Archive ScienceWatch



Andrew J. Cherlin talks with and answers a few questions about this month's Fast Moving Front in the field of Social Sciences, general.
Cherlin Article: The Deinstitutionalization of American marriage
Authors: Cherlin, AJ
Journal: J MARRIAGE FAM, 66 (4): 848-861 NOV 2004
Addresses: Johns Hopkins Univ, Dept Sociol, Baltimore, MD 21218 USA.
Johns Hopkins Univ, Dept Sociol, Baltimore, MD 21218 USA.

Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

It analyzes the changing meaning of marriage today.

Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

In a new synthesis, I argue that marriage has been transformed from a partnership in which couples thought of themselves as friends and companions working together to raise a family to a new form, in which each partner evaluates how well the marriage is enhancing his or her own personal self-development.

Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

The paper shows how people have come to think of marriage in more individualistic terms.

How did you become involved in this research and were there any particular problems encountered along the way?

I have been writing about marriage and family life since the mid-1970s. In fact, in the first paragraph of the article noted herein, I refer to an article I published in 1978 that is still being cited. I say why I now think that article's predictions have not all come to pass.

My research is in the sociology of families and public policy. I have published books and articles on topics such as marriage and divorce, children's well-being, intergenerational relations, family policy, and welfare policy. I am the principal investigator of the "Three-City Study," an interdisciplinary study of low-income children and their caregivers in the post-welfare-reform era. The study's website includes downloadable documents that describe the study and a searchable list of publications. The data from all three survey waves of our study are publicly available through Sociometrics and the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research or ICPSR.

I am also the author of a textbook on the sociology of the family, Public and Private Families: An Introduction, (Fifth edition, McGraw-Hill, 2008).

Where do you see your research leading in the future?

A book-length treatment on the subject of changing marriage and family life in the US is to be published in the spring of 2009 by Alfred A. Knopf.

Do you foresee any social or political implications for your research?

The work has implications for government policy toward marriage and family.

Andrew Cherlin
Griswold Professor of Sociology and Public Policy
Director, Hopkins Population Center
Department of Sociology
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD, USA

Keywords: deinstitutionalization, marriage, divorce, families, public policy, children's well-being, intergenerational relations, family policy, welfare policy, low-income children, caregivers, post-welfare-reform era.


2008 : May 2008 - Fast Moving Fronts : Andrew J. Cherlin