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The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Todayby Andrew J Cherlin
Synopses & Reviews
From one of the nations leading experts on the American family, a book that explores the state of marriage in America today; its evolution culturally; and with regard to religion and the law, how and why the present state of marriage—a merry-go-round of partnerships—developed, and the implications for parents and children.
During Andrew J. Cherlins three decades of study and analysis of family life, he came to see that marriage in the United States was different than in other Western countries—Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—in a way that no one was writing about. He realized that marriage in America, unlike in other countries in the world, was seen as a cultural idael, and the U.S. government was spending money to promote its continuation. The institution of marriage had become a social and political battlefield.
Cherlin writes that Americans marry more repeatedly and have more live-in partners; that marriage and remarriage, frequent divorce, and short-term cohabiting relationships have resulted in a core upheaval in American family life; and that American children have been left to cope with the frequent and disruptive comings and goings of parents.
He writes that Americans have come to embrace two contradictory models of personal and family life: marriage, a formal commitment to share ones life with another; and individualism, which emphasizes personal growth and development. The former promotes a lasting relationship; the latter encourages one to move on. Each model is culturally reinforced by two basic, powerful institutions: religion and law.
Cherlin writes about the inconsistency of American religion and law with regard to family life. He argues that contemporary religion, although supportive of marriage, embraces the quest for self-development. And he makes clear that family law, which used to be centered on marriage, is today focused on the individual and his or her obligations to children.
He discusses the movement and civil struggle for same-sex marriage in America as opposed to in many European countries, where marriage is seen by gay couples as an oppressive heterosexual institution.
A fascinating book that illuminates the shifting nature of Americas oldest and most cherished social institution, the subject of intense and ever-increasing national debate.
"Johns Hopkins University sociologist Cherlin (Public and Private Families) analyzes 'the profound changes' that have occurred in American family life, especially during the past half century. Although heterosexual marriage as the bedrock institution for raising children remains a strong cultural value, it is challenged by the increasing stress placed on individualism and self-fulfillment. The book presents a comprehensive historical overview of marriage and family in the U.S. and compares American behavior with that of people in other Western countries (Americans have the highest levels of moving from partner to partner). In light of relationship instability, the author suggests that children are likely to fare better in a single parent family than in a step-family, a structure that tends to be unstable. While Cherlin delineates the stress points created by the conflicting values of marriage and individualism, he offers few suggestions for dealing with the problems identified. To suggest that the 'marriage merry-go-round' can be 'slowed down' by not starting or ending relationships so quickly is to restate the problem, not offer insight for its resolution." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From one of the nation's leading experts on the American family comes a book that explores the state of marriage in America today.
About the Author
Andrew J. Cherlin is the Benjamin H. Griswold III Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University and is the author of Public and Private Families. His articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, and on the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications. He has been a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the Distinguished Career Award from the Family Section of the American Sociological Association. He lives in Baltimore.
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