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Young Adulthood as a Factor in Social Change in the United States

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This essay compares family change during two periods of social and historical upheaval in the United States: the industrial revolution of the late nineteenth century and the more recent family changes of the late twentieth century. Despite the manifest social and demographic changes brought about by the industrial revolution, some aspects of family life remained unchanged. Almost all new families formed in the United States before and during the industrial revolution were same-race heterosexual marriages. In the past half-century, however, family diversity has become the new rule; interracial marriages and extramarital cohabitation have both risen sharply. A key to understanding the lack of family diversity in the past and the recent rise in diversity is the changing nature of young adulthood.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Stanford University.

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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