Marriage and Gender Attitudes Essay

Section One: Introduction – The Issue at Hand

In America, our society seems to have a growing social problem when dealing with gender attitudes and marriage. The institution of marriage itself is at serious risk. The current divorce rate in America is estimated to be around 40-50%, meaning that almost half of all marriages end up as divorces. In a study done by Divorce Magazine, it was found that 10% of the US population is divorced. Ten percent may not seem to be a large number, but when one takes out children and all those who have not been marriage, that is a decent-sized figure. Another interesting statistic was discovered by Jennifer Baker from the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield.

She found that a first marriage has a 45% to 50% chance to end in divorce, while a third marriage has a 70% to 73% chance (“Divorce Statistics”). This may be due to the idea that if a person has already divorced previously in their life, they are more likely to call it quits when the next marriage(s) comes along. Over 40% of first marriages end within 13 years, and over 20% of first marriages end within 5 years. Interestingly enough, women are the first to file for divorce 65% of the time (“Divorce Rates”). Why is this? Also, the website Divorce.com found that since 1970, divorces have increased 40%. Since that same date, marriages have declined 30% (“Divorce Statistics”). With less people getting married and divorces still happening at a high level, it makes one wonder about the potential cause of this predicament. What could be the issue? If one takes a look at modern society, an interesting thought comes to mind. Is marriage less vital in society because men and women do not agree on gender roles anymore? Could this be the potential factor?

Section 2: Literature Review

Two experts who can shed light on the subject of marriage and gender issues are Lucy Hawke from the College of DuPage and the research team Emiko Katsurada and Yoko Sugihara. They both agreed that marriage is still vital in today’s society even though women and men sometimes no longer agree on gender roles. Each expert’s research tackled a different area under the subject of marriage and gender issues though. Hawke looked at American history and the actual changed roles, while Katsurada and Sugihara studied how people’s views on roles affected when they wanted to marry.

Lucy Hawke from the College of DuPage argued that changing gender roles in America are due to the feminist movement of the late 19th and continuing 20th and 21st century. She wrote out it has been a positive thing, and felt that there is even more room to grow in the changing roles. She felt that because of this change, men are allowed to love their children more. They also have the option of being a “Stay-At-Home” dad instead of the mother, which is how it traditionally has been. Hawke also stated that now women can have careers outside the home. Labor in the household is also spilt between the woman and the man, instead of the man being the breadwinner and the woman managing the household. Hawke fully supported the fact that gender roles are no longer constrained to outdated traditional views. She did admit though changing gender roles could possibly weaken a marriage, because roles are unclear. She fully believed though a couple can overcome this and end up stronger (Hawke, 73-74). Through her article, it can be determined that she feels marriage is still vital in American society even though some men and women do not agree on traditional gender roles anymore.

A team comprised of two researchers called Emiko Katsurada and Yoko Sugihara conducted a study using Japanese college students as the subjects to look into how gender roles affect people’s idea of marriage. They found a difference with how each gender views their role in marriage, and even a difference within the views of each gender on how they view marriage, along with the expectations that come with it. Katsurada and Sugihara discovered that women with a traditional gender-role identity were more likely to desire marriage, prefer marrying at a young age, and were less motivated to work after being married. On the other hand, men with a traditional gender-role identity were less likely to want marriage.

This suggests that they are not ready to take on their role in a traditional marriage due to their age (Katsurada, 255). They may have had a strong sense of duty as the breadwinner for the family, and because they were still in college did not feel they could fulfill that role adequately. Even though this article did not focus on America, it still did an excellent job of analyzing gender roles and the part they play in people’s mind. Through this research study, it can be determined that marriage is still vital in society. People do still want to marry. However, the people getting married vary age-wise because of their preconceived notions about gender roles. Traditional men will want to wait until they are older, while traditional women will want to marry younger and fill their possible ideal roles.

Section 3: Hypothesis

My hypothesis is that men and women have different ideas about gender roles in marriage. This means that each gender has different expectations of what their role is in a marriage, as well as their partners. Each person has a preconceived notion of what they are to contribute, whether that notion is shared by their partner or not.

Section 4: Research Design (Method)

To get my data, I went on the English class’s website where Mr. Eilers posted data relevant to my topic. This data came from the Pew Research Center report entitled “As Marriage and Parenthood Drift Apart, Public is Concerned about Social Impact” released on July 1, 2010. I picked six questions on the topic. The first question was “When a man and woman plan to spend the rest of their lives together, how important is it that they legally marry?” The second question was “Should divorce be avoided except in extreme situations?” The third question was “Divorce preferable to maintaining an unhappy marriage?” The fourth question was “Are women happy if single?” The fifth question was “Are men happy if single?” The sixth and final question was “What is your view on couples living together without being married?” I picked these questions as a group because I feel the results were relevant to proving whether or not men and women have different ideas about gender roles in marriage.

Section 5: Data Analysis (Results)

The first question was “When a man and woman plan to spend the rest of their lives together, how important is it that they legally marry?” The results were as follows: “Very Important” – Men = 47%, Women = 47%; “Somewhat Important” – Men = 23%, Women = 23%; “Not Too Important” – Men = 13%, Women = 12%; “Not At All” – Men = 15%, Women = 15%; “Don’t Know” – Men = 2 %, Women = 3% (“As Marriage”). The results are not consistent with my hypothesis that men and women have different ideas about gender roles in marriage. With only a slight variation between the genders with the “Not Too Important” and “Don’t Know” results, both groups basically agree percentage on the importance of marriage. This means both genders agree on importance, and are united rather than separated on roles having to do with the question. The majority of men and women agree that it is very important to be legally married. This shows that even though the divorce rate is high, people still believe that marriage is good and necessary thing.

The second question was “Should divorce be avoided except in extreme situations?” The results are as follows: Men = 41%, Women = 35% (“As Marriage”). These results are consistent with the idea that men and women have different ideas about gender roles in marriage. There is a major difference between the results for both genders for both choices. More men than women feel that divorce that should be avoided except in extreme situations.

The third question stated “Is Divorce preferable to maintaining an unhappy marriage?” The results were Men = 35 %, Women = 61% (“As Marriage”). This again shows men and women have different ideas about gender roles in marriage. The results from this question are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the previous question’s results. Sixty-one percent of women would rather divorce than maintain an unhappy marriage, almost doubling the result from the men.

The fourth question was “Are women happy if single?” The results were: “Yes” – Men = 73%, Women = 83% (“As Marriage”). The results are consistent with the hypothesis men and women have different ideas about gender roles in marriage. The majority of men agree that women are happy when they are not in a relationship, but the fact that 10% less of men than women think this show the difference in attitudes.

The fifth question was tackling the other end of the topic. It was asked “Are men happy if single?” The results were: “Yes” – Men = 70%, Women = 64% (“As Marriage”). The results were consistent with the theory that men and women have different ideas about gender roles in marriage, since the results were not the same percentage. The majority of men answered that men are happy when they are single. It was interesting that the majority of women felt that men were happy when single, yet that majority was 6% lower than the male result. The sixth and final question in the survey asked “What is your view on couples living together without being married?” The results were as follows: “Bad” – Men = 43 %, Women = 45%; “No Difference” – Men = 43 %, Women = 44%; “Good” – Men = 11%, Women = 9%. These results are still consistent with the concept of different ideas on gender roles in a marriage, since no gender completely agreed on any choice. More women than men felt that it was either bad or there wasn’t a difference. More men than women on the other hand felt that it was a good thing to live together without being married.

Section 6: Conclusion

The research results were overall consistent with my hypothesis, with the exception of the first question. As shown by the data, men and women do not have the same basic attitude about marriage. What does this say about marriage? It says that the concept of marriage is changing in our current society. Has America lost touch with this sacred and legal institution? Possibly, but the game may just be morphing into something new. It is so easy and acceptable to get divorce nowadays that it is possible many people do it for that sole reason. Some do not try to work it out, or one partner sabotages the marriage because they may not feel that sense of duty anymore. Divorce is necessary, but maybe not at the level that it is being practiced at.

What does this say about the future of marriage in our society? The definition and/or concept of marriage will have to change in order for it to survive. What does this say about men and women and what they have in common? Men and women have some views in common when it comes to marriage. It really just depends on the person one is talking to. Our society has become very individualistic. Sometimes a marriage can be saved when the man and woman do not view things so singularly. The Discovery Channel found couples without children had a divorce rate of 66%, compared to a 40% rate of couples with children (“Divorce Statistics”). This statistic shows that when a couple has to think about other people (such as children) outside the couple’s own issues, they may try harder to work things out.

Let us explore the actual gender roles and each gender’s view of their own. Statically, men view their role in marriage differently than women. Some men may feel that they are the head of the house-hold, and because of this they need to be the stead fast one. They need to be in charge and try to fix the situation. Most women, on the other hand, have a much more independent view of themselves and the world than they did 50 years ago. This is more than likely due to the feminist movement that has caught the modern women by a storm. More women want to be in control of their happiness. If their man is not making them happy, he has to change or go. As shown in the results section, more women may have a smaller sense of duty towards staying in a marriage than men do. More women feel empowered in this day and age, and in doing so have the confidence to be happy and single. It is almost frowned upon to be a girl who has to be in a relationship all the time.

The majority of women are working on defining themselves as individuals and pursuing their careers. The feminist cry goes out “I don’t need a man by my side to get things done!” It is possible that some men believe women are not happy when they are single because women need a man to be content. These men might feel that the man needs to be the bread winner in the house hold and ease the stress on the woman. This may be the case for some women, but as a majority not so much. On the other hand, some men may feel tied down by being with only one woman, so prefer to be single so that they can “play the game.” Maybe they just prefer solitude or the company of the same sex, rather than the company of a romantic partner. It is just as possible more women feel that men need a woman in their lives to keep them happy. Those women may feel this way out a sense of traditional gender role, where women cook and keep house for the men in their lives.

On the topic of couples simply living together rather than getting married first, some men may have a harder time committing to a serious relationship than women, and marriage is definitely a big step. Women may see this, and feel that men are just trying to put off commitment by simply living together. This could be why more women than men view it as a bad thing to live together before getting married. Women may feel they want the serious step first, before sharing a living space.

The overall big picture for our society is that marriage may not be the normal thing in years to come. The divorce rate is at a steady pace, the marriage rate is going down, and people are waiting longer and longer to get married. More people are simply living together even though they are less likely to stay as a couple. The traditional roles in marriage have become blended due to feminism and equality thought process. Work is split between partners, rather than each person knowing and doing only what tradition has expected of them. The issue is coming to an agreement on who does what now, and that is the area of marriage that needs to evolve in order to keep the idea of marriage popular.

The future of marriage is not really clear. One thing for sure is that it is declining. The future of this practice lays in the hands of current individuals living out their lives in today’s society. Its life span depends on what these people decide upon and put into practice. I think it would help for people to be educated on the options, and to understand that communication is critical. Marriage can be saved, as long as people talk about their expectations with each other on the individual roles in their marriage, and reach comprises that make everyone happy. Possible future research could be studying the differences between cultures and seeing if that has any effect on marriages and divorces. It would be interesting to see if there was a difference between interracial couples, and how people from different types of family grow up and go into marriage with one another.

Reference Page

“As Marriage and Parenthood Drift Apart, Public Is Concerned about Social Impact.” English 101: Academic Writing And Research. Mr. Eilers/Pew Research Center, 1 July 2010. Web. 02 Mar. 2011. .

“Divorce Rate.” Divorce.com. Divorce.com, 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. .

“Divorce Statistics.” Divorce Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2011. .

Hawke, Lucy A. “Gender Roles within American Marriage: Are They Really Changing?” ESSAI (2007): 69-74. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.

Katsurada, Emik., and Yok Sugihara. “Gender-Role Identity, Attitudes Toward Marriage, and Gender-Segregated School Backgrounds.” Sex Roles (2002): 249-258. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.