Evolution and Transformation of the Marriage Institution: Analyzing Empirical Indicators

Evolution and Transformation of the Marriage Institution:
Analyzing Empirical Indicators

Gurko T.A.

Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), Chief Researcher, Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS, Moscow, Russia tgurko@yandex.ru

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Gurko T.A. Evolution and Transformation of the Marriage Institution: Analyzing Empirical Indicators. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2021. No 5. P. 58-69


The need to develop the theoretical heritage of A.G. Kharchev predetermined the purpose of the article. It is based on A. Cherlin’s statement about the difference between evolutionary and transformational changes in the institution of marriage as an alternative to the arguments about deinstitutionalization. Deviations (practices and attitudes) are considered as signs of transformation, and variations – the evolution of the institution of marriage. A hypothetical set of practices that can be qualified as deviations and variations of normative marital behavior and normative marital attitudes are presented. Practices and attitudes as indicators of deviations and variations were assessed on the basis of the analysis of subsamples of husbands and wives (RLMS-HSE 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2019) men and women (RLMS-HSE 1994, 2000, 2009, 2019, ESS-2018, VNDN-2019), as well as statistics and results of research. Divorce, premarital sexual relations and attitudes to their acceptability, pregnancies before marriage wives‘ attitudes to symmetrical distribution of roles are identified as deviations. In addition, more young husbands, especially those with higher education, have a strong influence on family decision-making compared to older husbands. The matriarchal type of decision-making that prevailed in the Soviet era in the conditions of the socialist economy, when both spouses had approximately equal salaries, is being transformed in the conditions of the market economy. Variations of normative marital behavior can be considered as stepfamilies, childlessness in marriage, acceptability of extramarital sex and opportunities for adoption of children by same-sex couples, cohabitation before marriage or instead of marriage without children, births outside marriage (the child is registered only by the mother), cohabitation of biological parents, i.e. fragile families. The paper shows a tendency to reduce the proportion of married people with secondary education in comparison to those with higher education, not only among men, but also among women. The data confirming the advantages of marriage for both men and women, especially in the elderly age, are presented. Husbands agree with the conservative distribution of roles regardless of age, while the share of such wives decreases in younger ages. Even among young spouses with higher education, there are almost twice as many conservative husbands as wives. This divergence of role expectations provokes a potential basic conflict in marriages. More young husbands and wives hold attitudes to the permissibility of sex outside of marriage, with the age of such spouses decreases. There is no data on the behavior of spouses in this area. The institution of marriage, at least in Russia, is developing and there is no reason to say that, at the beginning of the 21th century, it is deinstitutionalized.

marriage; institution; evolution; transformation; variation; deviation; spouse; child; sex; age; role; wellbeing


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