Despite the gains same-sex marriage has made in the last few years, marriage remains largely a traditional event, according to new research.
In the study, investigators from University of California, Santa Cruz, report that both women and men tend to hold old-style views when it comes to marriage proposals.
Researchers asked young adults about their personal preferences for marriage traditions. Overwhelmingly, both men and women said they would want the man in a relationship to propose marriage.
A substantial majority of women also responded that they would want to take their husband’s last name.
In fact, not one of 136 men surveyed believed “I would definitely want my partner to propose” and not a single woman said she “would definitely want to propose.”
“I was surprised at how strong the preference was,” said Rachael D. Robnett, a doctoral candidate in psychology at UC Santa Cruz.
Robnett surveyed 277 undergraduates ages 17 to 26. She found that a substantial majority believes strongly that a man should propose marriage and a woman should take her husband’s name.
Robnett’s findings are published in the January issue of the Journal of Adolescent Research.
Robnett said she expected some preference for traditional engagement and marriage roles, but was surprised that so many young people held conventional views.
The survey was conducted in 2009-2010 among psychology majors or intended majors and was limited to heterosexual students.
“Given the prevalence of liberal attitudes among students at the university where data collection took place it is striking that so many participants held traditional preferences,” she writes. “Even more surprising is that many participants overtly state that their preferences were driven by a desire to adhere to gender-role traditions.”
Robnett said 68.4 percent of men answered, “I would definitely want to propose.” Sixty-six percent of women answered “I would definitely want my partner too propose.”
Nearly 15 percent of men answered, “I would kind of want to propose” and 16.9 percent said, “It doesn’t matter who proposes.”
Among the 141 women surveyed, 22 percent said, “I would kind of want my partner to propose; 2.8 percent said they would “kind of want to propose” and 9.2 percent answered “it doesn’t matter.”
On the surname question, Robnett found 60.2 percent of women were “very willing” or “somewhat willing” to take their husband’s name. Only 6.4 percent were “very unwilling” and 11.3 percent “somewhat unwilling.” Another 22 percent answered “neither willing nor unwilling.”
She also found the adherence to tradition is linked to “benevolent sexism,” the assumption of traditional gender roles in which “men should protect, cherish, and provide for women.”
“On the surface it looks positive,” Robnett said. “The problem is that benevolent sexism contributes to power differentials between women and men. The mindset underlying benevolent sexism is that women need men’s protection because they are the weaker gender.
“Also, people who endorse benevolent sexism tend to support traditional gender roles such as the belief that women should do most of the childcare even if both partners work.
“Both men and women are raised to believe that aspects of benevolent sexism are desirable; it’s usually viewed as politeness or chivalry,” she said. “This makes it hard for people to challenge, which is unfortunate because research shows it often does a disservice to women.”
Source: UC Santa Cruz