Essay The Deinstitutionalization of Marriage

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Andrew Cherlin's article The Deinstitutionalization of Marriage is an analytical evaluation of the changing themes of the American approach to the relevance of marriage and its evolution over the past century. Through a method of statistical analysis of the changing ideologies and practices of Americans in regards to the institution of marriage Cherlin is able to show that marriage has now become an option rather than a necessity. In analyzing the recent growth of cohabitation he finds that its practice began as a short term method of reducing the possibility of divorce as cohabitation was viewed as a sort of "trial marriage". However, as time has progressed this trial period has been severely lengthened and has less frequently …show more content…
The areas that were especially evoked were his views on sex and altruism. The amount of questions that the coupling of the content of these two texts raised were vast and varied in range of content. When considering Cherlin's discussion on the "deinstitutionalization of marriage" with Wilson's views on human altruism, I am struck by the possibility that what is seen as the traditional marriage of the early part of the twentieth century was an embodiment of what Wilson calls "soft-core altruism". This leads me down a path that starts with the traditional family being formed due to social expectations and the rewards that would be bestowed based upon that formation. While it seems as Cherlin points out that recent developments have led to an increased awareness of individual development through marriage, a look at Wilson's view of "soft-core altruism" may suggest that this individual realization has been relevant all along. Wilson cites that Milton M. Gordon said "man defending the honor or welfare of his ethnic group is man defending himself". Putting all this together suggests to me that what Cherlin called the "transition from the companionate marriage to what we might call the individualized marriage" never actually occurred, marriage has been individualized all along. Traditional families could likely have been constructed out of nothing more than what would seem to be a selfless agreement between two parties in an effort to maintain the