Diffusion of a Social Innovation: Covenant Marriage

  • Rosier, Katherine (PI)
  • Feld, Scott S. (CoPI)

Grant Details


This is an exploratory study of the diffusion of a social innovation, the new 'covenant marriage' law recently enacted in the state of Louisiana. A covenant marriage requires a greater degree of commitment to the union as manifest in accepting greater obstacles to marriage and especially greater obstacles to divorce. The sponsors of the legislation hope that providing the option of covenant marriage will create stronger marriages that are less likely to end in divorce. While many observers are skeptical about the ability of such a law to dramatically affect divorce rates, others across the United States and beyond are looking at this law as a possible model for an important first step towards increasing stability in American families. This research project will provide understandings of the actual impact of the covenant marriage law in the first six months that covenant marriages are available. The project will investigate the political process that produced the law, and the responses to the law of the religious communities and the marrying couples of Louisiana. The researchers will investigate the choice of a covenant marriage as a process of adoption of an innovation, where the adoption diffuses through a population by a process of social contagion. As with many other types of innovations, all individuals are not equally susceptible to influence toward the innovation and all actors are not equally influential. Individuals who are more religiously traditional are likely to be more susceptible to adopting the innovation of a covenant marriage, and clergy are likely to be especially important opinion leaders. Because of the potentially great impact of the clergy, this study focuses upon diffusion of support among the clergy as well as among the general public Rather than relying upon retrospective reports, this research is being carried out as the process unfolds. The researchers will monitor public pronouncements and interview key opinion leaders as they emerge, to describe and understan d any escalation in the choice of covenant marriage particularly by certain groups of people. Interviews will be conducted with political figures, with clergy, and with marrying couples, with the primary purpose of understanding why covenant marriages come to be chosen by some couples and not by others.

Effective start/end date02/15/9812/31/99


  • National Science Foundation: $64,397.00


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