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.