Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 282 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Glenna Spitze

Committee Members

Katherine Trent, Steven Seidman


courtship, marital engagment, marriage, relationship processes, Betrothal, Courtship, Dating (Social customs), Man-woman relationships, Unmarried couples

Subject Categories



This dissertation examines how heterosexual couples use engagement to create meaning in their intimate relationships. In-depth interviews with 44 men and women who identified as engaged to be married uncovered three pathways through which couples construct meanings of commitment to marriage within their partnerships. Neotraditional couples view marriage as a ritual tied to adult life and family planning. Promisemaker couples use engagement as a way of creating commitment to the partnership. Nestbuilder couples enact engagement because they viewed marriage as a natural step for long term commitments. Frameworks of gender, heteronormativity, and the ambiguity of courtship norms in post-dating culture played a major role in how couples enacted and constructed meaning in in their marital engagements. Implications from this dissertation include a need to integrate an understanding of heteronormativity into research in relationship processes and the value in using dyadic data to study partnering.

Included in

Sociology Commons