. Technology plays a significant role in America’s mate selection culture today

Z.Y. 987654321

PSY/SXS 320, Spring 2018

Cultural Profiles Paper: The United States

The United States is home to 330 million people from hundreds of different countries and

cultures. Born and raised in the United States, I wanted to explore my roots. While there are so

many different cultures represented in the United States, this paper focuses on the dominant Anglo-

Saxon, Protestant, White American culture (hereafter referred to as American culture). How do

people in this country meet a potential romantic partner?

1. Technology plays a significant role in America’s mate selection culture today. Internet dating as

an example of technology in mate selection has become particularly important and popular for

mate searching (Lundquist, 2013, p. 188). Research has indicated that “74% of American

Internet users who are currently single and looking for romantic partners have used the Internet

to find dates, about half of whom have actively dated people they met online, with 17% entering

into long-term or marital relationships as a result” (Lundquist, 2013, p. 188). Technology, such

as Internet dating platforms or social media applications including Instagram, may better enable

individuals to discover more potential partners that share similarities and that meet their

preferences for a romantic partner (e.g. religion, race, sexual orientation) (Chen Lecture, 2017).

Different forms of technology like the Internet are becoming one of the most common places

where couples meet, as opposed to more traditional settings including the workplace or local

neighborhood (Lundquist, 2013, p. 188). As technology continues to grow, we can expect a

further increase of individuals meeting and interacting with their significant other through more

virtual forms of communication.

2. According to a study looking at changes in American adults’ attitudes towards sexual behavior

from 1972 to 2012, acceptance of premarital sex, adolescent sex, and same-sex sexual activity

rose significantly over time (Twenge, Sherman & Wells, 2015). For example, the study reports

that “American adults in the 2010s (vs. the late 1980s) reported having sex with more partners

and were more likely to have had sex with a casual date or pickup or an acquaintance in the last

year” (Twenge et al., 2015, p. 2281). Twenge et al. (2015) suggests that premarital sex may be

more common in young adulthood because of more time spent unmarried compared to in the

past and thus, less reason to disapprove of such sexual behaviors (p. 2281). Furthermore,

acceptance of sexual activity among same sex individuals increased the most over time, which

can be expected as the culture is becoming more open to same-sex relationships (Twenge et al.,

2015, p. 2277).

3. The act of cohabitating with a romantic partner before and/or without marriage has increasingly

become a commonplace in American culture over the last few decades (Smock, 2000).

According to Smock (2000), “the majority of marriages and remarriages now begin as

cohabiting relationships, and most younger men and women cohabit at some point in their lives”

(p. 1). In a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost half of women

aged 15-44 have engaged in cohabitation at least once before marriage (Copen, Daniels &

Mosher, 2013, p. 1). However, the same research has also shown that cohabitations are typically

short-lived, in which one half of first premarital cohabitation by women ended up in marriage,

while a third of those relationships were terminated completed within 5 years (Copen et al.,

2013, p. 1). Changes in societal norms have been used to explain the rising trend of cohabitating

before or without marriage. For example, as women increasingly entered the labor force and

became more independently financially stable, the traditional concept and commitment between

“wage-earning men and their stay-at-home wives that were central to marriage…became

obsolete” (Lundberg & Pollack, 2013, p. 242). In addition, revision to family laws and benefits

may have weakened the incentive to marry. For example, cohabitants in California may register

as domestic partners, which offer the same benefits as married couples, including health

insurance coverage, right to family leave for a sick partner, right to bereavement leave, and

visitation rights (“What is a Domestic Partnership? – FindLaw”, 2018). However, domestic

partners do not receive that same Social Security benefits as married couples in California. With

the current trends and changes in social norms and legal practices, we can expect to see a

continual rise in cohabitation amongst young couples.

4. According to a recent study on wedding trends in the United States, the “white wedding”

continues to be a common ritual for many couples as a dominant practice (Arend, 2016). A

white wedding typically “features, among other things, a bride in a white dress, a ceremony with

processional and vows, a celebratory reception and often a honeymoon” (Arend, 2016).

Furthermore, pre-wedding celebratory events also commonly precede the wedding ceremony.

For example, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties are popular customs that occur

before the couple enters marriage. These events typically involve gift-giving, game-playing,

drinking alcohol, and taking short trips (Whyte, 1990). Pre-wedding rituals help prepare the two

individuals transition into their new roles from being single to married (Whyte, 1990). In

addition, wedding ceremony expenses in the past were traditionally covered by the bride’s

family whereas recent trends indicate that the couple themselves pay for the ceremony (Whyte,

1990). Moreover, research has also found that there is still “an unequal division of labor in

wedding planning, with women taking on more of the responsibility” despite the cultural move

towards more gender equality in the new generations (Arend, 2016). These findings demonstrate

that although there are new variations in wedding customs, traditional wedding practices

continue to be prevalent despite ongoing changes in culture.

5. The United States legalized same sex marriage June 26th, 2015 in a landmark Supreme Court

decision (Liptak, 2015). While several individual states had already passed laws to legalize

same-sex marriage, it wasn’t until 2015 that the Supreme Court (in a 5-4 decision) mandated it

be legal in all 50 states. However, there are still many people living in the United States who do

not agree with same-sex marriage. It can be expected that there will continue to be a shift in

attitudes towards same-sex marriage over time with the rising generation of millennials.

6. According to a recent report in 2015 on fertility rates in the United States, the general birth rate

has experienced a decline of 1% since 2014 (Martin, Hamilton, Osterman, Driscoll & Mathews,

2017, p. 1). The report further states that the fertility rate for women aged 15-44 was 62.5 per

1,000 women (Martin et al., 2017, p. 1). Additionally, it was found that birth rates declined for

teenagers and women in their 20s but increased in their 30s and early 40s, suggesting a

correlation between late marriage and childbirth in later adulthood (Martin et al., 2017, p. 1).

Despite the decline in birth rates, research suggests that Americans still desire to have

children—implying that the decrease in fertility is not directly related to changes in attitudes

towards having children (Newport, Frank, & Wilke, 2013). The study reports that “more than

half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 40 have children, and another 40% do not

currently, but hope to have children someday. Only six percent of Americans aged 18 to 40 do

not have, and do not want to have, children” (Newport et al., 2013, para. 4). The findings

demonstrated that financial circumstances are a primary reason for not having children, or

having children at a later age (Newport et al., 2013).

7. Depending on the economic and political status of one’s country, as well as one’s own unique

circumstances, it can affect the decision to marry and begin a family. According to Greenstone

and Looney (2012), there is a strong correlation between income and marriage among men in

the United States. In their findings, “men than experienced the most adverse economic changes

also experienced the largest declines in marriage” (Greenstone & Looney, 2012, para. 10).

Among, those with the highest annual income, only 85 percent are married today; 64 percent of

those of median income and about half of those with relatively low earnings are married

(Greenstone & Looney, 2012, para. 11). On the other hand, women in the United States have

gained increased financial independence as there are more opportunities for women to climb the

socioeconomic ladder, thus delaying marriage and childbearing. In an interview conducted by

Gura (2010) from the National Public Radio, women expressed a higher desire to complete

higher education, obtain a stable job and work for a couple of years before getting married—

adding that “marriage is an economic decision now…many Americans get married when it

makes sense financially.” As for the role of politics, with the gradual social and legal acceptance

towards same-sex relationships and marriage, as well as cohabitation, we can expect changes in

the population’s decision to marry and start a family. With the passing of same-sex marriage

and legal recognition of same-sex relationships, “the population of married same-sex couples

appears to have doubled or even tripled in just one year” (Gates, 2015, p. 72).

8. Domestic violence is a federal crime in the United States. In 1994, Congress passed the

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), categorizing domestic violence as a national crime,

enabling the federal government to step in and prosecute certain cases of abuse (“Federal

Domestic Violence Laws | USAO-WDTN | Department of Justice,” n.d.). People convicted of

domestic violence or abuse can be fined and sentenced to prison (5 years up to life in prison)

(Followill, n.d.). There are many organizations set up to offer help and support to survivors of

intimate partner violence including the Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Coalition

Against Domestic Violence. These organizations can help people get themselves safely out of

an abusive situation and potentially offer them legal guidance if they want to prosecute their

abuser. Generally, America takes the stance that no one deserves abuse.

9. We left this answer blank because students are supposed to find one thing about sex and

relationships that their selected country has in common with the U.S. and one thing that is

different for this question. Please use the rest of the United States profile to find similarities and


10. I was surprised to learn that OkCupid has made a comeback among people aged 18-35. While I

knew that Tinder was more popular with this age-range, I had not considered that a more

traditional online dating site would hold a similar appear to finding potential partners. I also

found the decline in acceptance towards divorce surprising and am curious what factors have led

individuals of this generation to hold such beliefs. I wonder if the current generation of young

adults recognize the difficulty in developing and maintaining a romantic relationship in today’s

culture and are more motivated to making the marriage work.

Works Cited

Arend, P. (2016). Consumption as common sense: Heteronormative hegemony and white wedding

desire. Journal of Consumer Culture, 16(1), 144-163.

Chen, I. (2017). Internet Dating [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from


Copen, C., Daniels, K., & Mosher, W. (2013). First Premarital Cohabitation in the United States:

2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth. National Health Statistics Reports, (64).

Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr064.pdf

Federal Domestic Violence Laws | USAO-WDTN | Department of Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved January

21, 2017, from https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/victim-witness-program/federal-


Followill, P., & Contributing. (n.d.). Federal Penalties for Domestic Violence Crimes | Criminal

Law. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from http://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/crime-


Gates, G. (2015). Marriage and Family: LGBT Individuals and Same-Sex Couples. The Future of

Children, 25(2), 67-87.

Greenstone, M., & Looney, A. (2012). The Marriage Gap: The Impact of Economic and

Technological Change on Marriage Rates. Brookings. Retrieved 13 March 2018, from



Gura, D. (2010). For Many Americans, ‘Marriage Is An Economic Decision,’ Sociologist Says.

NPR.org. Retrieved 13 March 2018, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-



Liptak, A. (2015, June 26). Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide.

The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/27/us/supreme-


Lundberg, S., & Pollak, R. (2013). Cohabitation and the Uneven Retreat from Marriage in the U.S.,

1950-2010. IDEAS Working Paper Series from RePEc, IDEAS Working Paper Series from

RePEc, 2013.

Lundquist, J. (2013). Mate Selection in Cyberspace: The Intersection of Race, Gender, and

Education. American Journal Of Sociology, 119(1), 183-215.


Martin, J., Hamilton, B., Osterman, M., Driscoll, A., & Mathews, T. (2017). Births: Final Data for

2015. National Vital Statistics Reports, 66(1), 1-70.

Newport, Frank, & Wilke, Joy. (2013, September 25). Desire for Children Still Norm in U.S. U.S.

birthrate down, but attitudes toward having children unchanged.(Survey). Gallup Poll News

Service, p. Gallup Poll News Service, Sept 25, 2013.

Smock, P. (2000). Cohabitation in the United States: An Appraisal of Research Themes, Findings,

and Implications. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 1-20.

Twenge, J., Sherman, R., & Wells, B. (2015). Changes in American Adults’ Sexual Behavior and

Attitudes, 1972–2012. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 44(8), 2273-2285.


What is a Domestic Partnership? – FindLaw. (2018). Findlaw. Retrieved 13 March 2018, from


Whyte, M. (1990). Dating, mating, and marriage. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

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