Pathways to Adulthood and Marriage: Teenagers’ Attitudes, Expectations, and Relationship Patterns. Summary of Main Results


In this chapter, we examined teenagers’ attitudes and expectations concerning romantic relationships and marriage. We find that most teens express strong general support for marriage and believe it is better to get married than to go through life being single. Among high school seniors, most also say they feel well prepared for marriage and expect to get married one day. However, while support for marriage remains strong among teens, a growing proportion of them approve of cohabitation before marriage and want to delay getting married until later in life.

We also find that teens’ attitudes toward marriage differ by gender and family background characteristics. In general, teenage boys have more positive attitudes toward marriage than teenage girls do; however, boys are more likely than girls to want to delay marriage. Teens’ attitudes toward marriage are also closely linked with their family structure, with support for marriage strongest among teens who are living with both of their biological parents. Support for marriage is stronger among teens living in rural areas than it is for those living in more urban area. Even so, most teens expect to get married regardless of where they live.

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