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Changing Attitudes Toward Family Issues in the United States

Publication Abstract

Thornton, Arland. 1989. "Changing Attitudes Toward Family Issues in the United States." Journal of Marriage and Family, 51(4): 873-93.

This study examines three decades of changing norms and values concerning family life in the United States, focusing on the period from the late 1950s through the middle 1980s. Using data from a broad range of data sets, the article documents an important weakening of the normative imperative to marry, to remain married, to have children, to restrict intimate relations to marriage, and to maintain separate roles for males and females. The analysis indicates that the changes in family attitudes and values were particularly striking during the 1960s and 1970s, but during the early 1980s there was a general flattening of the trends. A broad similarity in trends in family attitudes and behavior is also noted. Finally, the article links trends in family attitudes and behavior to a number of broader social trends, showing that many family changes parallel trends in socialization values, religious beliefs, political allegiances, and support for civil liberties.

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