It should be clear by now that marital success is partially dependent upon a stable society. Families simply do not operate in isolation. No thinking person will deny that social change has repercussions upon the marriage and family institutions. Nor will he dispute the claim that these are sensitive to the pulse of society at large, and that the transitional and confused character of our contemporary culture leaves them dangling, so to speak, and somewhat insecure.
Changes affecting the family have been both technological and ideological in nature. In the first category would fall such events as the invention of the automobile, the vacuum cleaner, the radio, contraceptives, and a thousand or more other devices and processes which have revolutionized housekeeping and homemaking. Technological advance has increased the comforts and conveniences of man, has raised his level of living, given him more leisure, enlarged his knowledge and power to control the forces of nature. But it has also made life more hurried, crowded, and insecure. In the second category would be placed such things as the continuing shift in the direction of greater sex freedom, the growing social acceptance of divorce, and the recent emphasis upon individual rights and personal pleasure. This newer freedom in thought has probably made people more restless, but it has also opened the way for a better realization of the democratic goals; it has both created problems and opened up opportunities at the same time.
No solution to the marriage problem will come by way of retreat. Technology undoubtedly is here to stay. So also are the urban mode of life, a high mobility of population, and many other innovations that have been temporarily disturbing to marriage and the family. A certain amount of disorganization is inevitable to change, and change is always a necessary prerequisite to progress, whatever the field. Though there are many cultural paradoxes in our present family culture, disorganization necessarily precedes reorganization as familistic-patriarchal forms give way to smaller, more personalized family associations. An acceptance of the technological age and a willingness to adjust to it are the only attitudes that can make modern marriage succeed.
The same cannot be said for the "problem" aspects of society, however. By urging that people accept technology we do not mean that they should embrace it in all of its present manifestations. The unfortunate effects of depression and war have already been analyzed. There are other conditions and happenings that plague society, too, problems ranging all the way from the distribution of obscene literature to poverty and bad housing. All of these have their impact upon the family. One way to improve marriage, therefore, is to build a better world, to work for security, justice, and peace.
Also, it should be pointed out that not only is society a factor in successful family life, but that the family is a factor in maintaining a stable society. The two are interrelated and interacting. Just as society, by providing the setting, influences the growth and development of the family, so the family, by establishing attitudes and habits in young citizens, sets the stage for local, national, and world affairs. Such mutual interstimulation will incline us to one of two patterns: either (1) a vicious circle of disorganization as each adds weakness to the other, or (2) a constructive cycle moving forward as each contributes reinforcement to the other. Which shall it be?Throughout the remainder of the book major attention will be given to personality factors. It should constantly be kept in mind, however, that back of personality lies society. The immediate responsibility for marriage rests with those who. marry, it is true. But people are to a large extent the products of the world in which they live. The answer to family failure is better marriage, which depends upon better adjusted individuals, which in turn depends upon a better integrated and compatible social and cultural environment.