Barely half of US adults are currently married, a record low, and the continuing downward trend will result in less than half being married in just a few years, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Institute.
While the study did not examine reasons for the trend, several sociologists, cultural anthropologists, and others caution against judging the statistics superficially. They agree with the findings that many, non-romantic factors are at work – from economics to education and expanding the definition of marriage to merely delaying it – but say it would be incorrect to conclude that the institution is completely on the rocks.
Others say the decline of two-parent families with stable relationships bodes ill because it leads children to perform poorly at school, enter lives of drugs and crime, and have trouble with relationships throughout life.
Still, one social scientist sees some positive trends among the negative ones:
Galena Rhodes, senior researcher at the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, sees a very positive trend in young people waiting to get their act together before making the crucial decision to get married.
That there is a “rise in those young people who want to get more education and find the right partner to settle down with is a very encouraging piece of good news for this institution,” she says. She says the young people have looked at the growing number of divorces and don’t want to go down that road.
“The fact that kids do best when they grow up with both married parents is one of the strongest findings of psychology,” she says.
She would like to see relationship counseling be an education staple for youth well ahead of getting married. “Part of the reason that fewer are married is that they are waiting longer for the right reasons.”