The Institutionalization and Deinstitutionalization of
Family Form: Section 1
Amato (2004) - Introduction
NCFR has not had a conference theme refer to marriage since 1958.
Change in marriage
Decline in marriage rate
Commonplace of nonmarital cohabitation
Rise in extramarital births
Increase in divorce rate
Marriage as focus of social policy
Implementation of covenant marriage (LA, AZ, & AR)
Oklahoma Marriage Initiative
Federal funding to support healthy marriages
Opening door in some states to gay and lesbian marriage
What role should government play?
The Marriage Debate
Marital Decline Perspective
Increasingly individualistic society
Decline in marriage and single-parent homes contributes to social problems
Cure for problems is create a culture more supportive of marriage
Marital Resilience Perspective
Argue that many marriages were/are unhappy; divorce provides second chance
Changes in family life (freedom of choice and opportunities for equality) have strengthened intimacy
Social problems are more serious threats than decline in married two-parent families
From Institutional to Companionate Marriage
According to Burgess, industrialization and urbanization weaken the institutional basis of marriage.
19th century: family farm marriages characterized by patriarchy
1900: two-parent breadwinner/homemaker families
Movement toward companionate marriage, characterized by egalitarian rather than patriarchal relationships.
Self-expression and personal development
Shift to no-fault divorce
Currently, spouses = soulmates; this emphasis on marriage as a vehicle of self-development represents an even more individualistic form of marriage that has replaced companionate marriage as the cultural ideal
Revisiting the Marriage Debate
Marriage decline: we need to reinstitutionalize marriage
Marriage resilience: value enhanced freedom and self-development
Fundamental difference lies in whether one looks at the world from an institutional or individual point of view.
When unhappy couples wrestle with divorce, they are caught between their desire to further their own personal happiness and their sense of obligation to others.
Should Marriage be a Focus of Social Policy?
Children with two happily married parents have a statistical advantage over others.
Is it realistic to try to increase the proportion of children raised by married parents with satisfying and stable marriages?
It makes no moral or legal sense to deny children the right to be raised by married parents on the basis of their parents’ sexual orientation.
What is the Future of Marriage?
Alternatives to hierarchical, monogamous, lifelong marriage will become more common.
Social policy will play a growing role in improving marital happiness.
Society has an interest in promoting positive long-term development for children.
States will need to provide a variety of resources to enable couples with children to marry and have healthy, stable unions.
State-funded services should include marital education, relationship skills training, and parenting programs
To make marriages with children work effectively, it is necessary for spouses to find the right balance between institutional and individual elements, between obligations to others and obligations to self.
Cherlin (2004) - Introduction
Deinstitutionalization = weakening of social norms that define people’s behavior in a social institution such as marriage.
New ways of acting must be established
Breakdown of old rules could lead to creation of a more egalitarian relationship between spouses
The Deinstitutionalization of Marriage
Changing division of labor in the home
Increase in child-bearing outside marriage
Growth of acceptance of cohabitation, creating greater complexity in families
Fringe or avant garde phenomenon
Accepted as testing ground for marriage
Accepted as alternative to marriage
Becomes indistinguishable from marriage
Emergence of same-sex marriage
Two transitions in the meaning of marriage
Emphasis on emotional satisfaction and romantic love (early in 20th century) = companionate marriage
Ethic of expressive individualism (last half of 20th century) = individualized marriage
The current context of marriage
Individuals experience a vast latitude for choice in their personal lives.
Individuals aim for personal growth and deeper intimacy through more open communication and mutually shared disclosures about feelings.
Why do people still marry?
Gains to marriage: Enforceable trust – public commitment, less likely to break
Symbolic significance: marriage is less dominant and more distinctive
Low-income: lowest rate of all SES groups; importance of finances
Young adults: search for soulmate; private, spiritual union
Wedding as status symbol: statement that they had passed a milestone in self-identity development
Marriage at Present
No longer as dominant as it once was
Remains important on symbolic level
Transformed from familial and community institution to individualized, choice-based achievement
Marker of prestige and still somewhat useful in creating enforceable trust
Reinstitutionalization of marriage
Continuation of individualized marriage
The fading away of marriage
What do you think is the appropriate balance between institutional values, such as society’s perspective of marriage, and individual values, such as self-development?
Is it realistic to try to increase the proportion of children raised by married parents with satisfying and stable marriages? Why or why not?
Do you believe same-sex couples should be given the right to marry? Why or why not?
Do you agree with Cherlin’s (2004) evaluation of the current “state” of coupling? Why or why not?
Critique the proposed individualistic view of current marriage. Discuss positives and negatives based on your experience and opinions.
Which of Cherlin’s three options in the future of marriage do you believe is the most likely? Why?
Think of an example of a happy couple. What are the components that most strongly contribute to the couple’s happiness?