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Convergence or Divergence

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This paper utilizes three recent and comparable surveys conducted in the urban areas of the United States and the People's Republic of China to reexamine the Goode model of family change. Based on the experiences of Western Europe and North America, the Goode model predicts that there will be a worldwide convergence from the "traditional" family system toward a westernized conjugal family system as non-Western and agrarian societies become increasingly industrialized, urbanized and commodified. This paper argues that if the Goode model is accurate and robust, then three additional transformations that characterize the conjugal family system will also take place worldwide. That is, there will be transformations from a gender segregated and instrumentally-oriented marital relationship toward an emotionally-charged and affectionate companionship, from a patriarchal authority pattern toward egalitarianism, and from a durable matrimony toward an unstable union. However, results from a systematic comparison between urban American and urban Chinese marriage relationships do not exclusively confirm these predictions. Though the direction of changes in companionship and in marital conflicts is consistent with the Goode model, gender inequality within the family and marital instability diverge from rather than converge toward the forecasted destination of family change. The historical trajectories of the marital experiences proveded by ever-married American and Chinese women call for a partial revision of the Goode model.


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