Question: Individual choices take place within a broader social spectrum – that is, within society. How do social factors influence an individual’s decision about whether to marry or remain single? Answer: Social factors play large influences in almost every kind of decision people make. The decision to stay single or to get married is very heavily affected by social factors. For example people may reach a certain age and feel like they should be married by that age. When the station manager where I work turned 30 years of age, he
became really depressed because he had not married and not been able to start a family. Within two years, he is now married with a child on the way. An argument could be made that because he felt like he wasn’t like everyone else socially that he made a choice off of those differences, or social pressures, he felt.
The textbook points out the changing attitudes of people in the United States towards marriage. It states in a quote from Peter Stein that “people are moving away from marriage and family norms as these norms conflict with the potentials for individual development and personal growth.” Marriage is now seen more of as an ideal situation rather than the only suitable situation. This permits more acceptance to a person who remains single. Today people who remain single are not seen as deviants of society, as they had been in the earlier part of this century. The textbook states that “by the late 1970s, three quarters of those interviewed in one national poll considered it normal to be unmarried.” Also, there is less pressure from parents to marry than in the past, although the textbook states that “many American parents remain vexed when their offspring approach a 30th birthday without at least one marriage in the record.” Still, this is a change that at the least allows people to stay single while being socially accepted for a longer time. Most of the recent increase in singlehood results from the return of the average age of first marriage to a much higher age than in that of the middle of this century. Society now sees it as normal for people to get married at an older age and so people are staying single longer. Social factors will always influence people’s decisions about whether to marry or stay single, but the choices will be different depending on what position society takes in a given time period. In our current time period, singleness is accepted enough to where it is a viable way of life and so more people are choosing it.