Would you like a peek into marital relationships during the next decade? During the past month or two I have received copies of new or updated books on marriage and the family. One of particular interest is the fifth edition (1990) of "Human Intimacy" by Frank Cox. The text contains some new information on women in the work force. I found it interesting.

Cox notes, "The relationship of work and family in America has undergone a profound change since World War II. More and more women have entered the labor force. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that half of the labor force entrants between 1986 and 2000 will be women."In the past the women in America's labor force were generally single. Now married women, often with children under 18, are entering the labor force in unprecedented numbers.

"Almost 58 percent of all American women over age 20 are working. Among married women with spouse present, 68 percent are working, and 68 percent of all mothers with children under 18 are in the labor force. Over 80 percent of young married women with no children are in the work force. That has created what the U.S. Bureau of Census now describes as a `husband-primary earner, wife-secondary earner' family, more popularly known as the `two-career,' `two-earner' or `dual-worker' family.' "

The text continues, "If we consider the strong past attitudes about the importance of mother being at home when her children are young, the fact that 68 percent of mothers with children under 18 are now in the labor force is an amazing change in behavior and social mores. In fact, 55.2 percent of women with children under 3 years of age are now in the work force. The number of children at home is no longer strongly related to work-force participation by women.

"It is clear that the role of the woman as homemaker-mother only is passing, and the traditional marriage in which the husband works to support the family while the wife remains home caring for the family has become a minority pattern. In 1976, 43.2 percent of married couples were represented by this `traditional' pattern. By 1987, the traditional pattern represented only 27.5 percent of married couples, and it is projected to drop even further by the year 2000."

Cox also notes, "Attitudes about the role of the woman in the family have changed greatly during this century. In 1930, only 18 percent of surveyed women believed married women should have a full-time job outside the home. Today most women also believe that working outside the home is important for personal satisfaction, rather than just earning additional money. Acceptance of wives' working outside the home, however, is not yet universal.

"In a recent Family Circle survey of 50,000 American women more than two out of three said they would prefer to stay home with their children. However, among women with full-time jobs, only 45 percent indicated this desire. It is clear that despite some longing among women to remain home, the future family pattern will more and more be the dual-worker pattern."

Cox concludes, "Although the surge of women into the work force seems to be slowing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 59 to 63 percent of all women over 16 years of age will be working in the 1990s. Few experts believe that women who have had the freedom, satisfaction and added income will return to being full-time housewives in great numbers. Many white, employed wives appear to be working less because of financial need (although this has become increasingly important) than because of interest in their jobs. They simply enjoy their employment, deriving satisfaction and self-esteem from their work."

- Brent Barlow teaches courses on marriage and family at Brigham Young University. If you have comments, write to 1036 SWKT, BYU, Provo, UT 84602.