The Pew Research Foundation has released a new study about families and marriage. I'm glad to read some current research, because it seems to me that the definition of "family" is changing quickly.
The Decline of Marriage
The Pew study says that marriage is still the norm for college-educated people with good incomes, but is declining for all other groups. In 1960, two-thirds (68 percent) of all twenty-somethings were married. In 2008, just 26 percent were. That's a rapid decline for sure. More and more young couples live together now without getting that piece of paper. And some make lifetime commitments to each other without ever formalizing it. Thirty-nine percent of the people surveyed even said that marriage is now obsolete. Marriage. It's Complicated. Is It Worth It?
It's true that many of the reasons for marriage that kept the institution going in the past are no longer relevant. You don't need to marry to have sex, or if you're pregnant. You don't need to marry to live together. Women needn't marry to be financially stable, either. And considering the fact that getting married can be expensive, and getting divorced even moreso, it makes sense that more couples are hesitating before taking that leap. Many of today's twenty-somethings are children of divorce (30 percent of all kids today), and they know firsthand what happens when marriage goes wrong.
So if marriage is something many people can do without, how is a family defined? Here are some interesting thoughts from those surveyed:
- 86 percent of Americans say that a single parent and a child living together constitute a family (as opposed to having two parents).
- 88 percent of Americans think a married couple constitutes a family, even if they don't have a child.
- 80 percent think that an unmarried couple living with a child counts as a family, while 43 percent consider such a situation bad for society
- And 63 percent say a gay or lesbian couple raising a child counts as a family.