Assassination Press

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Serious Saturday: The State of the Union

By James Knight (Assassination Press)

The State of the Union.

The Union of Marriage that is…

I have been married once, that marriage lasted about seven years and ended in divorce. It was not a happy marriage and it lasted much longer than it should have (seven years too long). I have often wondered about the institution of marriage, as it exists today in society. Amid reports of America’s improving social health, we hear little about the state of marriage. How is marriage faring in American society today? Is it becoming stronger or weaker? Sicker or healthier? Better or worse?

This has led me to do some research. I should preface this by saying I am not for or against marriage. It is definitely something that depends on the persons involved and is not for me, or others to decide (gay, straight, whatever).

The following is a summary of the State of the Union in America today (based on research by several respected Universities in America)…

The Health of Marriage in America:

Key social indicators suggest a substantial weakening of the institution of marriage. Americans have become less likely to marry. When they do marry their marriages are less happy. And married couples face a high likelihood of divorce. Over the past four decades, marriage has declined as the first living together experience for couples and as a status of parenthood. Unmarried cohabitation and unwed births have grown enormously, and so has the percentage of children who grow up in fragile families.

As a “couples relationship”, marriages are more likely to be broken by divorce than by death. And although one might expect that greater freedom to leave an unhappy marriage might increase the chances that intact marriages would be very happy, this does not seem to be the case. Marriages are less happy today than in past decades.

As a “rite of passage”, marriage is losing much of its social importance and ritual significance. It is no longer the standard pathway from adolescence to adulthood for young adults today. It is far less likely to be closely associated with the timing of first sexual intercourse for young women and less likely to be the first living together union for young couples than in the past.

As an adult “stage in the life course”, marriage is shrinking. Americans are living longer, marrying later, exiting marriage more quickly, and choosing to live together before marriage, after marriage, in-between marriages, and as an alternative to marriage. A small but growing percentage of American adults will never marry. As a consequence, marriage is surrounded by longer periods of partnered or unpartnered singlehood over the course of a lifetime.

As an “institution”, marriage has lost much of its legal, religious and social meaning and authority. It has dwindled to a “couples relationship”, mainly designed for the sexual and emotional gratification of each adult. Marriage is also quietly losing its place in the language. With the growing plurality of intimate relationships, people tend to speak inclusively about “relationships” and “intimate partners”, burying marriage within this general category. Moreover, some elites seem to believe that support for marriage is synonymous with far-right political or religious views, discrimination against single parents, and tolerance of domestic violence.

Among “young women”, social confidence in marriage is wavering. Until very recently, young women were highly optimistic about their chances for marital happiness and success. Now, according to youth surveys, their confidence in their ability to achieve successful marriage is declining. Moreover, they are notably more accepting of alternatives to marriage, such as unwed parenthood and cohabitation.

Key Findings based on statistical evidence:

1) Marriage trends in the United States over the past four decades indicate that Americans have become less likely to marry, and that fewer of those who do marry have marriages they consider to be “very happy”.

2) The American divorce rate today is more than twice that of 1960, but has declined slightly since hitting the highest point in our history in the early 1980’s.

3) Projections made using divorce rates in the 1980’s yielded marital breakup chances at well over 50 percent, some as high as 60 percent, while in more recent years the chances have been lowered to about 45 percent.

4) The number of unmarried couples has increased dramatically over the past four decades. Most younger Americans now spend some time living together outside of marriage.

5) The percentage of children who grow up in fragile – typically fatherless – families has grown enormously over the past four decades. This is mainly due to increases in divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and unmarried cohabitation.

6) Surveys of teen attitudes over the past few decades point up a growing disparity. The desire of teenagers for a long-term marriage is greater than ever, but girls have become more pessimistic about ever being able to have such a marriage and both boys and girls have become much more accepting of the alternatives to marriage.

In conclusion, the trends, statistics, and non-partisan surveys all yield that the state of the union is in terrible condition. My only concern is for the children involved. We must find a way for children to find stable and loving environments after divorce or in absence of marriage. As a “latch-key” kid of the 70’s (child of divorce), I understand the importance this.

I invite your opinions, comments, or viewpoints on this subject.

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Blogger Rowan said...

You can tell the difference in the way things are just by looking at forms you fill out. Nowdays instead of just having options of single, married or maybe divorced,like they used to have, I often see options like separated or living with partner. And "significant other" or SO has become a part of everyday vocabulary.

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