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Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

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Consider this contrast: American marriage was once “rigid, work-centered, custom regulated, with well-defined roles for husband, wife, and children,” but now may be characterized as “flexible, pleasure-centered, cooperatively regulated, with loosely defined roles for husband, wife, and children.” The accuracy of this comparison between conjugal unions past and present may be debated, although on the whole the distinction it draws seems defensible. What might startle the reader, however, is that quoted contrast appeared in a 1955 college sociology text entitled “Making the Most of Marriage.” The author, noted sociologist Paul H. Landis, celebrated the pliable, fun-loving marriage of his time by measuring it against its static predecessor from the early twentieth century. Historical accounts should beware the Panglossian fallacy, and recognize that contemporary marriages are never the best of all possible unions, because the family is always “in transition.”