, Research Paper
This paper will report on six effects marriage has on America and its people. These include who, when, why, what, and where. We will look at who marries whom, when people get married, why the rate of marriage is at such a low, what effect marriage has on America, and where the instability in marriage come from.
Our first topic of study includes who marries whom. In general, American people tend to marry individuals of the same social and economical class. Some marriages do occur outside this class, however they usually do not move very far. Women are more likely than men to marry for the purpose of attaining a higher social status (Collins and Coltrane 265). Religion and race also determine who people tend to marry. During the 1960 s, there was a tendency in America to marry within your own religion. For example, 79% of Catholics, 91% of Protestants, and 92% of Jews married someone within their religion. Today, religious intermarriages in America are more common. For instance, 40% of Jews marry non-Jews (268). Likewise, 98% of all marriages take place within the same race. Interracial marriages have been a recent development. Until 1967, 17 states declared interracial marriage illegal. The most common interracial marriages include Native American women (54% of their marriages are interracial), Japanese American women (41%), and Filipino women (32%). The majority of these marriages are to white men (265-266). Interracial marriages are slowly becoming more socially acceptable and therefore paving the way for acceptance of multiculturalism in America.
In their book, Sociology of Marriage and the Family, Collins and Coltrane help to answer when American people marry. Prior to the 1990 s, it was common for working class women to marry in their teens. Conversely, working class women typically marry around the age of seventeen to nineteen. Some will marry even earlier. Working class men marry at a slightly older age. Middle class women would marry approximately the same time they graduated college. Men categorized as middle and upper class marry a number of years later than working class (184). During the last decade however, most people were delaying their marriage until their mid-twenties. Statistically, 1 out of 4 adults remained single past the age of 30 (137).
Although the marriage rate has gone down, the divorce rate has gone up. The Rutgers National Marriage Project researches why the rate of marriage is at such a low. The results of this July 1999 study show that rates have fallen to a 40-year low. One reason for this lies in the fact that teen confidence in marriage is decreasing. They have little to no positive role model to follow and therefore become pessimistic about their chances for having a successful marriage themselves. Alternatives to marriage such as cohabitation and unwed parent hood are slowly becoming more socially acceptable according to the report and therefore young people opt for those alternatives (Popenoe p1of2). Women are especially pessimistic about their chances for a successful marriage. Fifty percent of marriages are expected to end in divorce or permanent separation (Ponenoe p1of2). Obviously Americans prospective on marriage is not entirely optimistic.
There are other perspectives to help explain what effect marriage is having on a national level. According to Mary Otto of the Knight Ridder Newspapers, marriage may have a positive effect on individuals in this country. A new Florida law compels high schools to offer marriage and relationship skills classes. Louisiana and Arizona couples can now opt for stricter covenant marriage vows . She goes on to write last year lawmakers in Ohio and 16 other states also pushed for covenant marriage. (Otto p1of4). In addition to these positive reforms, Katrina Woznicki reports that married couples are happier than cohabits. Based on data from a 1987-1988 National Survey of Families and Households, women with children were more likely to feel depression if they were cohabiting long term, but do not have plans to marry . Likewise, Dr. Susan Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University studied 404 married couples and 137 cohabitors. The cohabitors had a depression score of 17.2 compared to 13.3 for married people. Dr. Brown explains her findings by saying that cohabitors may be more depressed because their relationships tend to be less stable than those of married people (Woznicki, Cohabitors p1of1). A second study suggests that marriage has an effect on your blood pressure. Research led by Brian Baker of the Toronto Hospital evaluated effects of 5 marital characteristics on blood pressure. The characteristics evaluated were: conversation, engaging in outside interests together, laughing together, having calm discussions, and working together on a project. The results revealed a consistent 6 mm. per mercury increase in men and women who showed low participation in these activities (Woznicki, Marriage p1of1). In other words, their blood pressure went up.
The couples who are experiencing these negative effects of marriage must also be experiencing some instability in their marriage. Where does this instability come from? According to Mary Benin of Arizona State University, a drop in marital satisfaction occurs after the first baby. It s such an abrupt transition, going from an adult to a baby centered household, Benin said. Unfortunately, marriage satisfaction continues to drop as the children get older. The lowest point of satisfaction occurs when the children are teenagers. (Elias p1of2). A second factor of problem marriages in America is due to age. Usually when a working couple marries at a young age, the husbands have low paying jobs. The wife s income is often taken away quickly as it is common for young working class wives to have children early (Collins and Coltrane 186-187). Consequently, these situations lead to economical hardship, which puts a strain on the marriage, sometimes ending in divorce. By the mid-twenties, working class couples have generally settled down. They infrequently go out of the house unlike middle and upper class couples who simply have the economic means to do so. Working class couples will seldom invite other couples over; dinner parties are middle class not a working class, custom. Nor is there much male/female mixing. Husbands and wives tend to socialize with their own sex. The house is usually a women s place while the men tend to congregate outside the home. Women are continuously responsible for the up-keep of the house and care of the children. The women in these marriages felt a great deal of dissatisfaction. This is mainly due to their feelings of restriction. They complained their husbands never want to leave the house. In the cases when men didn t come home from work but in fact went out, women felt even worse. For this category of marriage, economics are not the problem, but the feeling of being trapped. (189-190)
In conclusion, marriage has various effects on people. These effects may be contingent on such factors as race, religion, age, and economical stability. Some individuals are impacted in a positive manner such as the promotion of multiculturalism that stems from interracial marriages. While some impacts are negative such as the hardships that working class people face when they marry at a young age. Generally speaking, Americans view marriage in a pessimistic light as indicated by the decline in teen confidence. However with further increase of reforms in American school systems, just as Florida schools are doing, the divorce rate may again drop while marriage rates will rise.