Marriage has long been a symbol of union – a union between husband and wife, a compact between the couple and the community concerning support for children, and an institution that, even as it changed or cloaked inconvenient facts about sexuality or paternity, forged shared meanings about family life. Today, however, marriage has increasingly become a symbol of disunion. The disunion involves divorce and the disappearance of permanence as a defining feature of marriage. It extends to a dramatic increase in nonmarital births, as marriage has become an optional rather than mandatory aspect of child-rearing. And, in the United States today, marriage is increasingly a symbol of what divides us: regionally, economically, racially, politically, and ideologically. These disagreements over the meaning and future of marriage start with fundamental changes in the role of marriage in ordering family life and extend to profound divisions about how to respond. Marriage “as we knew it” in the halcyon days of the 1950s was a product of two periods that have now passed: the industrial era that separated home and market and its final iteration in the relatively brief period at the end of World War II when the United States dominated world manufacturing. The nineteenth-century industrial era had moved the productive activities formerly associated with farm and shop, food and clothing production, out of the home. In response, the middle class promoted a new ideal that changed the couples’ relationship from a hierarchical one that subordinated wife to husband to a more companionate and complementary one. In accordance with this ideal, the wage-earner husband handled the impersonal world of the market while the wife oversaw a redefined domestic realm whose principal purpose became the moral and educational instruction of children (Carbone 2000). While the middle-class model had long set the standards by which others were to be judged, it reached its height during the prosperous 1950s, a period in which a larger part of society could realize the advantages of stay-at-home moms in the nuclear families of newly constructed suburbs.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Title of host publication||Marriage at the Crossroads|
|Subtitle of host publication||Law, Policy, and The Brave New World of Twenty-First-Century Families|
|Publisher||Cambridge University Press|
|Number of pages||21|
|State||Published - Jan 1 2010|