The Death of "Till Death Us Do Part": The Transformation of Pair-Bonding in the 20th Century

William M. Pinsof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


During the last half of the 20th century within Western civilization, for the first time in human history, divorce replaced death as the most common endpoint of marriage. In this article I explore the history of this death-to-divorce transition, the forces associated with the transition, and what the transition may have revealed about the human capacity for monogamous, lifelong pair-bonding. The impact and consequences of the transition for the generations that came of age during it and immediately afterwards are examined, with particular attention to the emergence of new, alternative pair-bonding structures such as cohabitation and nonmarital co-parenting. The article highlights the inability of the dichotomous marriage-versus-being-single paradigm to encompass the new pair-bonding structures and the normalizing of divorce. Precepts for a new, more encompassing, veridical and humane pair-bonding paradigm are presented, and some of their implications for social policy, family law, social science, and couple and family therapy are elaborated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-157
Number of pages23
JournalFamily process
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The Death of "Till Death Us Do Part": The Transformation of Pair-Bonding in the 20th Century'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this