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Changes in Women and Marriage

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 womens attitudes toward marriage are explored. Cultural changes that have impacted womens 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 todays 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 ecord high of 24. 5 years in 1994, up from 20 years in the mid 1950s (Crispell, 1996). Thats 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. 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 etween 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.

Todays 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 or 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 ate have all undergone significant cultural changes and are among some of the reasons being credited for influencing the ideas women have about marriage. Lets 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 todays educated women may have and how these expectations differ from other womens expectations. Economic factors have resulted in women working outside the home, and have had a strong influence over a womans decision to marry. The ever increasing opportunities for women to work outside he 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. % which equals the percentage for men. (Long, 1983). Beckers (1981) theories of marriage and family behavior hypothesize that womens 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). Mens economic status has substantially deteriorated since the 1970s (Oppenheimer, 1994). The median income f 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 dont 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 re 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 mothers time (p. 295). A rise in feminism is credited for being another strong influence in womens lives.

Feminism movements, with emphasis upon educational and vocational achievements for women, seem to encourage eparture 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 womans 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 ften 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 womens 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 ubordination 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 womens empowerment have emphasized the effect of womens 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 ids 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 womans ideas and her perceptions on marriage. Several studies have focused on parents influence on a womans 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 on-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 womens 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, fathers occupation and education and mothers education account for one-half of the variance in marital timing for women, which is consistent with the idea that oth 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 daughters education and career plans. Working mothers or mothers who are career oriented, tend to influence their daughters in that direction.

A close relationship with parents and identification with their fathers are also positive predictors of career orientations of young women. A number of studies also have indicated that women who marry late are close to their parents. Frequently, their career goals are consistent with their family backgrounds (Allen & Kalish). Modern attitudes about sex are also influencing women. Traditionally, marriage was seen as a way to legitimize sexual relations. With the arrival of easily available birth control, sexual freedom is no longer a reward to be associated with marriage (Allen & Kalish).

Premarital sex and living together arrangements have become more acceptable to many (Unger & Crawford). Women who married late will have been more able to have adequate sexual lives before marriage than women who married during the average marrying years. Late marriers considered premarital sex more acceptable than normative marriers. Willingness to participate in intimate personal and sexual relationships outside of marriage reduces the attractiveness of the marriage role (Gottman, 1994).

The pursuit of an education is another significant influence on women, with the level of education achieved by women being directly related to their marital age (Elder). College attendance among women has doubled – one out of five women obtained some college education in the mid 1960s compared to two out of five in the early 1980s. With heir rapid increase in college attendance, by 1983 women constituted over half of the student body at two-year colleges and closed to half of the students attending four-year colleges (McLaughlin, 1988, p. 5).

The most dramatic changes have occurred in the professions of law and medicine. The number of women becoming lawyers increased from 230 in 1960 to approximately 12,000 in 1982 up from 3 to 33% of all lawyers. Similarly, the number of women who received medical degrees increased from 3% in 1960 to approximately 4,000 in 1981, representing a jump from 6 to 25% of all medical degrees. Women are also rapidly growing in the professions of architecture and business administration, professions previously dominated by males.

By 1985 women were earning half of all bachelor and master degrees and over a third of the doctorates, compared to the 42% of all bachelor degrees, 32% of master degrees and 10% of all doctorates in the 1960s (ONeill, 1989). The result is that both education and experience levels of the female labor force have begun to increase at a faster rate than they have for the male labor force (McLaughlin). Koontz found that highly educated women in professional careers are less ikely than women in general to be involved in marriage and parenting.

In recent decades, the percentage of young women obtaining advanced degrees and pursuing a professional career has increased dramatically. Between 1971 and 1980 the percentage of women aged 30-39 who completed four or more years of college rose from 10. 3 to 18. 8 percent (Koontz). A positive relationship between educational attainment and the timing of marriage for women exists. A womans completed fertility level is also highly correlated with her educational attainment in part because of the effect of delayed childbearing on fertility.

Educational attainment is negatively associated with the likelihood that women will ever marry and/or bear children. Educational attainment is also related to the likelihood of divorce, for women but not for men. Women who have completed six or more years of college have significantly higher rates of divorce than woman at all other education levels, except high school drop-outs. High levels of education by women is highly predictive of delayed and reduced involvement in marital and parental roles (Allen & Kalish). Acknowledging the prevalence of divorce may influence a womans future decision to marry.

Plenty of young women have seen unhappy marriages as they grew up – giving them an understandable fear of committing themselves. This may account for the rapid growth in the proportion of women rejecting marriage. We all know the statistics – half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce and nearly a third of all children are born out of wedlock. As a result four out of 10 kids dont live with both of their biological parents (Chollar, 1993). Delayed marriage and continued high divorce levels will combine to shrink the share of currently married men and women in most age groups.

In the 21st century, men will remain more married than women because of the surplus of adult women in all but the under age 25 group (McLaughlin). Gottman found that a major complaint of divorced women was that their ex-husbands had the majority of power. Moreover, it is still overwhelming women, not men, who are called upon to adjust their work lives to the demands of child rearing by quitting their jobs, working part-time or choosing a flexible job over one that offers higher pay (Cherlin, 1990). Women are also showing less patience with problem marriages as growing numbers unravel the marriage bond with divorce.

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