Needs of marriage and family living

Needs of marriage and family living have to be considered in relation to the times in which they are observed. They are determined by cultural attitudes as well as by world events. They often reflect the conflict between former established family patterns geared to an earlier economy and the needs of today's rapidly changing social scene. The transition from an established, to a new and as yet untried, value system constitutes one of the most important challenges that marriage faces today.

In this century, revolutionary discoveries and global interaction have had a terrific impact on our lives. The social aspects of the business cycle, which used to concern us so much, seem almost trivial when compared to two world wars, the cold war, the draft, and prodigious advances in science and technology. Modern technology has invaded not only the factory but also the home, and many skills required of husbands and wives are quite different from those learned in their parental homes. Furthermore, the division of labor between men and women is no longer so clearly marked. It is much more blurred, workwise and homewise.

Urbanization in all its forms has been another important factor in changing family life. Tremendous progress in communication and transportation has taken place. This has had its impact not only at the level of world diplomacy but in terms of a teen-ager's "date." We have become an urban-industrial people, the majority living in cities, many of us in small apartshy; ments. We are highly mobile. Our families are smaller -- not only in terms of fewer children but, although there are proportionately more oldsters, there are fewer grandparents living with us.

It would be comforting to think of marriage as a haven to which one could retreat from the strain and conflict of daily living. But contemporary marriage is not a thing apart. It is a way of life within which we must cope with the uncertainties and complexities of the Atomic Age.

Specifically, changes in age of marriage, size of completed family, and length of life have greatly affected patterns of family formation and have introduced complicated problems of personal as well as family development.

There has also been an increase in life expectancy, a remarkable achievement of the medical and related sciences. The marriage of persons who today marry in their twenties is statistically capable of lasting forty-one years. Two generations ago, because of later marriage, more children and earlier death, there was a fifty-fifty chance that one spouse would die at least two years before the last of five children married. Today when one's two or three children leave home for college, career, or marriage, one-third of one's married life (fourteen years on the average) is still ahead.

Sexually, too, women have come into their own. No longer is sex for women a taboo subject, or an experience to be only "dutifully" accepted. Today, women have begun to realize their capacity to enjoy sex and respond to it under circumstances of their own choice. The potential for enrichment of the marital relationship is great; but it is not without its problems in a society where there is still a considerable lag between conventional patterns of conduct and the newer and more flexible attitudes.

Importance of Relationship in Counseling

The relationship between counselor and client, or therapist and patient, is coming to be recognized in this country as central in the counseling or therapeutic process. Different schools or systems of therapy and counseling may evaluate it differently, but all recognize its importance and some deem it basic in the results obtained.

The relationship between counselor and client should not be confused with such concepts as transference or rapport. Thus the term "transference," as used in Freudian technique, refers to displacement of the libido from its infantile love-objects (usually one's parents) to the psychoanalyst in the course of psychoanalytic treatment. This redirection of desires and feelings which are usually retained in the unconscious, may be positive, if they are warm, friendly, and affectionate, or negative if they are unfriendly or hostile.

"Rapport" is a more general term referring to the positive, co-operative association of two persons which makes possible a confidential, sympathetic, understanding, and helpful process in counseling and therapy. "Relationship" as used here refers to the interaction between counselor and counselee which becomes a motivating force in the changes and growth which take place in the counseling procedure.

In marriage counseling there is a multidimensional "relationship," that is, the relationship of the counselor to the marriage partners, individually and collectively, and, where necessary, to the children and the family as a "unity of interacting personalities," as well as to the new and developing relationship between the spouses to each other and to the family as a whole. The counselor needs to keep this manyfaceted relationship constantly in mind in order to stimulate its development to its fullest potentialities and to utilize it for the growth of the personalities involved.

Psychotherapy and Counseling

Counseling, in this sense, is also closely related to psychotherapy. Psychotherapy may be considered the more generally inclusive in terms of personality reorganization; marriage counseling, the more specific procedure in its focus on the interpersonal relations between men and women concerned in the marriage. We shall approach the more specialized interest of this chapter -marriage counseling -- through a brief discussion of the more general aspects of psychotherapy and counseling.

There are as many conceptions and definitions of psychotherapy as there are schools -- one might almost say, individual psychotherapists. A recent and "comprehensive" definition of psychotherapy has it as "a form of treatment for problems of an emotional nature in which a trained person deliberately establishes a professional relationship with a patient with the object of removing, modifying, or retarding existing symptoms, of mediating disturbed patterns of behavior, and of promoting positive personality growth and development." According to Wolberg, there are three major types of psychotherapy: supportive psychotherapy, insight therapy with re-educative goals, insight therapy with reconstructive goals.

Regardless of what one may think of the suitability and applicability of the varying methods and techniques of therapists from different schools of thought to their goals and objectives, several things become clear. First, that the different types of psychotherapy are not necessarily mutually exclusive as to either goals or methods; second, that whereas the goals and objectives are relatively few, the theoretical framework, the methods, techniques, and procedures are many and in some instances substantially different from each other; and third, that in a field where there are such wide divergencies of practice there is room for, and in fact bound to develop, a wide variety of schools of thought aiming at the crystallization and formulation of philosophies. These schools of thought will furnish a so-called theoretical basis for practice and will confer upon the practitioner the sanction of authoritativeness because of belonging or adhering to the particular school or system.

Some thoughtful therapists are both puzzled and challenged by the divergent or diametrically different schools and theories of human behavior and motivation underlying psychotherapy, especially when all the schools claim success in treating maladjustment. They can only conclude that none of the schools has the whole truth and that the dynamic elements responsible for the success claimed by all the schools may be the features common to all of them. Hence they proceed to select out what appear to them to be those elements which are common to all psychotherapeutic situations. In spite of criticism, eclecticism is not without merit or justification.

Two of these elements seem to be of special importance to marriage counseling and deserve discussion at this point. They are the "relationship" between the counselor and counselee, and the counselor's concept of "personality."

Marriage Counseling

Counseling is a generic term and much of what will be said here about marriage counseling will apply in equal measure to other forms of counseling. All counseling aims, at least theoretically, at developing insight into the nature of the problem and the causes or factors which produced it; and endeavors to give the counselee support, encouragement, reassurance, and new perspectives so that he may look upon himself as but one of many who face or have faced similar problems which can be solved under favorable circumstances. To some extent also all types of counseling use similar means to achieve their ends even though they may be quite different in their fundamental and basic theoretical approaches. At one time or another every counselor is called upon to give advice, information, and guidance.

Some will use these devices only as a last resort. Others will utilize these methods more freely because they feel that the counselee wants, needs, and is entitled to more direct and immediate help. They believe, moreover, that unless the counselee does get such help he will become discouraged and will discontinue the counseling. The damage to the counselee from discontinuance when he needs counseling, they feel, is bound to be much more injurious than giving such direct help.

Battle of the sexes?

Every marriage involves at least two individuals. Its success, therefore, depends upon more than the situations which surround it or even the separate personalities which compose it. There is the matter of mate combination and personal interaction. Not only do men and women need to be personally prepared and socially oriented to be most happy in their marriages, they also need to be well matched and to understand themselves and the opposite sex, each in relation to the other.

Must there always be a "battle of the sexes"? We think not. Though different in some ways, men and women are nevertheless very much alike. They both belong to the same human species, perform the same body functions, are broadly motivated by the same sort of things, and live generally the same kind of lives. Though physiological differences may mean that complete understanding of the other will not be possible, better understanding is both possible and desirable. Males and females are complementary to each other; antagonisms, where they exist, are learned, not natural. There is need for some "unlearning" on the part of many, followed by a "relearning" in the direction of greater understanding and cooperation.

Individuals are born male or female, but learn to become masculine or feminine. It is the biological factors in sexual differentiation that have been our concern up to the present. We have seen that sex is determined almost entirely by nature; that man's control in this regard is extremely limited (though by birth control, death control, migration, and the like he can exercise some influence over the sex ratio). We have also seen that sex is a relative term, that everyone is to a small extent both male and female, and that people vary greatly in degree as well as in direction of their sexual development. What we have not fully recognized as yet is that sexuality is more than biology, that it takes more than the genes and the hormones to explain why men and women behave as they do. Masculinization and feminization are parts of the larger learning process called socialization, discussed in Chapter 3. Through exposure to society, individuals in varying degrees learn how to curb their natural impulses and to assume the roles of men and women that their culture prescribes.

Thus, little girls are encouraged to play with dolls and discouraged from being rough or aggressive. They imitate their mothers by playing house. In time they learn how to sit properly, and they learn that there are certain rules of conduct for being 'ladylike." Boys, on the other hand, find themselves teased when they play with their sisters' things, but approved by all when they act "like a man." They therefore tend to identify themselves with the father's role and to assume the attitudes and the mannerisms that go with it. In this way boys and girls become men and women according to the established patterns around them. A female infant isn't any more frightened by a mouse than is a male, for example, but she stands a better chance of learning this somewhat typical feminine response as time goes on. Imitation of that which is made to seem attractive or proper, together with pressure in the direction of social expectation, incline children to the masculine and feminine roles. Culture is changing, however, and today there is less difference between the roles expected of boys and girls than formerly.

A sexual division of labor is to be found in every society. Generally speaking, man has handled the governing function, warfare, and economic production outside the home, while woman has kept busy preparing meals, fixing clothing, taking care of children, and the like. Division of labor, in other words, has mainly followed the biological lines of cleavage between the sexes--man taking up those pursuits that are most compatible with his superior physical strength and woman keeping to those activities that are closely associated with her childbearing function. Though the basic roles of men and women are thus related to biological differences, they are nevertheless cultural in nature and are highly variable from society to society and from time to time. Women are expected to be rather submissive in most societies, for example; though in some they are aggressive, and this aggressiveness is accepted. The modern American female is more open and less inhibited than was her grandmother. But whatever the culture, men and women will be molded to conform.

Reasons why some people should not marry

There are good reasons why some people should not marry. Every right carries with it an equal responsibility, and marriage is no exception. For those who are either mentally or physically incapacitated, marriage would be both foolish and unkind, for it would force them to assume adult roles that they are totally incapable of handling. Consider the lowest grade of feeble-minded individuals, for example, those who are not even able to take care of themselves or to assume the most elementary responsibilities. Mentally, they are as infants, and there is no hope of their ever becoming self-sustaining. Consider the violently and permanently insane or extreme cases of chronic invalidism. Where persons like this can recover, marriage should be held as a real possibility; but it should wait upon recovery. For those either immature, or morally or socially inadequate, marriage should be delayed until there has been time for development and/or reform to take place. Unless ready and able to assume the necessary responsibilities, no one should marry.

The low-grade feeble-minded cannot be permitted either marriage or parenthood for the reason that they are custodial cases, unable to take care of their own needs, let alone those of a family. These are usually kept in institutions. They are incapable of responsible marriage even where their condition is known to be nongenetic.

Certain persons should probably be denied parenthood, though permitted marriage. These are those known to be defective in hereditary capacity, though themselves capable of a reasonable amount of self-support and social adjustment. High-grade feeble-minded individuals probably fall into this category. They should be denied parenthood for at least two reasons: (1) so that they will not pass on their defects to future generations, and (2) so that they will not give birth to children they cannot support--their lesser ability making them incapable of that much responsibility.

There is no simple or commonly accepted eugenic standard for judging when a marriage should remain childless. It seems questionable that most couples would consider clubfeet as a sufficient reason, or a harelip, or any one of a number of physical handicaps that may be related to the genes. Mental deficiency generally presents a greater problem. Each case is a matter for separate decision. Society ought to take a hand only in those cases that are quite serious and are known to be hereditary.

Sterilization is probably the most effective means for preventing parenthood. Other approaches are institutional segregation, which is expensive and therefore impractical except for the most extreme cases, and birth control which, to be effective, requires more intelligence and skill than mentally handicapped individuals ordinarily possess.

Modern sterilization is accomplished by a rather simple operation in which the tubes that carry the germ cells are cut and tied. It in no way desexes the individual, and the only way it alters his normal life is in the prevention of parenthood. About two thirds of the states have laws permitting sterilization for defective strains and to date more than forty thousand operations have been performed. The question is still a controversial one, however. Certainly it cannot be said that sterilization is a panacea. Chief difficulties are these: (1) the impossibility of determining accurately, in the light of present knowledge, just which defects are hereditary, to what extent, and in which cases; (2) the subjective and politically dangerous nature of deciding where to draw the line, who shall be sterilized; and (3) the fact that many defects are carried recessively, not showing in the individual, which makes them impossible of being reached in that generation. But when used cautiously, and only on those cases which are somewhat extreme and have been carefully diagnosed as to their hereditary nature, sterilization seems definitely to have a place.

Special attention has been given recently to the so-called Rh factor in human blood types, so named because of its discovery in Rhesus monkeys. Approximately 85 per cent of the white population is known to possess this factor. These are labeled Rh-positive; the remaining 15 per cent, rh-negative. The factor is hereditary, with Rh-positive being dominant over rhnegative. Complications can develop whenever the wife is rhnegative and the husband Rh-positive, which is true in about one out of every dozen marriages. In such cases the fetus is apt to be Rh-positive (will definitely be if the father is homozygous, Rh Rh, and may be if he is heterozygous, Rh rh). Antigens from an Rh-positive fetus will sometimes pass into the blood stream of the rh-negative mother. This takes place rather rarely, however, there being no direct connection between the blood streams of mother and infant. When it does happen, antibodies are produced in the mother's blood, which can pass back into the blood stream of the fetus, combine with the Rh-positive cells there, and destroy them. The condition is characterized by anemia and is known as erythroblastosis fetalis or hemolytic disease. It frequently causes stillbirth. Most of those born alive are now saved by means of rh-negative blood transfusions. Fortunately the antibodies produced in the mother's blood accumulate slowly, and as a consequence the first child of a marriage is usually not affected-- unless previously there has been an aborted pregnancy or unless the mother has at some time had an Rh-positive blood transfusion. The possibility of a child's developing this disease increases with each succeeding pregnancy. It is estimated that only about one out of every thirty or forty children of rhnegative women are affected by the hemolytic conditions.

Over half of the states have laws forbidding first cousins to marry, and some carry the prohibition to second cousins. This is because of an incest horror, a feeling on the part of society that close blood unions are not good. Stockbreeders, however, have long used the principle of inbreeding to advantage. What inbreeding does is to bring out the recessive traits; it can be called good if these traits are good, but bad if the traits it brings to the front are undesirable. Eugenists tell us that there is nothing wrong with cousin marriage so long as the ancestries of the mates are good; in such a case it may even result in superior offspring. But if there are hereditary weaknesses, such as feeble-mindedness in the family lines, cousin marriage is extremely dangerous. It is much safer for cousins to avoid each other so far as marriage is concerned, but where the question does come up both law observance and genetic purity should be factors in making the decision.

In all instances, those considering marriage will want to concern themselves seriously over family backgrounds, realizing that heredity cannot be ignored and that the right to parenthood carries with it certain obligations. One way of meeting these obligations is to marry into a family that gives evidence of native normality, that seems to be free from the blights of major hereditary weaknesses. Unfortunately there is no absolutely certain way of determining this, though if one were to examine carefully the backgrounds of his own and the other family in question he should not go far wrong. Family doctors and old-timers in the community can often assist in this process. If a defect is found to repeat itself generation after generation, one can be rather certain that it is in the genes. If this same defect shows itself in the two family lines, it can be considered to be all the more likely to show up in the offspring. Where there is a question or doubt it is well to consult a geneticist or other qualified expert. It must be remembered, however, that no one has all the answers and that in every marriage there will be some risks. The main thing, and all that can be hoped for, is to reduce these risks to the smallest possible minimum. There will always be the problem of judgment, of deciding how much risk one is willing to assume, of determining whether a given defect is serious enough to matter.

The foundations for successful marriage

The foundations for successful marriage do not start with the marriage ceremony itself; they reach back into the courtships, into the childhoods, and into the hereditary backgrounds of those involved. Happiness in marriage is the product of years of preparation, conscious or unconscious, whereby the infant is first formed and then molded gradually into a mature personality capable of the loves and joys of married life. The roots of successful marriage for every man and woman reach deep into his past. Parents should realize that by giving birth to normal healthy children, and by caring for these children and training them properly, they not only secure greater happiness in their own lives but they also lay foundations for successful marriages and families in the generations to come.

Not only are these the most important of all forces operating to affect the success or failure of marriage, but they are formed largely in the home and they have continuity from generation to generation. "As the twig is bent, the tree is inclined."

What makes people behave the way they do? Although research has not moved far enough for a complete or final answer to this question, the following factors seem basic: (1) biological heredity, (2) physical environment, (3) social environment, and (4) cultural environment. The problem is to determine, as best one can, how these several factors converge upon the individual, how they shape his personality and influence his behavior. Before that, however, it will be well to briefly examine the nature of each.

Marital success factors, society, personality

Viewed broadly, marital success can be regarded as contingent upon two interrelated factors: (1) society, and (2) personality. Though these overlap and express themselves in an infinite variety of combinations, they can nevertheless be separated for purposes of analysis. In later chapters we shall deal with the personal elements. Here our focus is to be upon society as a factor in marriage and family stability.

Social institutions are in large part the products of their cultural environments. They are usually organized around certain biologically determined needs, it is true, which explains their universality. But they develop along a variety of lines according to the cultural and interactional patterns of the societies that provide their settings. Thus, every institution represents both unity and diversity, unity as to broad outline or general characteristics, and diversity as to detail. Furthermore, as circumstances change, institutions alter--either that or lose their functional usefulness and in time perish.

To all of this the family is no exception. It arose in response to basic and universal human needs; it has assumed a variety of culturally imposed forms; and it changes as society changes, though not always at the same rate or without disturbance.

Society is in a state of flux. It has always been so, for that matter, but the changes that have been affecting it in recent decades have been particularly violent. Most of these stem from the Industrial Revolution and the new mode of life it has ushered in. Gone are the days of isolation, self-sufficient economy, and hand production. Gone also are the simplicity and the slow tempo of living that were a part of the preindustrial age. Nearly everything is mass production now, and living in general has become more accelerated and complicated as a result.

Change itself is never bad, nor good, only inevitable. But it does require adjustment. Institutions quite naturally receive the impact of the social currents about them, and where they are able to adjust adequately they survive. Otherwise they may pass out of existence.

There is no implication here that society has been in a state of retrogression, or that man should return to the "good old days" when life was simple and almost everyone was supposedly happy. There is no reason why man should be less happy today than formerly; quite the opposite. Times are not worse, just different. The suggestion is that man and his institutions must adjust, always adjust, or they will lag and may be thrown off balance. Though there are special difficulties in the complexity and the unsettled nature of this transitional period, opportunities are probably greater for genuine accomplishment and satisfaction today, because knowledge is widespread, than in any other period of time. The potentials are here; it is now up to man to turn them into actualities.

Highly romantic pattern of mate selection

Under our highly romantic pattern of mate selection, the average youth approaches marriage after many experiences of dating, after numerous emotional thrills in the realm of romance, and after having broken at least one previous engagement.

In a society where love-making is a major pastime and where the choice of a mate is left almost entirely in the hands of youth and where the recognized goal of marriage is personal happiness, young people would seem to have a great deal more responsibility placed upon their shoulders for the future of the family institution than in societies where marriage comes without a previous history of romance and where mate selection is by parents or other elders who have in mind practical considerations rather than romance in matching the pair. At least we must admit that many of the problems of modern adolescents and youths in the realm of emotional turmoil, moral decision, and anxious deliberations over courses of action grow out of the romantic complex.

Among the youth group in high school and college, dating is used as a status-gaining device. A girl's or a boy's desirability as a date is taken as a measure of personal worth, the number of desirable dates as an index of success and popularity.

It is considered desirable today that young people "circulate" until they find a relationship that will satisfy both their emotional and intellectual taste. It is even considered that wide experience in dating is favorable to ultimate courtship. The girl who is considered desirable as a date by a number of fellows is presumed to be the one most likely to be sought after in marriage.

The extent to which this point of view is sound depends on a number of factors, the conduct of the girl in dating, for example. If she passes beyond the point of discretion in love-making, she becomes the object of exploitation and becomes the type of person few men would want to marry. If she possesses proper restraint and dignity, she may be considered highly desirable for courtship.

Because of extensive dating in contemporary society, it probably becomes increasingly difficult for the average youth to narrow down his courtship to the point where he is ready to select one mate and enter into a marriage bargain for life. Dating, however, if conducted on a proper level, gives the youth experience in evaluating different personality types and behavior patterns in the members of the opposite sex, which is probably an advantage, providing he does not associate so promiscuously that he loses the ability to decide the type of person who would be a mate satisfactory to him. Dating experience is also essential to tempering the highly romantic and unreal notion of love so characteristic in American society. Most young people after a certain amount of normal experience in dating come to appreciate that there are many individuals of the opposite sex with whom they could live happily and that there are certain other individuals with whom they could not possibly be happy.

As unsatisfactory as this form of mate selection is in terms of its consequences to the stability of family life, we must accept the fact that the pattern exists and will persist in American culture. In a mobile society where much of romance is conducted beyond the reach of parents and other interested relatives, greater responsibility is placed upon the adult group in family and school for seeing that young people have some standard by which they may evaluate themselves and those with whom they associate as prospective mates. The ability of a member of the opposite sex to inspire romance seems now to be the primary criterion for mate selection. Yet this quality alone is a highly speculative element on which to found a permanent and satisfactory marriage. A lifelong institutional relationship must have something more than impulse to guarantee its success.

For the young person in a highly mobile society who is so often, in his early adjustment to economic life and to secondary group experience, among strangers, the love element is likely to have an exaggerated importance. In strange situations deep affection for a member of the opposite sex is likely to be used as a remedy for a sense of isolation, as a device for restoring selfassurance and for protecting himself against the apparent hostility and coldness of the world about him. Love for such an individual comes to stand for success in social adjustments. It is likely that many young people in their first experience with new situations will continue in our kind of society to rate love as an emotional experience much more highly than it should be rated among the other values that are essential to successful marriage and family life.

One of the unfortunate by-products of our highly romantic conception of marriage is that the girl who fails to obtain dates and later proposals of marriage, in our society, where the male is the aggressor in dating, courtship, and marriage, feels that she has lost out in the most important competitive relationship of a woman's world. The unfortunate consequence is that many of these young women feel defeated, unreasonably frustrated, even to the point of personality distortion. This aspect of the romantic pattern is especially unfortunate at a time when we are for the first time in the nation's history entering a period when there will be a considerably higher proportion of marriageable females than of males, making it inevitable that a portion of young women in our society will have no opportunity to marry.

We need to make romance a somewhat finer art

Youth will continue to do the mating in America with little regard to the interest or wishes of teachers, parents, guardians, or society. This we may as well take for granted. Mating will be based on romance. But we must temper the romantic impulse in youth, as we do other human impulses, by instilling in their minds ideas that will restrain and guide their emotions. We need to socialize more fully this impulse as we have socialized hunger, for instance. Eating has become sort of a fine art with us as compared to its practice by savages and infants. We control the hunger drive by etiquette and by our notions of the balanced ration and regular meals. The organic drive is still there, but in civilized society we try to act as though it were not there.

We need to make romance a somewhat finer art, to elevate and direct it in the interests of a more permanent family unit and a better race. Parents could do much by building standards by which the youth can guide his selection of a mate, but reforms in custom more often begin in the school than in the home.

Most youngsters acquire a new idea of a desirable mate after going to college. They have a better ideal, and their romantic interest seeks out a type of person different from that selected before this training. College marriages on the whole turn out well. But most young people, even in our enlightened age, never go to college.

Give a young man or woman a course in eugenics and he will have set up new barriers to the free exercise of the romantic urge, for he will invariably check up on the ancestral characteristics of anyone he considers for marriage, to see whether certain weaknesses that are known to be hereditary are likely to be present in the germ plasm. Let him face economic selfresponsibility and he will have set up other barriers. He will not so easily rationalize himself into marrying on short notice with the experience-belied phrase, "Two can live as cheaply as one."

We need to give young people some practical ideas regarding marriage and the family; some standards by which they can evaluate themselves and their companions of the opposite sex with regard to their capacity for marriage and homemaking.

In most fields now we believe in giving experience vicariously through books and through the school curriculum. In this manner we pass on the best that the race has learned and experienced. Yet in the field of marriage and the family we let youth learn by experience. The establishment of a family--the basic institution of any nation--is left almost entirely to chance, as though we had no concern about the marital happiness of youth, to say nothing of the welfare of the next generation.

Perhaps our lethargy is a carry-over from the prudish days when marriage was sacred and sex was taboo. Perhaps it is due to the fact that most teachers are unmarried women whom we would not trust to educate our children for successful marriage. Probably, however, we have no reason, other than that romance is the custom to which we have entrusted this function of life and, having it safely pigeonholed, do not care to disturb it.

We need courses in high school and more courses in college dealing with marriage and the family. Perhaps after having succeeded there we can go into the lower grades. Some of the problems to be dealt with in a high-school course are (1) physical qualities essential to successful marriage, (2) social qualities essential for living together happily in the family, (3) the importance of similar culture heritages, especially in religion and in economic status, (4) personal adjustments needful in family life, (5) the economic responsibilities of the family, (6) the importance of an understanding with regard to the wife's place in the home, and (7) parenthood.Since marriage is society's ceremonial endorsement to a permanent institution, we should teach every youth to ask himself at least the following questions:

1. Do we have the physical and mental traits that guarantee reasonable hereditary equipment to the children we may have?

2. Do we have the emotional stability and ruggedness of character that is necessary to an intimate lifelong partnership?

3. Do we have the ability and training necessary to "keep the wolf from the door"?

4. Do we have culture backgrounds that would assure us. similar ideas on morals, religion, standard of living, and nationality and racial questions?

5. Are we satisfied with each other's families and with the relationships that we are likely to maintain with them after marriage?

6. Do we have similar ideas regarding the place of woman in the family and the desirability of children?

7. Do we have a sufficient number of similar vocational, reactional, and other interests so that we are likely to maintain permanent bonds of companionship?

The screen notion of love at first sight, followed by the passionate kiss, the overpowering urge, the hasty marriage, and the "lived happily ever after," has been too typical of our courtship and marriage conceptions. We may as well admit that such practice does not work so well as it might, and try to draw a more realistic picture of marriage and the family for youth in the schoolroom where we are supposed to have some respect for reality.

Romantic love is not entirely a matter of unguided impulse

Romantic love is not entirely a matter of unguided impulse. If it were, there would be little hope of improving mate selection. Although individual tastes and perhaps unanalyzed biological factors enter into romantic attraction, social factors play a large part as is indicated by studies of the attitudes of high-school and college students with reference to traits they expect in a member of the opposite sex.

A questionnaire was given to a group of 869 high-school students in the sophomore, junior, and senior classes, 426 boys and 443 girls being asked to rate 25 traits, putting a 1 by the trait they considered most important in the person they would like to go with, and a 25 by the trait they disliked the most, arranging numbers from 1 to 25 for the other traits in terms of their desirability.

Both boys and girls listed "real brains" as the most important trait. Girls listed second "cleanliness," third "good health," fourth "dependability," fifth "cheerfulness." Boys considered "real brains" of first importance, "good health" of second importance, "good looks" third, "cleanliness" fourth, "cheerfulness" fifth. It was interesting to notice that girls, rather than listing "good looks" as third in importance, listed it as eleventh.

Because these young people were in school, where good marks are a basis for competition, they tended to rate "real brains" more highly than young people under other situations would.

Studies of college students show that they rate certain personality traits very high. For example, a study at New York University showed that both men and women rated "disposition" extremely high; 98 per cent of men and 96 per cent of women said they would not marry a person with an unattractive disposition and personality. This study also showed that men rate looks much higher in their marriage partners than do women. Sixty-eight per cent of the men would not marry girls who were not good-looking; whereas 79 per cent of the girls would marry husbands who were not good-looking.

It will be seen that these choices reflect definitely the values of our own culture, as they affect choices in general and as they affect differences in choices between men and women. Being goodlooking, as in the other studies, is rated much more highly by young men than by young women. In our society good looks is considered a very important attribute of women, not of men. Young women are much more insistent on having a husband who has more education than they. This relates directly to the role of the man as breadwinner. His occupation determines the status of the family, their standard of living and income. Young women want a man who is older and established financially. Other results in the test reflect unique factors in our marriage customs which clearly affect romantic tastes.

All these studies indicate clearly that young people do not face the problem of mate selection on the basis of romance alone. They are guided by the general standards prevalent in our culture which affect notions of beauty, character, and disposition and by the fundamental factors that affect economic security. The fact that such values do act as a check upon romance and a guide to it indicates clearly that the family, the church, the school, any institutions having to do with the training of youth, can provide values which will guide adolescents and youth more intelligently in their evaluation of a person as a prospective marriage partner. This important field of social behavior need not be left in the realm of chance even in an age when adolescents and youth, rather than parents or other adults, select their own mates.

Romantic Beginnings

Before we discuss how physical attractiveness operates in both the fantasy and reality of the dating marketplace, let's begin at the beginning. Just how many people are out their bargaining in the marketplace, and who are they?

Remember "Old Maid"? Whoever got stuck with the homely old crone was clearly the loser. This card game symbolizes the stigma once attached to being single, particularly if one was a woman. Single women, "old maids," or "spinsters," were assumed to have no choice in the matter--they were single because no one found them attractive enough to marry. Single men were "bachelors"; it was assumed they chose to remain single because they loved an exciting life.Today, it is more acceptable to remain single--even for women. In fact, in 1978 about 48 million adult Americans (about one-third the adult population) were single. Here are some other facts:

Most college students are single.

More than one-half of Americans aged 18 to 39 are single.

At any age, there are more single women than single men. This gap increases with age. For people in their forties, there are 233 unattached (never married, divorced, widowed) women for every 100 men.

Today, many people are choosing to remain single for a longer period (or all) of their adulthood. There are several reasons why they are choosing not to marry. Many women find this choice gives them greater freedom to pursue a career. Other individuals have developed negative attitudes about marriage, perhaps from growing up in a broken home. Some develop such negative attitudes about attachment to one person that they choose to be "creatively single."

Other people, however, are reluctantly alone. Rather than choosing not to select, they are not selected. These people may have problems being selected because of unattractiveness or lack of social skills. The emptiness and despair of such singles is portrayed in the following comment by a young, single man:

I have cried over my general inability to meet women--once even in my car in the parking lot of a disco in L.A. after having an extremely difficult time conversing with a number of girls who I was really attracted to (which is rare). I have been intrigued with the subject of suicide and realize that it is the most effective way to cure one's depression. . . . My depressions always center around my inability to meet women. Period. I really envy guys who have the "gift of gab" and who can just walk up to strange women and start a conversation. If I had that ability, it would solve all my problems, I'm convinced of it.

Although many single people are involved in romantic relationships, many are not. There are many adults truly unattached. Although they may not always stay home on Saturday night, there really is no special person in their lives.

The Dating Age

As soon as she turned 16, Jaimi Semper started going out with the same guy every week - her father.

"We'd go to dinner and a movie, to a museum or to the Mall in the District for a Frisbee-throwing competition," Mr. Semper says. "I strove to be a role model so she would know what a gentleman acts like."

An ex-Prince George's County police officer, Mr. Semper teaches leadership workshops for at-risk youths. He says his proactive approach to his daughter's dating debut was necessary to counteract the sexual and violent messages bombarding teen-agers.

Teen magazines tell them how to hook up with a babe, make a hunk happy and have an orgasm. Their favorite TV programs teach them that to be in love is necessary, but temporary. And their music encourages them to wallow in the agony of it all.

Unless parents agree with pop culture's version of the birds and the bees, they need to get involved when their teen-age sons and daughters become interested in dating, warn Mr. Semper, psychologists and child-rearing experts.

"Too many parents practice the ostrich theory: They either ignore or refuse to acknowledge that their children have become interested in the opposite sex," Mr. Semper says. "Many parents are afraid to discuss what their kids see on TV every day."

The stakes are higher than ever. According to Robin Sawyer, assistant professor of health education at the University of Maryland, 54 percent of all high school students nationwide have experienced sexual intercourse, with that figure increasing to 72 percent for high school seniors.


Mr. Semper insisted that Jaimi's dates pick her up at the family's Mitchellville home and sometimes asked for their parents' telephone numbers - just in case.

Sometimes he would warn them: "This is my heart; she better be returned to me safely."

Call him strict, overprotective, even old-fashioned, but Mr. Semper says his rigid rules helped his teen-age children survive the thrills and spills of the high school dating game.

He's not alone. When Sandy of Lanham discovered that her teen-age daughter was dating a boy with a bad reputation, she and her husband "just had to put our foot down" and forbid her to see him anymore. She requested that her last name not be printed to protect her daughter's privacy.

"It was really hard. She didn't get over it for several months," Sandy recalls. "But he ended up dropping out of school and getting another girl pregnant. She came to me and said, `Mom, you were right.' That made me feel good."

Jaimi Semper, now 21, says she appreciated her father's vigilance, though it was "unusual for my generation."

His straight talk didn't embarrass her but assured her of his love and protection, she explains. "My friends thought he was cool."

While many parents would rather censor themselves than risk recriminations for humiliating their children, Mr. Semper would warn Jaimi's suitors: "I was 16 once, and I know what you've got on your mind. I'm not going to make it easy for you."

Taken out of context, Mr. Semper's straight-talking cop routine "could be disastrous in another family," his daughter says. But it worked because he had always played the tough guy with a soft heart.

"I'm tough, but they like me because it comes from my concern for them," Mr. Semper explains.

Most psychologists say there is no one style - or particular set of rules - that works best with teen-agers who want to date. Rather, parents need to communicate the family's expectations and values clearly and consistently to their children as they grow up.

"Whatever happens to teen-agers in their high school years with regard to relationships is an outgrowth of the early years of their life," says Laura Kastner, a psychologist who counsels teen-agers and is co-author of "The Seven Year Stretch: How Families Work Together to Grow Through Adolescence."

"It's not a matter of adopting a certain stance on an issue in high school - it's how you parent every day for 15 years."


Besides the physical risks, the emotional and psychological perils of teen romance can wreak havoc on a teen-ager's self-esteem and school performance, says Connie Marshner, mother of five and author of "Decent Exposure: How to Teach Your Children About Sex."

While most parents strive to prevent their teen-agers from becoming sexually active and want to protect them from the pitfalls of dating, they don't always agree on how to do it.

Mrs. Marshner, a Christian and conservative activist, discourages dating until a person is ready to settle down: "Why say to yourself, `I probably don't want to marry this person or spend the rest of my life with him, but I'll go ahead and fall in love and get myself kicked in the teeth'? That's the kind of stupidity the dating culture engenders."

Mrs. Marshner, whose children range in age from 7 to 22 years old, didn't allow her sons, now in their 20s, to date until they were 18. That's probably still too young, she says, especially if a young man or woman aspires to go to college.

"Why imitate courtship behavior if you're not in the position to get married?" she wonders.

In fact, she contends, serious dating teaches divorce skills, not marriage skills.

"The heart is hardened, defense systems are developed, and cynicism is fostered until one is unwilling - or even unable - to make a commitment, which is the legendary problem among adult singles," she wrote in an essay that appeared recently in Insight magazine.

Mrs. Kastner, a psychologist, disagrees. The mother of two, ages 9 and 12, says dating can be a healthy part of a teen-ager's development. But it takes some parental guidance.

"Part of what we're looking for as parents is a chance for our children to have a safe, tolerable practice at the world of relationships," Mrs. Kastner says. "We don't have to put our teen-agers in cold storage," but parents have to keep a vigilant eye and be observant, she adds.

Both women agree that platonic friendships between boys and girls are a good way to learn about the opposite sex.

Mrs. Kastner sees the trend toward group dating as positive. "Often, it's a wonderfully innocent" way to socialize, she says. "There's lots of cross talk, lots of interesting dynamics without being intense. It takes a lot of the pressure off to go out on a date."

The more group activities parents can find for teen-agers, the better, Mrs. Marshner says. Hanging out with other teen-agers keeps the focus of the relationship from becoming too exclusive, too intense.

"The way to truly get to know each other is to have a common interest, like working on a volunteer project together. Then you'll see who's lazy, who's cheerful, who's nice and who's nasty," she says. "Once the focus is on each other, they put on masks to try to be what the other person wants them to be."


"Parents may not like this, but nearly all [teen-age] sexual intercourse happens within the context of going steady," says Mr. Sawyer, of the University of Maryland. "It's when you see an awful lot of someone and you start to feel awfully comfortable with them" that sexual exploration happens.

That's why Carmen Pate believes dating - especially going steady - should be strongly discouraged. As vice president of Concerned Women for America, an organization that promotes chastity until marriage, she works to convince teens and parents that abstinence is a viable option.

"Teen-agers are not animals. They are given the capability to make wise choices," she says. "It's so much safer and healthier to teach them how not to have sex."

The consequences of teen sex certainly are grim.

In 1990, about 1 million teen-agers between 15 and 19 years old became pregnant, and 521,626 gave birth, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Every year, about 3 million teen-agers are infected with sexually transmitted diseases, while a quarter of all new HIV infections occur in people 21 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Sandy says she would prefer to see her children wait until marriage before having sex, but because of the risks, she sat down with her daughter to discuss birth control and protection before her daughter graduated from her parochial high school.

"I thought I couldn't tell them simply not to have sex," she says. "When the passion hits, they'll find a way to do it."

Agrees Mrs. Kastner: "Parents can talk abstinence over and over, but given that sex can be lethal, I also talk about keeping yourself alive."

Mrs. Pate couldn't disagree more. Telling teen-agers they shouldn't, but be careful if they do, gives them a mixed message, she says.

Meanwhile, those who abstain from having sex really aren't missing much, according to a survey of 332 sexually active college students conducted by Mr. Sawyer.

The mean age at which both men and women first had intercourse was 16 1/2. Eighty-six percent of the women and 59 percent of men reported that they had been in a dating relationship at the time, while 67 percent of women and 26 percent of men said they had considered themselves to be in love.

However, in retrospect, 38 percent of women and 20 percent of men said they wished they had not lost their virginity when they did. The most common reason stated was related to having the "wrong" partner, either because the respondent didn't care enough about the person or felt the person didn't care enough for him or her.

In terms of physical pleasure, women rated their first sexual experience a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10; men gave it a 5. Both men and women said the emotional satisfaction of the act rated about a 5.

Though Mr. Sawyer says his study could be instructive for adolescents, he still believes teen-agers will want to "find out for themselves" what sex is like.

Nancy Samalin, a mother of adult sons who's been teaching parenting courses for 20 years and has written three books on the topic, says there's no sure technique to keep teen-agers from experimenting and rebelling. But those who have their parents' trust, who understand that their parents have their best interests at heart and who enjoy a relationship based on mutual respect are less likely to betray the values with which they've grown up, she says.

That's what parents should strive for, she says, because "as soon as your child leaves the house, you have no control except psychological control."