More couples are living together, but they don't see cohabitation as a replacement for marriage, according to Andrew Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist and expert on family issues. He points out that nearly nine out of 10 white people and about two-thirds of African Americans will marry. While marriage is no longer considered a prerequisite for raising children or seen as the key to long-term romantic happiness, it remains "the ultimate merit badge" for a couple, Cherlin says.
"Without a doubt, marriage is much changed and is not as strong an institution as it used to be," Cherlin says. "But as we enter the new century, it's becoming clear that marriage is not fading away."
Cherlin, who is publishing "The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage" in the new issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, says it is not clear whether marriage will return to its former dominance, remain common yet distinctive, or become just one of many lifestyle choices. "It could be that marriage retains its symbolic aura, largely because of its dominant position until just a half- century ago," Cherlin says. "It could be that this aura is diminishing, like an echo in a canyon."
Cherlin's article is available for download in PDF format at http://www.soc.jhu.edu/people/Cherlin/ Recent%20Paper.htm. He will also take part in a panel discussion on the subject at the National Press Club on Oct. 12. To speak with Cherlin, contact Amy Cowles at 443-287-9960.
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