Pathways to Adulthood and Marriage: Teenagers’ Attitudes, Expectations, and Relationship Patterns. Outline of the Report


Chapters II through IV of this report address the three research questions outlined above. Chapter V provides a summary of our main results and discusses possible directions for future research. Chapters II through IV are described in more detail below.

Chapter II examines the family environments in which teens are raised and their early experiences with romantic relationships. We examine the family structure in which teens are living and their perceptions of their parents’ relationship. We also describe teens’ early forays into romantic and intimate relationships, through dating and sexual activity. The data for this chapter come primarily from the NLSY97.

Chapter III examines teens’ attitudes and expectations concerning romantic relationships and marriage, drawing primarily on data from the MTF study and the NSFG. We examine teens’ general attitudes toward marriage and cohabitation, and whether these attitudes have changed over time. We also analyze teens’ personal expectations of marriage to explore how teens think marriage fits into their own future.

In Chapter IV, we take advantage of the longitudinal component of the NLSY97 to examine teens’ relationship outcomes in young adulthood. We follow the sample members into their early 20s, when many have begun to form serious romantic relationships. We analyze various relationship pathways, including marriage, cohabiting, and dating, and the quality of the relationships these young adults form.

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