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Community Social Context and Individualistic Attitudes toward Marriage

Publication Abstract

Barber, Jennifer S. 2004. "Community Social Context and Individualistic Attitudes toward Marriage." Social Psychology Quarterly, 67(3): 236-256.

I develop a theoretical framework explaining how community social context affects attitude formation via nonfamily institutions and related behaviors. Empirical tests of the framework use data from a study of the Chitwan Valley in rural Nepal. The analyses focus on attitudes toward seven aspects of marriage: child marriage, arranged marriage, intercaste marriage, mother-in-law obedience, polygyny, divorce, and widow remarriage. Regression analyses show a dramatic relationship between community social context and attitudes toward these aspects. Individuals whose childhood communities contain schools, employers, markets, and bus service hold more individualistic attitudes toward marriage. Behaviors related to these nonfamily institutions are related strongly to individualistic attitudes. Neighbors' behavior also is related to individualistic attitudes toward marriage, but much more weakly than individuals' own behaviors. I conclude that continuing increases in nonfamily institutions and related behaviors are likely to transform marriage from a family-controlled experience to an experience largely controlled by the individual.

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