Marital Relationships in the Twenty-First Century

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Heather M. Helms, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Nearly 50 years ago, when the first edition of the Handbook of Marriage and Family was published, family scholars underscored the central importance of marriage in individuals’ lives and accordingly advocated for a better understanding of those factors that predict marital success and positive marital adjustment (Bernard, 1964; Bowerman, 1964). It is unclear whether these pioneering family scholars recognized as early as 1964 that they were on the precipice of significant social changes that would define the latter half of the twentieth century as a period of marital “deinstitutionalization” (Cherlin, 2004) or the “world-historic transformation” of marriage (Coontz, 2004). Prior to the Handbook’s second edition in 1987, however, they certainly knew something was up (see Bernard’s The Future of Marriage, 1972). Evidenced by marriage rate declines, increases in nonmarital cohabitation and childbearing, the postponement of marriage, and elevated divorce rates, marriage has become one of several legitimate options for organizing couple relationships and reproduction in the United States and other Western countries (Amato, 2004; Fincham & Beach, 2010). Whether or not these trends signify declines in the value of marriage or simply reflect societal change has been hotly debated. Religious leaders, politicians, clinicians, and the federal government have all weighed in on the debate and have allocated significant resources to promote marriage as the ideal. Although skepticism remains about the utility of these steps (Huston & Melz, 2004; Karney & Bradbury, 2005), most scholars agree that the current coexistence of marriage with multiple forms of other relationship and childrearing options is unprecedented.

Additional Information

G. W. Peterson and K. R. Bush (Eds.) Handbook of Marriage and Family, Third Edition. (pp. 233 – 254).
Language: English
Date: 2013
marital research, marital behavior, macroenvironment, individuals, marriage

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