Sociology of the Family

The traditional marriage, or should I say monogamy was the typical marriage in the 1950s. The male-breadwinner marriage, where the man works full-time and the woman is the homemaker was the base for what made these traditional marriages a success. This cultural ideal did not come about until the early 20th century, however, most couples didn’t comply with this new living standard until after WWII. The “nuclear family” became more common shortly after. Not to long after this, the dissatisfaction of women arose, which brought about the “battle of the sexes,” and the decline of the male-breadwinner marriage.

The rise of the male-breadwinner nuclear family brought about the great compression of newly shared prosperity, job discrimination against women, and economic independence for seniors. This typical family was comprised only of one man and one woman with at least one child. This ideal culture for marriage set women with the title of being a homemaker and with men providing everything for the family. This made life very difficult if you were a woman without a husband trying to survive on no salary. This, in turn, forced almost all women to turn to men for survival, which in most cases put them up against norms in which they were trying not to break. Men in this time sought sex, however, women were taught that they were to hold out on this until marriage. Not only was this looked down upon for women to take part in, but it was extremely risky. In this time (the 1950’s) there was no birth control or safe and legal abortion, plus if you were caught you were more than likely the head of the newest scandal and looked down upon by everyone in your social world. Unfortunately, the woman would be looked down upon and called diminishing names such as sluts. But because this was trendy, hip, and an accomplishing thing for guys to do, men were rewarded and congratulated by peers and those in a surrounding area.

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This is why we call this a heterosexual double standard because the reactions to men and women having sex were not the same, which isn’t fair. This standard, however, didn’t last for long due to the youth movement of the 1960s and the women’s movement, which challenged both norms and the double standard. With the continuance of cultural backlash, by 1970 the thoughts of traditional marriage were weakening. The divorce rate increasingly became higher because of two reasons. One, the roles of women were changing causing women to reject relationships that they couldn’t tolerate. And two, the stress of providing economic support was too demanding as well as balancing children without as much help from the family or community. Now we have changed the norms tremendously as far as traditional marriage and the heterosexual double standard go. About only 25% of marriages are now male-breadwinner, the rest are comprised of cohabitation families, dual career families, single parents, and gay and lesbian couples. People worry because the marriage rate has continuously been declining, however, it’s really not actually causing any economic inequality.

There are many things in this section about the family that I didn’t know. With that being said, there are a couple shocking statistics that stood out to me and really caught my attention. One is that the rate of people having premarital sex back in 1950 is the same rate as people having premarital sex today. I figured that because of all the risks there were to sex, and how much of a disappointment women were considered to be if they had sex back in that time period, that the number of those having premarital sex would be way lower than it is right now. A second statistic that blew my mind was the fact that now there are nearly 25% of married couples with children that are still considered to be the male-breadwinner nuclear families. With all of the new types of families mentioned in the paragraph above and with the age at which people are getting married, I figured the percentage of people still in the male-breadwinner nuclear family would be much lower than what it actually is.

This new information is shocking and somewhat challenges my thinking on the topic of families. When considering the statistic of premarital sex being as common in the 1950s as it is now really makes you question why you didn’t know this before, or why it seems so much more common now then it did then. It seems like now you hear about it so much and its just a common thing to do in this time. After thinking a lot about it and hearing different things in lecture, I think I have figured out why. Women back then wanted to have sex but didn’t want to get pregnant because that would mean they were such a disobedient person. So women kept their sexual activeness quiet, and if they did by some chance get pregnant then they would just find a way to get rid of the child and not tell anyone.

Now in this day and age, single mothers are so common, and you hear about so many women who are getting pregnant and raising the child on their own and people are so accepting of it. So really I see how the rates of premarital sex then can be the same as now, you simply just didn’t hear much about it back then. On to the statistic of 25% of families still being male-breadwinner. I figured this percentage would be lower than what it actually is. Like I said before, there are new types of families on the rise so I figured that with as many of these new families as there are, people would transfer to these types of families over the male-breadwinner. Also, I figured that because the divorce rate was on a steady increase that families were breaking apart because of the reasons stated in the first paragraph.

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