Singlehood Revolution in America

Recent years, there is an increase in the number of Americans who remain single between 25 years old- middle age. This social tendency is caused by different factors including financial and economic issues, psychological and professional reasons. According to statistical results, in 2000 there were 46,724,000 single-occupant households. This is about 25.5% of the total households in America (The Archives of Unmarried America, n.d.). In 1960, number of single individuals was about 26,764,000 million people. In 2004, there were “88 million singles in the USA (42 million en and 46 million women” (Rodgers and Rodgers 2006, 14).

Psychological and Social Reasons

Psychologists admit that individuals who live a single life style have some psychological peculiarities and problems caused by social and economic changes. Today, there is an increasing tendency of individualism and demand for self-identity among Americans. A single life style is used as defense mechanisms that reduce the threats a person feels. Most of them are fear of making mistake choosing a partner or afraid of new romantic relations (Rodgers and Rodgers 2006). The primary defense mechanism is repression, in which unacceptable or unpleasant emotions are pushed out of consciousness. These defenses serve the important function of helping people modulate and deal with stimulation. Stress and work-overload result in emotional detachment and interpersonal passivity. These psychological peculiarities are not among the most mature and adaptive that most adults practice. These mechanisms are consistently seen among single individuals (Appadurai, 1996).

The Internet and technological innovations change communication patterns among people and lead to passivity and inability to socialize. Passivity is a psychological trait that can be seen behaviorally as avoidance, steering clear of obstacles in one’s path. Detachment from personal responsibility for a particular situation because a person does not initiate the behavior is made possible by personal passivity and tolerance in letting other people make decisions (Appadurai, 1996).

Another psychological and social problem is lack of communication skills and close friendly relations with peers. In modern society, young people do not put great energy into friendships, and elaborate comments about friendships rarely come up during interviews. (Pudrovska 2006). Egoism and individualism prevent many young people to make friends with an opposite sex. Researchers found that in promoting sexuality and friendship single individuals are apprehensive about the price they might pay if they assert themselves (Mapes, 2007). If they are assertive with others, single individuals would feel responsible for the outcome. Therefore, they back away from being assertive. Friendships comprise another area in which bachelors’ passivity limits their interactions. “many singles fear that marriage will lead to emotional suffering and social shame” (Rodgers and Rodgers 2006, 16).

For some single individuals being single is an adaptive activity: it is the best choice for them. After all, choosing to not marry does not preclude becoming fully self-actualized, socially productive, and personally satisfied. Although they might be missing out on the productive union possible within a marriage, single individuals sidestep this social activity for which they may be ill-suited. For some single individuals marriage would be an obvious mistake, which would prove traumatic (Becker, 2000). Marriage would compromise the personal integrity and sense of themselves that many single individuals maintain through their steadfast independent stance. “Fear of getting hurt” is another reason why people live a single life style. Many singles have been wounded and now equate dating and mating with hurt and pain. Their fear of getting hurt causes them to stop looking for a soul mate” (Rodgers and Rodgers 2006, 15).

For the majority of individuals from 25 years old to middle age, not being married is one way in which single individuals guard their independence. Remaining single maintains a separateness that works in concert with other overt activities (as well as their inner dynamics) to protect single individuals’ high priority on independence. Although their freedom might be considered illusory, after all, anything held too tightly can become restrictive, single individuals organize themselves and their activities around this key element (Rodgers and Rodgers 2006). Some single individuals are rather matter-of-fact about protecting their liberty through remaining single.

“A recent New York Times front-page article reported that an analysis of Census Bureau figures finds that 51 percent of U.S. women are “living without husbands” rather than opting for marriage” (Rivers and Barnett, 2007). In many cases, fear of abusive family relations is the main reason why they are choosing to live a single life style. Many single women do not appreciate that intimate relationships can be mutual and reciprocal, instead, they feel a partner is a burden. Perhaps this is because bringing about mutuality in a relationship would be improbable for most of them. High commitment to independence forecloses mutuality as an option. This commitment to self-determination makes it unlikely that single women will be able to achieve the interdependent reliance that makes marriage worthwhile (Bhabha, 2000). A high desire for autonomy pervades most people’s lives. The detached, reserved, and solitary values that form men’s attitudes toward getting married and having a family of their own are not confined to their behavior regarding marriage. Their strong commitment to individualism and self-reliance resonates throughout their undertakings.

A changing social role of women and feminist movements creates a new image of woman; independent and self-confident. In contrast to modern day values and views, the traditional view was that women were “saved” by marriage, gaining families and financial security. A woman who could not “get” a man was a loser. Attitudes still prevail that women are made “whole” through marriage and “complete” through parenting. It is only lately that women are in positions to ensure their own financial security even more recently some single women are having children or adopting them. “In our study of women ages 35 to 55, funded by the National Science Foundation, single women did not feel like failures and did not view themselves differently than other women” (Rivers and Barnett, 2007).

Low and declining status of marriage and family values in the society has a great influence on singlehood. According to this reasoning, the decrease social, emotional, and economic support available from a spouse and a family in the past do not protect married people from life troubles and demands. “This would probably be true in any society, but is particularly the case in America, where for millions of people, marriage is the only social-welfare system: It is how they obtain health insurance and pensions, help with the kids and a roof over their heads” (Pollitt 1995, 624).

Low status of marriage and high percentage of divorces influence the decision of many individuals from 25 years old to middle age to live a single lifestyle. Following Rodgers and Rodgers (2006): “matrimony is disappearing in our culture” (16). These people are conflicted about their very real, competing desires to have their independence and autonomy, and yet to have their own family. Their personality style has an impact on their life choices. More and more Americans have drifted into being never-married because of their patterns of being strongly individualistic and making a commitment to work for their own welfare (Gordon, 2003).

Many people are afraid of daily tasks they would have to perform in marriage. In a perfect marriage, many day-to-day tasks can be more effectively handled through a healthy distribution of labor: one partner takes responsibility for the laundry, while the other does the yard work, or one takes responsibility for paying the bills, while the other focuses more on maintaining social ties. In reality, women have to keep a house and look after a husband and children, work (part-time or full-time) and plan future of their family. This division of labor deprives many women a chance to find a prestigious job and achieve high social position. Traditional division of labor is wherein one person makes money and one manages other life tasks (Gordon, 2003).

Financial and Professional Factors

More and more Americans prefer to live a single life style because marriage life can threaten their carrier goals and financial opportunities. The majority of single individuals have prestigious high paid job and spend most their time at work. Finding meaningful work to satisfy economic, psychological, and social needs is not unique to the unmarried. Work and career become particularly important to singles. The economic reality of only one potential income source and undivided living expenses may put special demands on them (Financial challenges 1996). On the other hand, work may also be used to provide important psychological benefits. It may be necessary to increase self-esteem, to enhance one’s sense of mastery and validate one’s competence. Employment might also serve to provide a sense of organization, responsibility, and belonging, a way to be connected. “Single woman in a high-prestige job had a good chance of achieving high well-being, while a single woman in a low-level job had the cards stacked against her” (Rivers and Barnett. 2007). Traditional views have proposed that professional employment is essential for the old maids. For some single individuals, a decision to stay single is connected to their desire to avoid relying on other people to run their business. Researchers underline that “career aspirations and increased vocational opportunities appear to have influenced women’s decisions about remaining single. It is precisely those women who are well educated and consequently financially secure that tend to not desire marriage or not place it as a high priority in their life goals” (Gordon 2003, 34).

Discussion Section

The main factors, affected decision of Americans to live a single life style, have deep roots in social and economic problems. Liberation movements and feminist ideas promote individualism and independence as symbols of personal freedom and liberty. Some of the popularly held stereotypes present single people in a positive light. Having negotiated life without a partner, single individuals may exemplify the American ideal of a rugged, swaggering, self-sufficient personality. One of the strongest images of the single person (man or woman) is an independent one and not tied down to any particular lifestyle. Today, many people want that others respect their choice and admire them for choosing a singular path different from that of the majority of their peers (Clarkberg, 1999).

Having the freedom to pick up and go anywhere when they choose and not having to sacrifice for a partner, children, and in-laws are other enviable advantages. “Ferguson (1995) found that foreign born Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans who spoke English were more likely to delay marriage to pursue a career” (cited Gordon 2003, 34). With readily available birth control and the increase of non-marital sex, single people can also have the sexual advantages of marriage with none of the responsibilities. Employment, avocations, hobbies, and other social activities take on additional importance for single people because they increase the opportunity for social networking, which may be more readily available to their married peers (Ishii-Kuntz and Seccombe, 1994).

Marriage is not something to be treated lightly or to be engaged in by every person regardless of his or her personal disposition. Marriage is an enterprise that is not right for everyone, nor is everyone well suited for marriage. Not marrying is a logical, optimal choice for some people. Most of them do not want to change their life style and move to another area or state (Magdol, 2002). Some single individuals are annoyed by social expectations that people must marry; they resent feeling like less of a person because they are single.

Young, urban singles’ major concerns are usually with establishing satisfying living arrangements, meeting prospective congenial friends, engaging in activities that they enjoy, and finding meaningful work. Concerns for friendship and social interaction have drawn the attention of the business sector. The result has been profit-making organizations seeking to attract singles. Singles bars and dating services are commercial ventures that come to mind, but also included are less exploitative groups, such as those offering continuing education (The State of Unmarried American 2006).  Associated with the increased education of women and the increase of pair-bonded women in the labor force, a greater equality of power and decision making between males and females came about, both within the family and in the workplace. While women still have the responsibility for childrearing, men are becoming more involved in domestic activities. Today, more family functions are coming to be performed by persons outside the family, especially education, child care, and food preparation.

In sum, high percentage of single Americans between  25 years old to middle age is caused by new social relations and new personal values which have a great impact on social life and marriage. Economically and culturally, the beginning of the 21st century is a period of growing affluence and the advancement of individualistic values. More and more people are bound by career goals and economic stability seeing marriage and family life as burden and a cause of additional problems they try to avoid.
References

1.      The Archives of Unmarried America (n.d.). Retrieved 24 March 2007 from http://www.unmarriedamerica.org/library/demographics.html

2.      Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

3.      Becker, G. (2000). The Elusive Embryo: How Women and Men Approach New Reproductive Technologies. Berkeley: University of California Press.

4.      Bhabha, Homi K. (2000). The Turn to Ethics, New York: Routledge.

5.      Clarkberg, M. (1999). The Price of Partnering: the Role of Economic Well-Being in Young Adults’ First Union Experiences. Social Forces, 77 (3), 945.

6.      Gordon, Ph, A. (2003). The Decision to Remain Single: Implications for Women across Cultures. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 25 (1), 33-35.

7.      Financial challenges of singlehood – Institute of Certified Financial Planners offers personal finance tips for single people. (1996). USA Today, Retrieved 24 March 2007 from http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1272/is_n2611_v124/ai_18232479

8.      Ishii-Kuntz, M., Seccombe, K. (1994). Gender and Social Relationships among the Never-Married. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 30 (708), 585-590.

9.      Magdol, L. (2002). Is Moving Gendered? the Effects of Residential Mobility on the Psychological Well-Being of Men and Women. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, (), 553.

10.  Mapes, D. (2007). Single State of the Union: Single Women Speak Out on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Seal Press.

11.  Rivers, C., Barnett, R. (2007). U.S. Women May See Independence in Singlehood Retrieved 24 March 2007 from http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/3050/context/archive

12.  Pollitt, K. (1995), Subject to Debate. The Nation, 260 (), May 8, p. 624.

13.  The State of Unmarried American. (2006). Retrieved 24 March 2007 from www.wvwv.org/docs/wvwv06secondaryresearch.pdf

14.  Pudrovska, L. (2006). Strains of Singlehood in Later Life: Do Race and Gender Matter? Journal of Gerontology 61, pp. S315-S322.

15.  Rodgers, B., Rodgers, T. (2006). The Singlehood Phenomenon. Navpress Publishing Group.

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