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Shauna Soule

Professor Jones
April 23, 2015
Sociology of Marriage and the Family
Marriage and its Evolving Perceptions
Marriage and relationships are something that most people will experience at some point
in their life. Relationships are something that are embedded into the American culture in a sense.
Things like movies, shows, books, and songs all praise the status of being in a relationship. It
should be noted then that how people define relationships, marriage and the creation of family is
important. Below will be the analysis of the surveys taken of a conveniently sampled group of
Respondents Age Thirty and Over
This analysis will begin with the break-down of the older participants in terms of
demographics. There were eleven participants from the age range of thirty-four to seventy-two.
Many of these participants were women, nine to be exact, leaving two to be males. The majority
of this group are in their forties with the outliers being thirty-four and seventy-two. These
respondents are predominately working poor or lower middle class depending on the definition
being used, there are no poor or upper class respondents in this group. The respondents were
majority heterosexual with the possibility of bisexuality being slim. As for the able-bodied
abilities of the respondents, most of them are able bodied with the exception of the seventy-two
year old being the most susceptible to issues with maneuverability. These demographics are
different in the younger respondents, but some similarities follow over.
Respondents Age Twenty-Nine and Under
The other fifteen respondents under the age of thirty, including myself, have a more
compact range of ages. The ages range from nineteen to twenty-seven, most of the participants
were the age of twenty years old. Ten of the participants were female meaning that five of them
were male. The majority of these respondents are classified as working poor or impoverished
according to the government, many do not have a job or a job that pays enough money to be

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considered a living wage. Six of the respondents identify as bisexual predominantly with one
being pansexual. The majority, around 90%, are able-bodied with the exceptions being two
temporarily injured persons. This information, when compared to the above information
produces results that point to informational disparities in certain areas and strengths in others.
Comparison between the Two Participant Groups
The most consistent demographic is that the majority of respondents were female. This
could be a bias on the surveyor or a bias based on who is interested in a survey dealing with
marriage and family. There are wide gaps in the age where age groups are missing. This can
cause a lack of information on these persons thoughts based on the events that effect the
generation of those in their thirties. Most of the persons in both groups were at a low social
economic standing meaning that the views on marriage and family could be completely different
in a higher economic class. There is also a comparable divide in the sexualities of each group of
participants. There is a much higher representation of non-heterosexuality in the younger
participants which is more than likely a generational difference. A final note is that a majority of
the respondents had able-bodied status meaning that there can be lacking views on relationships
from the perspectives of those with less mobility physically or mentally. It is apparent that there
is a need for understanding the differences that are recorded in this information.
Research Information Supporting the Disparity of Homosexual Representation
The distinct disparities found in the above comparisons may come from age, societal, or
other forms of influence. For instance, there is a lack of homosexual representation in those
above the age of thirty years old. As stated by Tom W. Smith (1990), the author of The Sexual
Revolution?, the mentality and acceptance has changed over the years. This text notes the
information that around the time of 1950 relations and opinions on homosexuality was extremely
negative. However, there was a turn in opinions in the year 1989 because of an increase in
acceptability. A great deal of this increase was based in college age settings with prohibition laws

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being overturned (1990). This level of acceptance can be seen in the data from the analyzed
surveys. This could also foster an environment where identifying as homosexual is more
acceptable which is why the older generational participants were noted as having the possibility
to contain homosexual/bisexual persons from the lack of sure identification.
Participants Aged Thirty Plus Responses
Within this group of participants, common age ranges for persons to choose a life-long
partner were between the ages of eighteen to sixty years of age. This is a wide range that
reflects the influence of age on these responses. This will be further shown when looking at the
younger peoples responses which focus around the ages they are in now. There are three persons
of particular interest to this range. Participants 12, 13, and 21 who all had ranges that
incorporated those over the age of thirty. All three of these participants have an international
mental state because they are language professors or persons from other countries where the age
of marriage may be higher.
Participants Aged Twenty-Nine and Under Responses
Every respondent in this group of participants believed the age for choosing a life-long
partner should be within the range of twenty to thirty-five. There were some specific ages, and
one respondent that used the age of eighteen because of its societal label of becoming an adult.
One face value assumption related to these results is that this is both the age of most of the
respondents and the ages they will be achieving in the next decade and many of them may be
looking into gaining the status of married. Another more theory based perspective would state
that because of the growing imbalance in those with money being more able to marry, and those
with more money typically being those with a college education, this pattern of thinking came
about from the association with persons in this age range being more able and mentally ready for
a decision such as this. The majority of this age group used two reasons for this being a suitable
age, one of which was the fact that science points to this being the age of full development for

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brains. The other reasoning is that many respondents believed that this was the age where people
have been subjected to enough experiences such as work or decisions with consequences that
they may now choose the perfect mate.
The most common traits for a partner in order were Trust, communication, and honesty
with a select few achieving a tie. These responses could be something related to the age of the
respondents, but as noted in the previous section on the information from the older generation,
this is something many persons look for in a partner. Trust, communication, and honesty are
things that seem normal but the fact that these three out of fifteen surveys were the most
important show either a great lack in these traits or something more optimistic. This can be
related to the theoretical perspective of structural functionalism with the idea that these three
characteristics are necessary for the proper running of a partnership. These characteristics carry
over into the next few questions which discuss things like family and forms of affection.
How people define family is very different depending on the experiences they have been
through and analyzed. The majority, with two outliers, commented on the fact that family are
people who are there for you. Most of the explanation behind it was the idea that when people
in a group are supportive in ways that are typically only thought of in the arena of family, the
association grows to thinking that these friends are just as loyal as family. Many of the responses
actually made reference to the idea that family is not simply those related by blood which takes
note that the common mindset these persons grew up with was that family was only ones blood
relation. The most interesting outlier was the response that family is a financial institution that
often brings in children. The reasoning behind this and the knowledge that this person and the
other foreign born respondents had similar answers shows a difference in mentality on family in
different areas.
These different mentalities on what constitutes a family influenced the responses to the
next survey question about strategies to help families thrive. Most of these responses had two

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things in common which are communication and bonding. This carries over from the question
regarding traits in a long term partner. These were followed by the prevalent comment on the fact
that families should love each other unconditionally and the idea that children and other
members of the family should be allowed to do their own thing. This ideal is something that is
not only part of a younger generation, many people recognize the damage to a family that
constraining the personalities of each other can bring. This can relate to things like sexuality,
things like opinions or goals in life. The outlier response, which compares heavily to one of the
older respondents previously mentioned, brings up the fact that children should not be used in
arguments between parental units. This is a functionalistic mentality where having these
activities and strategies improves the stability and strength of a family.
These common traits that seem to carry over in all the previous questions are shown
again in the question how do you show love/appreciation and vice versa. All respondents,
retracting the commonly referenced outlier, responded with the fact that listening and taking note
of themselves/others is a common way that love and appreciation is shown. Money and monetary
based gifts was also a common answer showing that many persons within this age range
experience and participate in the ideal that purchasing expensive gifts shows appreciation or love
because of the inherent sacrifice it represents. This is an interesting conflict with the two most
common responses. On one hand there is the idea of affection and support and the other portion
in a sense is the monetary of financial support that is lucrative within this age group. The conflict
perspective would note that these are contradictory and something that many people cannot
participate in because of the unequal distribution of money within this age group.
As for the final question, only three responses noted that the participation in counseling,
courses, or programs related to these topics is something they experienced. They were all
different responses as well. The twenty-seven year old participated in marriage counseling which

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relates to her age and past relationship history. The nineteen year old participated in family
counseling which related to the divorce of his parents. And the final response is the twenty year
old which is currently enrolled in the Marriage and the Family course. The two forms of
counseling point more to situational forms of help which were based more on caring for the
damage rather than strengthening a functioning relationship. These responses, including the class
participant, show a sense of conflict in the fact that counseling is something more accessible to
those of certain economic statuses (including the college course being taken).
Smith, W. Tom (1990). THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION?. Public Opinion Quarterly, 54(3),