Cherlin, A. J. (2009). The marriage-go-round: The state of marriage and the family in America today. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
The main argument of The Marriage-Go-Round by Anrew J. Cherlin is the necessity for Americans to stop changing partners after the divorce and start thinking how to improve their life. The book first gives a short overview of marital traditions in America and then discusses the cultural basis for the described behavior illustrated by examples which compare the U.S. with other countries. Andrew J. Cherlin is an American sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who has been researching the institution of marriage for more than twenty-five years, which proves his qualifications in the area. The intended audience of Cherlin’s book is sociologists, psychologists, and a wide range of readers. The book has eight chapters. The first chapter discusses basic differences of a marriage culture between the United States and several countries. The next three chapters reason how the United States’ society changed through the lens of time considering marital issues. The fourth section discusses new demands which America faced over time, namely the opposition of same-sex and heterosexual marriages. “The M-Factor” focuses on the need for mobility and its possible influence on marital issues. Social inequality and registering relationships are the topic of the “Blue-Collar Blues/White-Collar Weddings” chapter. The final chapter “Slow Down” summarizes the main idea of taking responsibility for one’s relationships. Extensive evidence, various examples provided by the author, and drawn parallels between Cherlin’s book and course readings, demonstrate that The Marriage-Go-Round is a professional advanced comparative research of the institution of marriage in America and other countries.
The Marriage-Go-Round is a well-illustrated book which offers a short excursion into the history of marriage with emphasis on the comparison of the institutions of marriage in America and abroad. The author uses sociological polls and combines them with life tables to support his arguments. For instance, in the chapter “The American Difference” Cherlin (2009) proposes a wide variety of studies conducted in Sweden, France, Great Britain, and other countries. He states that citizens of the United States “marry and cohabit for the first time sooner than people in most other Western nations” (Cherlin, 2009, p. 25). Furthermore, Cherlin (2009) lists women’s average marital age, such as twenty-two in the United States, twenty-one in Sweden, and twenty-three in France. Taking all the examples mentioned by the author throughout the book, it is easy to make a conclusion that American culture is more used to frequent marriages and divorces than any other nation in the world.
Every section of the book reinforces the overall idea which can be summarized in one statement: Americans marry and divorce more often because of their splitting cultural values –strong individualism and high marriage appraisal. Cherlin begins with the description of social and cultural norms from the early history of the United States to the present time and then proceeds to the disclosure of specific backgrounds revealing the features of American marital culture. A great wish to express individualism is reviewed in the section “Coping with the Costs of Individualism”. The chapter “The Historical Origins of the American Pattern, 1650-1900” explains how the wish to be independent seeded the grain of today’s personality in the minds of Americans.
An in-depth research conducted by Cherlin helps understand the marital nature of modern citizens of the United States and how it changed over time. The sections with sociological polls and depictions of childhood experiences in one-parent families or the ones that divorced as examples are the most descriptive when considering the issue of Americans’ behavior in a marriage. According to the author, “Children living with a mother and her cohabiting partner tend to get poorer grades in school, skip school more often, and have more trouble getting their homework done” (Cherlin, 2009, p. 32). Clarke-Stewart and Brentano (2006) state that one of the reasons of children’s poor grades and behavior is the “quality of parenting they receive after the divorce”. Cherlin (2009) lists many other examples of how cohabitation influences not only little children but also adolescents who may have their own children. Such evidence is the most illustrative, convincing, and it coincides with the studies of Clarke-Stewart and Brentano.
However, not all assumptions of Cherlin may be regarded accurate and indisputable. The author acknowledges that children’s low grades at school and poor behavior can be a result of other deep problems, such as quick temper or predisposition to depression, which may be genetically passed (Cherlin, 2009, pp. 214-215). This aspect cannot be investigated clearly due to the crossing factors; namely in this situation biology can interfere into the research, so the credibility of findings is under question. Moreover, not every child is affected by the consequences of their parents’ cohabitation and divorce. Therefore, further research should be conducted considering the aforementioned issue.
There is an interesting claim that many divorces can be avoided. A research conducted in the 1970s showed that most of the divorced individuals were not satisfied with their advocates who tried to make their clients testify using false information (Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, 2006). Cherlin (2009) states that American legislature “supports both marriage and individualism” (p. 45). Further, he provides examples of advertisements sponsore...