Marriage Obsolete?

VIDEO: The ever-changing "American family" has researchers crafting a new definition.
Share
Copy

Not only are more marriages on the rocks these days, so is marriage itself, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

A survey of 2,691 Americans done in association with Time magazine found that nearly four in 10 Americans think marriage is becoming obsolete. That's an 11 percent spike since 1978, when Time asked the same question.

"Marriage is still very important in this country, but it doesn't dominate family life like it used to," Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at John Hopkins University, told the Associated Press.

Younger people are leading the way in redefining what marriage means. Forty-four percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 saw marriage as obsolete, compared to 32 percent of those 65 and older.

Other groups more likely to see marriage as a fading institution included blacks, at 44 percent, those with a high school diploma or less, at 44 percent, and people who made $30,000 or less a year, at 48 percent.

Young People Marrying Less and Less

Census data have shown that younger people are marrying less and less, and when they marry, they're generally older.

The median age of when one first gets married is at its highest point ever. For women, it's 26.1 years of age, and for men, it's 28.2.

On top of that, for the first time in half a century, the number of unmarried people between the ages of 25 and 34 outnumbers the number of married people in the same age range.

Experts say that young adults between 18 and 29 are more likely to have an unmarried or divorced parent, and that's made a difference in how they view marriage.

Young people are marrying less often, in part, because they're taking marriage more seriously after watching their own parents divorce or separate from one another.

Families Redefined

The Pew survey also showed the quiet revolution of the American family over the last 30 years. Americans increasingly think marriage, once a central way of defining what constitutes a family, is no longer as important in that regard.

One reason is the increasing number of people living together and having children without getting married.

About 29 percent of children under 18 now live with a parent or parents who either are divorced or never married. Broken down further, six percent of those kids have parents who are live-in couples who never got married.

Of the respondents, 86 percent said a single parent and child constitute a family; 80 percent said an unmarried couple living together with a child is a family; and 63 percent said same-sex couples raising a child is a family.

The presence of children continues to have a strong impact on determining what makes a family. The majority of those surveyed said that an unmarried couple living together is not a family.

"People are rethinking what family means," Cherlin said. "Given the growth, I think we need to accept cohabitation relationships as a basis for some of the fringe benefits offered to families, such as health insurance."

The Census Bureau plans to redefine what it considers a family when measuring poverty because of the growing number of unmarried couples raising children.

Marrying for Love, Not Stability

When people do get married, historians say that Americans no longer are getting married for the same reason Ozzie and Harriet did.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...