Attitudes toward marriage among the urban middle-class in Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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This research examines current attitudes toward marriage among urban middle class women and men in Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. Twenty-four focus group interviews were conducted among older ever-married and younger never-married participants in Hanoi, Bangkok, and Manila. Statistical data indicate that there has been a general upward trend in age at first marriage and increasing percentages of non-marriage among certain urban sub-groups in many parts of Asia. One central argument in the literature is that greater economic independence among women may be largely responsible. A second hypothesis is that unfavorable economic circumstances may affect marriage timing, particularly for men. Our interviews provide support for both hypotheses. They also suggest that both men and women still largely view the institution of marriage as important in general, as well as personally. This is especially true in Vietnam, where marriage is seen as a filial duty, in addition to being desirable in its own right. In the Philippines, it remains important to bless the marriage, but because divorce remains illegal many men and women now prefer to delay marriage (or prefer to have their children delay marriage) in order to be sure they have found the right partner. In Thailand, participants viewed marriage favorably on balance. Nonetheless, there was also explicit recognition that marriage is no longer a financial necessity for women and that there can be considerable downsides to marriage, including constraints on personal freedom. This was seen as particularly true for men, but also for women.