Marriage: Changing Institution

October 6, 1971

Report Outline
Weakening of Monogamous Standard
Marriage and Western Civilization
Visions of the Future of Marriage
Special Focus

Weakening of Monogamous Standard

Forces Buffeting Marriage in Modern Society

So many odd and contrary forces are pressing on marriage in America today that only one conclusion is supportable: The venerable institution of matrimony must be undergoing momentous change. No one at this point can be sure what will become of it. Many forces are buffeting marriage about. The sexual revolution is bringing on a widening acceptance of premarital, extramarital and group sex. Contraception that is almost foolproof is freeing women from the “biological trap” within and outside of marriage. The women's liberation movement and the economic independence of many women are creating pressure for redefining male and female roles.

Americans are encouraged in a multitude of ways to cast off restraints imposed by traditional moral codes governing marriage. Old taboos are breaking down as to out-of-wedlock births and homosexual mating. Notions of fidelity in marriage seem quaint in today's literature or on its movie and television screens. Moreover, many traditional functions of the family have been shifted to the state or other impersonal institutions, thus diminishing the social necessity of marriage. The new emphasis on leisure as a life goal tends to blur or erase the old concept in marriage of the husband as the breadwinner and the wife as the homemaker. Additionally, the cults of individualism and anti-institutionalism have caused some young people to reject the legalization of marriage. Beyond that, the high divorce rate feeds a growing skepticism about the permanence of love in marriage.

The list could be longer. What it adds up to is change. But where will it all end? Some say marriage is doomed, at least as Americans have long conceived it; that is, as a legally and spiritually or religiously sanctioned monogamous relationship, involving a mutual commitment of love and fidelity between two persons who have a reasonable expectation that the union will endure until death. Marriage is also conceived as a social institution imposing certain obligations and granting certain rights to each partner. Their sharing extends to matters economic, psychic, sexual and parental.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Marriage, Divorce, and Single Parents
Dec. 01, 2017  Future of Marriage
May 07, 2004  Future of Marriage
Jan. 19, 2001  Children and Divorce
Jun. 02, 2000  Fatherhood Movement
May 10, 1996  Marriage and Divorce
Jan. 13, 1995  Child Custody and Support
Jun. 07, 1991  Children and Divorce
Oct. 26, 1990  Child Support: Payments, Progress and Problems
Jul. 06, 1990  Are Americans Still in Love with Marriage?
Feb. 03, 1989  Joint Custody: Is it Good for the Children?
Mar. 12, 1982  Trends in Child Custody and Support
Jun. 03, 1977  The Changing American Family
Sep. 10, 1976  Single-Parent Families
Jan. 25, 1974  Child Support
Oct. 10, 1973  No-Fault Divorce
Oct. 06, 1971  Marriage: Changing Institution
Nov. 27, 1963  Divorce Law Reform
May 24, 1961  Mixed Marriage
Apr. 20, 1959  Rise in Illegitimacy
Feb. 02, 1949  Marriage and Divorce
Marriage and Divorce