June 19, 2012

For Millennials, Parenthood Trumps Marriage

52%

Just over half (52%) of Millennials say being a good parent is one of the most important things in life compared with 30% who say that about having a successful marriage.

Throughout history, marriage and parenthood have been linked milestones on the journey to adulthood. But for the young adults of the Millennial Generation, defined as 18- to 29-year-olds, these social institutions are becoming delinked and differently valued.

Today’s Millennials value parenthood more than marriage. A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life. Just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage– meaning there is a 22 percentage point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage.

When this same question was posed to 18- to 29-year-olds in 1997, the gap was just 7 percentage points. Back then, 42% of the members of what is known as Generation X said being a good parent was one of the most important things in life, while 35% said the same about having a successful marriage.

In many – but not all – respects, these attitudinal changes mirror behavioral changes. Young adults today are slower to marry than were their counterparts in older generations. Just 22% of Millennials are currently married. Back when Gen Xers were the same age that Millennials are now, some three-in-ten of them were married, as were more than four-in-ten Baby Boomers and more than half of the members of the Silent Generation (ages 65 and older). Read More