Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Marriage in Men's Lives

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Marriage in Men's Lives

Article excerpt

Marriage in Men's Lives. Steven L. Nock. New York: Oxford University Press. 1998. 165 pp. ISBN 0-19-512056-6. $29.95 cloth.

Steven Nock's book, Marriage in Men's Lives is an interesting compilation of research to support his major thesis that normative marriage benefits men in greater ways than it benefits women. Although the work is a bit redundant in several places (perhaps for the sake of emphasis), Nock very convincingly uses research findings to support his claim that a man's sense of adult masculinity is enhanced by marriage in ways that a woman's sense of female adult identity is not. Nock contends that women's lives are enhanced only by good marriages, whereas men benefit simply from the fact that they are married, regardless of the quality of the marriage.

There are several aspects to Nock's argument, but it begins with the idea that men, unlike women who reach adulthood through menstruation, must achieve and maintain their status as men. The phrase "be a man" implies that one can fail at manhood in ways that one cannot fail as a woman. Many societies have considerable tests to judge whether a man is capable of assuming male adulthood. In our society, although there are no such ritualistic tests, adult masculinity is still something that is established and maintained by what Nock says are certain universal roles associated with adult masculinity. They include: (a) father to their wives' children, (b) providers for their families, and (c) protectors of their wives and children. These roles are obviously tied to normative ideas of marriage as well; hence the connection between masculinity and marriage. In the roles of father, provider, and protector married men differ from unmarried men in their behavior in certain important ways, including their levels of achievement, social participation, and generosity. …

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