This paper reports on a study into the meanings of marriage for young women in the Hunter region. Using data from 73 interviews, the paper examines the meanings of marriage for women aged 18-35. Looking at multiple narratives, it considers young women’s attitudes towards marriage in terms of detraditionalization and retraditionalization. Although conjugal diversity has increased, and crude marriage rates have decreased, the majority of couples still marry. Despite high divorce rates, marriage remains the most powerful and widely acknowledged form of social contract. Few empirical studies focus on the meanings young women ascribe to marriage, instead viewing marriage as a stable concept, around which to research. This paper discusses the ‘fit’ of respondents’ attitudes towards marriage with the ‘detraditionalization’ arguments posited variously by Beck, Giddens and Bauman. It argues that attitudes towards marriage reflect the detraditionalization process to some extent, yet concurrently indicate the retraditionalization process, for example in the desire for church weddings and defending housework.
The Annual Conference of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA): Re-imagining Sociology. TASA 2008 Conference Proceedings: Re-imagining Sociology (Melbourne, Vic. 2-5 December, 2008)