Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication



Major Advisor

Laurel Traynowicz


Heidi Reeder


John McClellan


This thesis explores the deinstitutionalization of marriage and the stigmatization of women who remain single past the expectant marital age. The goal of this research was to investigate the social identities of women who remain single past the age of twenty-five, and to gain an understanding of how gender-based stereotypes influence their lives by examining their personal experiences. In an effort to better understand the stigmatization of today’s single woman, a qualitative method using focus groups was adopted for this study.

Twenty-five participants were selected using a purposive, inclusion/exclusion sampling technique. Three focus groups consisting of six participants each and one focus group consisting of seven participants comprised the sample for this study. Focus group participants were guided in a discussion geared toward establishing: (1) the current ideals surrounding the institution of marriage, (2) the implications associated with a single status, (3) the gendered differences that accompany said implications, and (4) how these implications influence their everyday lives.

Within the focus groups, the women discussed and shared personal stories of how they negotiate their status as a single woman in their everyday interactions with family, friends, co-workers, and other general acquaintances.

Analyzing the stigmatization of single women from a social constructionist perspective led to interesting findings regarding certain ideals women connected with their single status. Social scientists posit that for women specifically, finding a husband facilitates an adult identity that, generally speaking, lacks in the absence of a marriage. The results of this study indicate that not only is this ideology socially constructed, it also perpetuates the stigmatization of single women.