This paper examines endorsement of developmental idealism (DI) about marriage in the United States, as well as differences in such endorsement by demographic characteristics. It is the first study to assess whether Americans relate changes in marriage to societal development—a key dimension of DI. The analysis draws on nationally representative survey data with 44 items designed to measure DI beliefs and attitudes about nine different marriage attributes. Overall, endorsement of DI about marriage, as well as unions more broadly conceived, is widespread in the United States. Large majorities of Americans believed “modern” marriage attributes are more common in developed countries, thought development causes marital change, believed marriage changed in the past, and expected marriage will change in the future in ways that are consistent with DI. Large majorities also believed long-standing “modern” marriage behaviors are good, but not newer “modern” behaviors of cohabitation, premarital sex, and same-sex marriage. Endorsement of marriage DI also differed consistently by race, education, and age: it was greater among non-Hispanic Whites, more educated individuals, and younger people. Differences by marital status and gender were small or nil.
Developmental Idealism and Beliefs about Marriage in the United States
Derek Richardson is a sociology PhD candidate at Indiana University, Bloomington. He researches international development and global health initiatives, focusing on the transnational organizational actors involved in designing and implementing health programs. He is currently studying nongovernmental organizations in the health sector and differences between expert versus amateur approaches to aid delivery.
Derek Richardson, Keera Allendorf; Developmental Idealism and Beliefs about Marriage in the United States. Sociology of Development 1 March 2023; 9 (1): 78–108. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2022.0007
Download citation file: