Fifty years ago you had to be married to be a respectable adult in the United States. Today, marriage is optional—you can get most of your emotional and economic needs by living with partner—and single parents can also get by. But oddly enough, marriage is, if anything, more important than ever to people as a symbol of having made it in life—of having a successful personal life. Most young Americans still want to get married, but they do it only when all the other steps to adulthood are in place—when they have completed their education, when they and their partners have jobs, when they have saved up enough for a down payment on a house, or even have had children together. Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood, but now it is the last. It’s the capstone of personal life—the final brick put in after all the others are in place.
So marriage is still important, but in a different way than in the past. It’s a symbol of personal achievement—the ultimate merit badge, the marriage badge.
One statistic that stunned me: take two children, one growing up with married parents in the United States, and one growing up with unmarried parents in Sweden—which child has the higher likelihood of seeing his parents’ relationship break up? Answer: the American kid, because children living with married parents in the United States have a higher probability of experiencing a break-up than do children living with unmarried parents in Sweden. That’s how high our break-up rates are.
So… yeah. If it sounds interesting to you, check out The Marriage-Go-Round. Interestingly, the Google Books page is very sparse right now. How long does it take for new books to get a full listing?