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INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY

STUDENT GUIDE

61

do with their lives—before and during marriage—rather than being told what to do by society. There is an increasing legitimacy of choice rather than simply a certain groove to follow.

This is especially true of the middle class:

Marriage must now compete with alternatives such as staying in school longer to obtain a higher degree, taking more time to develop a career, living with a partner without marrying, or having children outside of marriage. Among middle class young adults, this competition is increasingly judged by a single criterion: self-fulfillment. And by this criterion, marriage does not always come out the winner.

Most Americans still want to marry, but have less of a need to do so.

Most want children, but they also value other uses of their time and money.

Many are ambivalent about marriage, at once drawn by its promise of intimacy and wary of its commitments and constraints.

Copyright © 2005 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Adult and Graduate Studies

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