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Alone Together

Feb. 15, 2007 — Couples are divorcing less yet spending more time apart, claims Dr. Paul Amato in his new book Alone Together: How Marriage in America is Changing. Paul Amato, internationally known scholar and professor of sociology, demography, and family studies at The Pennsylvania State University, will speak on America’s changing marital norms at the Mary Lowe Family Policy Lecture on Friday, Feb. 23 at 12 p.m. in the University of Utah Fine Arts Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Amato’s new book explores the theory that while the divorce rate in America has leveled off, spouses are spending less time together. The book is based on two national surveys, one conducted in 1980 and the other conducted in 2000, which examined the marriages of two thousand individuals in each survey. “The good news is that levels of marital violence declined considerably during the two decades, and couples report fewer relationship problems,” explains Amato. “The bad news is that couples spend less time together, engage in fewer activities together, and are more likely to have separate friendship networks.”

Because marriages are less cohesive than in the past, they may be more vulnerable to the inevitable stressors and strains that arise in relationships. Amato’s book also explains that while the general erosion of family ties can be seen to have a pervasive, negative effect on marital quality, family income has increased, decision-making equality between husbands and wives is greater, marital conflict and violence have declined, and the norm of lifelong marriage enjoys greater support than ever. Amato proposes that in accommodating the vast changes that have occurred in society over the recent past, marriage has become a less cohesive, yet less confining arrangement.

Paul Amato received his Ph.D. in 1983 from James Cook University in Australia. He is the author of A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval, (Harvard University Press, 1997), Alone Together: How Marriage in America Is Changing, (Harvard University Press, 2007) and numerous other books and articles.

First established as the department of domestic science in 1901, the University of Utah Department of Family and Consumer Studies has a long history of promoting research and teaching programs that focus on enhancing the well-being of families, consumers and the communities in which they live. Additional information on the department, its research and current course offerings can be found at

For additional information the Mary Lowe Family Policy Lecture, or to contact Paul Amato for an interview, contact Cheryl Wright in family and consumer studies at 801-581-7712, or