Marriages and Families:Changes, Choices, and ConstraintsSeventh Edition • Nijole V. Benokraitis • Chapter Nine • Singlehood, Cohabitation, Civil Unions, • and Other Options
The Single Option More and more people today are choosing never to get married, to raise children on their own, and to stay alone. Some social scientists are seeing this as a marriage problem.
Many Singles Are Postponing Marriage Most young people are pursuing a college education these days, preparing for a job or career. In 1960 the median age for marriage was 20 for the woman and almost 23 for the men. People feel that being single is an attractive option.
Many Singles Are Postponing Marriage Many young people are pursuing a college education and a career before marrying. Many of us are marrying later than our parents or grandparents did. Being single had become more acceptable. Many young people feel that if you are not married by 30, something is wrong with you—it used to be 20.
The Diversity of Singles There are several kind of singles: those who are delaying marriage. those who will never marry. the currently unmarried who are divorced or widowed. the gay or lesbian couples who are legally barred from being married in 44 states.
Single Adults in Later Life Aging and the double standard: In mate selection, aging women are typically seen as “over the hill,” whereas aging men are often described as “mature” or “distinguished.” Older women are also more likely to remain single in later life than older men are.
Home Alone Most (90%) of Americans do marry at some point in their lives, so marriage is still considered the norm. Who is living alone? More women (17%) than men (12%) live alone. Of all groups, older Americans are the most likely to live alone. On average, women live six years longer than men and they are less likely than men to get remarried.
Race and Ethnicity Of all the people who live alone, more than 80% are white. Members of racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in an extended family situation because of values that emphasize caring for family members.
Why Do People Live Alone? Many who choose to live alone do so because they can afford it. Single women buy twice as many homes as single men. Our values emphasize individualism. Americans are living longer and healthier lives, making it possible for them to live independently after retirement. Americans have more options. They may choose never to marry.
Why More People Are Single Macro-Level Factors Things over which we have little or no control affect our decisions about marriage: war technology social movements the economy gender roles
Macro-Level Factors Marriage rates drop during war. Technological advances in contraceptive techniques, especially the birth control pill, have decreased marriage rates. Women have greater control over childbearing. Several social movements have also resulted in delayed marriage or shaped our definitions of acceptable marriage. The women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and most recently a grassroots movement promoting singlehood.
Economic Factors Economic depressions or recessions can delay marriage. Economics can also reduce the marriage market for singles. When income plummets and people are insecure about wages, they may stay together unhappily, thus decreasing the availability of singles.
Gender Roles Technological and economic transitions affect gender roles. As economic factors change, so do attitudes about marriage and self-efficacy. Women aren’t rushing into marriage.
Demographic Variables The sex ratio—the proportion of men to women in a country or a group. A ratio of 100 means there are equal numbers of men and women; a ratio of 110 means there are 110 men for every 100 women. Worldwide, about 107 boys are born for every 100 girls (a sex ratio of 107). In the U.S., the sex ratio is 105 at birth. In the 65 and over age group, the ratio is 75 because women tend to live longer than men.
Demographic Variables The marriage squeeze—a sex imbalance in the ratio of available unmarried women and men. Because of this imbalance, members of one sex can be squeezed out of the marriage market because of differences in wealth, power, status, education, age, or other factors that diminish the pool of eligible partners.
Demographic Variables Social class—most low-income couples expect to marry, especially after the birth of an unplanned child, but they often retreat from marriage. They believe they should achieve a certain level of financial stability. The likelihood of marriage increases with educational attainment.
Demographic Variables Non-marital child bearing—never-married mothers tend to remain single because they can’t find good husbands. Prospective partners may be unwilling to raise nonbiological children. Also, women who are poor are often unwilling men who have little education and few financial resources.
Individual Reasons Waiting for a “soul mate” Being independent Enjoying close relationships with peers Not wanting to make a commitment Having children Fearing divorce Being healthy and physically attractive
Individual Reasons Waiting for a “soul mate—many singles are waiting longer to get married to find their one “true love.” Being independent—one of the biggest benefits of singlehood is independence and autonomy. Enjoying close relationships—A common reason for getting married is companionship. Singles who delay marriage rely on peers rather than a spouse for support and companionship.
Individual Reasons Making a commitment—there are more never-married men than women in all but the oldest age groups. Many single men do not want to get married. Having children—couples often marry because they plan to have a family. Nearly 70% of Americans disagree with the statement that getting married is the sole reason to have children. Some women first choose to have children and then get married.
Individual Reasons Fearing divorce—divorce or prolonged years of conflict between parents can have a negative effect on young adults’ perception of marriage. Being young and attractive—emotional and physical health and physical appeal also affect singlehood. In the marriage market, most men are initially drawn only to good-looking women.
Racial and Ethnic Singles Among some ethnic groups, the unmarried population has risen during the past few generations. Many structural factors as well as attitudes and values explain these changes.
African Americans Compared to other groups, African Americans are the most likely to be unmarried. Structural factor—the shortage of marriageable African American men. Values and attitudes—homogamy generally limits the pool of eligible mates across social classes.
Latinos Latinas are generally less likely than African American women to experience a shortage of marriageable partners. Structural factors—the Latino population is young and a higher percentage has not reached marriageable age. Recent immigrants are postponing marriage until they can support a family. It is difficult for undocumented or migrant workers to marry. Low wages and high unemployment can delay marriage or increase the number of singles because of divorce.
Latinos Values and attitudes—single mothers may remain unmarried because of close family ties—family members help raise and support out-of-wedlock children.
Asian Americans Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have some of the lowest singlehood rates. Structural factors—intermarriage decreases singlehood rates, especially among Asian American women. Values and attitudes—they see the family as the core of society.
Myths About Being Single Singles are selfish and self-centered. Singles are well-off financially. Singles are usually lonely and miserable and want to marry. Singles are promiscuous or don’t get any sex. Singles’ children are doomed to a life of poverty as well as emotional and behavioral problems. Singles worry about growing old and dying alone. There’s something wrong with people who don’t want to marry.
Cohabitation Cohabitation is a living arrangement in which two unrelated people are not married but live together and are in a sexual relationship. The number of heterosexual unmarried couples has increased more than twelve times since the 1960s. Acceptance of cohabitation has increased.
Types of Cohabitation Dating cohabitation—a prelude to getting married. Premarital cohabitation—again a prelude to marriage but couples are usually engaged. Trial marriage—the partners in this relationship want to see what marriage might be like. Substitute marriage—a long-term commitment between two people who don’t plan to marry.
Who Cohabits? Age—many people think young college-age people cohabitate the most, but in fact only 20% of all cohabiters are age 24 or younger. A majority (56%) are between 25 and 44. Gender—by age 30,half of all U.S. women have cohabitated. Race and ethnicity—the highest rates of cohabitation occurs among American Indians/Native Alaskans and African Americans Groups (about 17% for each group).
Who Cohabits? Social class—more common among people of lower educational levels and lower income levels. Religion—teens who grow up attending church tend not to believe cohabitation is acceptable, however, those teens who grow up not attending church do not have a problem with cohabitation.
Costs and Benefitsof Cohabitation Benefits Emotional security but can also maintain some independence. Partners can dissolve the relationship without legal paperwork. Couples who postpone marriage have a lower rate of divorce.
Costs and Benefitsof Cohabitation • Benefits (cont.) • It can help people find out how much they really care about each other. • Among the elderly it can increase family care. • Don’t have to deal with in-laws. • Children can be helped financially if both parties are working.
Costs and Benefitsof Cohabitation Costs Experience a loss of identity or feeling of being trapped. Women in cohabitating relationships do more of the housework, especially when the man is not committed to the relationship.
Costs and Benefitsof Cohabitation Costs (cont.) • Weaker commitment to their relationship than those who are married. • Demonstrate more negative behaviors after marriage. • Dilutes intergenerational ties. • There are no legal protections in most states.
Does Cohabitation Lead to a Better Marriage? No, it doesn’t. It may be because of a selection effect, which suggests that people who cohabitate before marriage have different characteristics than those who do not. The cohabitation effect may lead to marital instability. Cohabitation can increase the likelihood of divorce because the couple got used to the impermanent nature of the relationship.
How Does Cohabitation Affect Children? Experience more domestic violence Are more likely to be poor Are in households in which the partners spend more on adult goods and less on children Have more academic problems
Cohabitation and the Law There are seven states that prohibit cohabitation. Even in states where cohabitation is not prohibited, unmarried couples and their children have little legal protection. Cohabitants’ best protection in financial matters is to maintain separate ownership of possessions.
Gay and Lesbian Couples Like heterosexual couples, homosexual cohabitating couples must work out issues of power, etc., in their relationships. Most lesbians and gay men want what every one else wants, a loving relationship. A majority of gay and lesbian couples report having equal power in their relationships.
Gay and Lesbian Couples Problems and conflicts—like heterosexual couples, gay and lesbian couples experience problems in all four areas: 1) power, 2) finances, 3) inequality, and 4) possessiveness. They are also just as likely to complain about personal flaws. Violence is a more pervasive problem among gay male couples.
Same-Sex Marriage In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Since then five other states have followed suit. Same-sex marriage remains a controversial issue in the U.S. Our choices about where and how we live are as varied as our faces.
Civil Unions Eight states now allow civil unions, which are a marriage alternative for gays. They are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Washington, Nevada, New Jersey, and Oregon. About 22 countries around the world offer varying civil union benefits.