Marriage Institution in the US in 1960-70 and Now

The years between 1960 and 1970 brought about change in the marriage institution in the United States of America. The social norms changed drastically causing a major change to the family at large. During this era more women departed from their traditional role as housewives and engaged in formal employment (Hughes, 2009). This affected both the children and the men in so many ways i.e. Opportunities that were only open for men now became open even for women and they took advantage of them.

After the women got into employment the fathers and the children had to make their own adjustments as the mothers were busy most of the time. The men had to also participate in the family chores that were previously left for the women. Women entered into employment not only to solve their financial problems but also because the support of traditional role of women was decreasing in most parts of the world. They felt that they could work and still be good mothers. Due to this changes that occurred during this period the rate of divorce increased. They actually doubled making the figure to be about one million divorces a year. Today the divorce rates have decreased since reaching its peak in early 1980. Today, for the average couple that married recently the likelihood of divorce still remains 40 to 50 % (Hughes, 2009)

Another change in the social norms was that the society became more industrialized this also had its effects on the marriages. This period was marked by major industrialization processes that led to alternative sources of finances, leisure, personal services and also satisfaction. This led to people rendering community unity not to be of significance and a characteristic of individualism rose. This individualism affected the marriages negatively and also contributed to divorces (Hughes, 2009). The marriage patterns in the United States have for a long time been determined by the racial differences. The blacks tend to not to marry when young and are more likely to become parents than the whites. Their marriages are more likely to dissolve since they experience financial problems more than the whites. The blacks tend to live together in an extended family in order to pool resources as opposed to the whites who only live husband, wife and their children.

From 1970 to 2004 the number of women getting married has decreased by almost 50%. This is due to a number of factors. Marriages are no longer a priority to most people especially women. They are putting of marriages until later. Women have other priorities like education, establishing careers and some do not want to get married at all (Bowker, 2007).

In the same period the median age for marriage for both men and women rose. In 1960 it was 23 for men and 20 for women. 1n 2004 it raised to about 27 and26 respectively other factors that are contributing to low marriage levels include cohabitation and the tendency of divorced people not to remarry. These factors also contributed to reduction of fertility rates among the women, the latest data in 2003 showed an average of two children per woman was affected.

Due to these social changes, families have been affected and the person who has felt to suffer this effect is the child. For instance, due to the high levels of divorce many children have been left fatherless or motherless, this affects them psychologically and even emotionally. When a man leaves his family it affects the finances of the family causing both the children and the mother to suffer especially if the mother is unemployed. Single parent families have increased since 1960 where they were only 9%, 20% by 1987 while by 2004 they were 28%. Interestingly these families are mostly mother-only (Bowker, 2007). According to the United States census of 1988 50% of mother-only families lived in poverty and these children were likely to dropout of school. This shows that the marriage institution is failing.

When women started engaging in formal employment the children had to be socialized differently, the parents had either employ a nanny who was either fulltime or part time depending on the parents’ financial capability. Today most children in the United States are being socialized in institutions. When parents cannot find reliable nannies they tend to take their kids to school early (Bowker, 2007). These children lack the basic teachings that only a parent can give, other children are taken to child care facilities. These changes were really felt in the 60’sand 70’s but in the 80’ and 90’s the families stabilized a bit.

Just like marriages are affected by racial differences so are children. In 1960, 33% of African American children were not living in the same household as their both parents. This figure rose to 61% by 1988. At the same time the number of children born to unmarried mothers rose from 23% to 60%. Over 60%of black children were born either to widowed, divorced or never-married woman by 1988. This number was not to due to increases in birth rate of unmarried women but rather to a decline in birth rates of married women. Also the birth rates in white women aged between 14 and 44 also declined from65% to59% in the years 1960 to 1988. This was brought about by an increase in separation and divorce rates, while the blacks it was a general decrease in marriage (Hughes, 2009).

Generally the social change that has occurred in the United States of America largely affected women and this in turn has affected the marriage institution. When marriage is affected the family also feels the change and so do the children.


Bowker. R (2007): American Book Publishing Record Cumulative 1998, Volume 1American book publishing record: cumulative Publisher, Rr Bowker Llc.

Hughes.M (2009): Sociology: the core publisher, McGraw-Hill College.