Marriage and Children
Women have customarily grown up with the expectation that they would marry and reproduce some day. By so doing, they would be serving not only individual needs for adult family connection but also a crucial function of societal continuity.1 The future of a society, of course, rests on procreation, and Americans have institutionalized that in the form of the nuclear family.2 Although the romance of love and marriage is touted as central to adult family formation, it is the complex of higher-order ramifications that perpetuates a social system.3 For societal purposes, individual needs pale in light of institutional structures. The unit that we call family, and other cultures call kinship, gives fundamental structure to economic, social, and political transactions.
A society's economy largely dictates the form family must take to support it.4 The requirements of an agrarian economy, for example, were different from those of a technological one. American families that had been working their farms as a team were divided by the Industrial Revolution. A gender-based division of labor was more firmly established as men sought work away from the homes where women remained as caretakers.5
As paid work became more segregated from family life, the roles of