The deinstitutionalization of American marriage

The deinstitutionalization of American marriage This article argues that marriage has undergone a process of deinstitutionalization—a weakening of the social norms that define partners' behavior—over the past few decades. Examples are presented involving the increasing number and complexity of cohabiting unions and the emergence of same‐sex marriage. Two transitions in the meaning of marriage that occurred in the United States during the 20th century have created the social context for deinstitutionalization. The first transition, noted by Ernest Burgess, was from the institutional marriage to the companionate marriage. The second transition was to the individualized marriage in which the emphasis on personal choice and self‐development expanded. Although the practical importance of marriage has declined, its symbolic significance has remained high and may even have increased. It has become a marker of prestige and personal achievement. Examples of its symbolic significance are presented. The implications for the current state of marriage and its future direction are discussed. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Marriage and Family Wiley

The deinstitutionalization of American marriage

Journal of Marriage and Family, Volume 66 (4) – Nov 1, 2004

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2004 Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
ISSN
0022-2445
eISSN
1741-3737
DOI
10.1111/j.0022-2445.2004.00058.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article argues that marriage has undergone a process of deinstitutionalization—a weakening of the social norms that define partners' behavior—over the past few decades. Examples are presented involving the increasing number and complexity of cohabiting unions and the emergence of same‐sex marriage. Two transitions in the meaning of marriage that occurred in the United States during the 20th century have created the social context for deinstitutionalization. The first transition, noted by Ernest Burgess, was from the institutional marriage to the companionate marriage. The second transition was to the individualized marriage in which the emphasis on personal choice and self‐development expanded. Although the practical importance of marriage has declined, its symbolic significance has remained high and may even have increased. It has become a marker of prestige and personal achievement. Examples of its symbolic significance are presented. The implications for the current state of marriage and its future direction are discussed.

Journal

Journal of Marriage and FamilyWiley

Published: Nov 1, 2004

References

  • The wax and wane of marriage: Prospects for marriage in the 21st century
    Smock, Smock
  • Four decades of trends in attitudes toward family issues in the United States: The 1960s through the 1990s
    Thornton, Thornton; Young‐DeMarco, Young‐DeMarco

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