ASSUMPTION UNDERLYINGthe present volume is that in industrial countries today the institution of marriage is experiencing unprecedented but poorly understood changes. Whether or not these changes ultimately threaten the institution of marriage itself, as often stated, they are surely disturbing the lives of hundreds of millions of people. For humane as well as scholarly reasons, then, they deserve careful study.

    Given this focus, the logic of the arrangement in the book is clear. The first task is to document the major changes themselves. What has happened to marriage since World War II? What are the trends with respect...

  5. PART I The Revolution in Marital Behavior:: The Factual Study

    • CHAPTER 1 The Future of Marriage
      (pp. 25-52)

      THE LAST WORLD WAR,like the one that preceded it, was so cataclysmic that it established a common starting point for the industrial nations. From that point on, social trends were surprisingly similar from one country to another. For instance, all the industrial nations had a marriage boom right after the war, followed soon afterward by a baby boom; and they nearly all had a second baby boom in the late 1950s and early 1960s, followed in turn by the most drastic drop in fertility ever known. Similarly, they had a postwar divorce peak and later, after a lull, a...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Recent Decline of American Marriage: Blacks and Whites in Comparative Perspective
      (pp. 53-90)

      THE PURPOSE OF THIS CHAPTERis to investigate whether marriage is declining as a social institution in the United States and, if so, whether it is declining at a faster pace among blacks than among whites. Evidence suggests that in the United States the institution has been declining since at least 1960. To be sure, how-ever, we first need criteria by which to judge the strength of marriage. For this purpose, I adopt the criteria developed by Kingsley Davis in Chapter 1. According to him, if marriage is weakening as an institution, “we would expect to see postponement of marriage,...

    • CHAPTER 3 Cohabitation in the 1980s: Recent Changes in the United States
      (pp. 91-112)

      SOCIAL SCIENTISTS CAN POINTto few trends in contemporary American society that have manifested such a dramatic pace of change and that have exhibited such consistent upward growth as the trend in unmarried cohabitation. The objective of this chapter is to document and explain this development and to test the explanations against some characteristics of cohabiting couples.

      About four million American adults are living with a partner of the opposite sex whom they have not married (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1983a, 1984). Some observers may regard the number as small in a population of 238 million. Yet cohabitation usually...

    • CHAPTER 4 Couples Without Children: Premarital Cohabitation in France
      (pp. 113-130)

      THE TIDE OF EARLY MARRIAGESthat swept in upon many Western nations in the mid-twentieth century (Hajnal 1953; Davis 1958; Festy 1973) has receded. In recent years, a delayed marriage trend (Wunsch 1973; Glick and Norton 1977; Munoz-Perez 1979) has followed in these same nations. As a consequence, there is an expanding life-space in early adulthood where informal premarital unions may flourish. “Indeed there have been few developments relating to marriage and family life which have been as dramatic as the rapid rise in unmarried cohabitation” (Glick and Spanier 1980, p. 19).

      In French society, where the spread of premarital...

  6. PART II The Limits of Variation in Marital Patterns

    • CHAPTER 5 Darwinism and Contemporary Marriage
      (pp. 133-156)

      CHARLES DARWIN DISCOVEREDneither evolution nor natural selection. The idea of organic evolution was clearly in the air at the end of the eighteenth century, and long before Darwin, Lamarck hypothesized that human beings had evolved from ape like creatures. The role of natural selection, or differential reproduction, in culling deviant organisms also was well known. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, Darwin’s antagonist, argued that natural selection is God’s way of maintaining species’ perfection. (Wilberforce was largely correct: natural selection docs, for the most part, preserve the status quo.) It was Darwin’s genius to see that natural selection also is the creative...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Importance of Marriage for Socialization: A Comparison of Achievements and Social Adjustment Between Offspring of One- and Two-Parent Families in Israel
      (pp. 157-178)

      SOCIOLOGICAL INTEREST IN ISRAELI MARRIAGEfocused for a long time on the kibbutz family. However, 90 percent of Israel’s Jewish population reside in urban areas and maintain a rather conventional family life. As shown elsewhere (Peres and Katz 1981), marriage in Israel is relatively stable; Israeli divorce rates fall below those of European countries (except Italy) and much below those of the Soviet Union or the United States. About 95 percent of all men and 97 percent of all women marry at least once before they reach age 40.

      While the birth rates of Israelis of Asian or African descent...

  7. PART III Comparative Studies of Marital Change

    • CHAPTER 7 Historical Reflections on American Marriage
      (pp. 181-196)

      THIS CHAPTER TREATSin a broad fashion a number of issues in the history of American marriage with emphasis on certain qualities of the American institution. American marriage has long seemed to be a precarious institution. Rooted in, and apparently supporting, the state and the social order more generally, it has rested upon heterosexual love and thereby upon more or less transformed libidinal energies between two parties commonly held disparate in both appetite and capacity. The argument of this chapter will be to point to the historical resilience of this flexible institution, and to call attention to the operation of...

    • CHAPTER 8 Japan: Culture Versus Industrialization as Determinant of Marital Patterns
      (pp. 197-222)

      JAPAN PROVIDES AN INTERESTING CASEin the examination of changes in the institution of marriage. Although an industrialized nation, it has an indigenous tradition completely different from the West. With only just over 100 years to accomplish several centuries of development elsewhere, it is now rivaling even the most advanced nations in technological achievements. Some of the other chapters of this volume suggest that striking similarities exist in trends associated with marriage in all industrialized societies, and I would like to consider here the extent to which the Japanese case does or does not now approximate that of other nations....

    • CHAPTER 9 Marriage, Family, and the State in Contemporary China
      (pp. 223-252)

      IN MOST, IF NOT ALL,peasant societies the development of the state as a political force has meant conflict with the family. China has not been an exception. The state in traditional China strongly supported the values of the old family system, even when those values on occasion required that family needs take priority over state needs.¹ The ideology of the family system and the ideology of the state were mutually supporting, both being based on a Confucian morality that held sacred a system of generation, age, and gender hierarchies. As Maurice Freedman explained:

      The imperial state came into conflict...

    • CHAPTER 10 African Marriage in an Impinging World: The Case of Southern Africa
      (pp. 253-272)

      READING MODERN STUDIES OF AFRICAN MARRIAGE,one is struck immediately by the diversity of contemporary developments. For Southern Africa—on most measures the least “traditional” region of the continent—recent trends are extremely difficult to summarize. Indeed, scholarly findings often seem mutually irreconcilable. In certain areas, including relatively isolated rural districts, reports describe the break-up of the traditional household, the emergence of independent female household heads, and the marginalization of the husband and father. A recent study shows that in parts of Botswana, for example, the courts experience difficulty in distinguishing “marriage” from casual forms of cohabitation (Comaroff and Roberts...

    • CHAPTER 11 A Familistic Religion in a Modern Society
      (pp. 273-298)

      TODAY MORE THAN 5 MILLION MORMONSlive in more than 100 countries. While these members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints¹—also called the Mormon Church—form only a tiny part of the world’s Christian population, the worldwide Mormon population is increasing at a rate that will double its size every fifteen years.

      When Joseph Smith founded “The Church of Christ in these last days” in 1830, it had six official members. These revered Joseph as a prophet who had communed directly with God and other heavenly messengers. He had just publishedThe Book ofMormon,which he...

  8. PART IV La wand the Revolution of Sex Roles

    • CHAPTER 12 The Divorce Law Revolution and the Transformation of Legal Marriage
      (pp. 301-348)

      IN 1970, CALIFORNIA LAUNCHEDa legal revolution by instituting the first no-fault divorce law in the United States. This pioneering new law promised to free the legal process of divorce from the shackles of outmoded tradition. It embodied “modern” concepts of equity and equality, and was immediately heralded as the family law of the future.

      Before 1970 all states in the United States required fault-based grounds for divorce. One party had to be judged guilty of some marital fault, such as adultery or cruelty, before a divorce could be granted. California rejected this traditional system by permitting parties to divorce...

    • CHAPTER 13 New Models of Marriage and Divorce: Signiflcant Legal Developents in the Last Decade
      (pp. 349-372)

      IN RECENT YEARSsome scholars have suggested that the legal institution of marriage is withering away, that is, that the state is receding from the role of marriage regulation and is increasingly leaving the parties to their own devices. This interpretation is generally supported by reference to no-fault divorce, the doctrinal decline of alimony, and recent developments in the legal treatment of cohabitation in lieu of marriage (Glendon 1976, 1977; Blumstein and Schwartz 1983). Glendon, for example, argues that marriage and cohabitation tend toward convergence. As marriage experiences legal diminution via no-fault divorce and the decline of alimony, cohabitation, its...

  9. PART V Calculation and Emotion in Marriage

    • CHAPTER 14 Marriage Squeezes and the Marriage Market
      (pp. 375-396)

      FEW PEOPLE LIKE TO THINKof themselves as participants in a market when it comes to personal aspects of life. It is often degrading to participate in an organized job market, and generally discomforting to know that another employee might do our work just as well. We aspire to be unique. Even those who like the idea of competition tend to do so at an abstract level. While praising the free market, they build hedges against competition that could intrude into their own lives—be it at the workplace or in the home.

      Our need to be unique is intimately...

    • CHAPTER 15 Emotional Aspects of Contemporary Relations: From Status to Contract
      (pp. 397-414)

      I SHALL BEGINby presenting the basic thesis of this chapter in its starkest form. Then I shall briefly report a human vignette that will help focus on themes of interest in the psychology of young adults. I shall examine three Eriksonian themes—identity, intimacy, and generativity—in light of what has been called the new narcissism, and shall attempt, through my analysis, to offer a psychiatric contribution to our understanding of the changing significance of marriage for this generation of young adults.

      First, then, the thesis: for today’s achieving young adults, the major stresses, the disappointments, and the most...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 415-432)