Six scholars agreed that the new-found independence of women has drastically changed the character of marriage at the final conference in a Radcliffe-sponsored series on the changing roles of women in American society.
The panelists also discussed the changing roles for men and women as modern marriage accomodates to new societal pressures and moral standards.
Jessie Bernard, research scholar Honoras Causa at Pennsylvania State University, said "Fidelity is no longer conceived of as intrinsic to marriage," adding, "there are positive aspects to extra-marital relationships." Unlike marriage in the past, Bernard added, "We now live in a society in which relationships have no intrinsic value except to provide growth for the individuals involved."
Elizabeth Douvan, program director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, said that in the past marriage has constricted women's growth as individuals and that single women now regard marriage much more skeptically than before.