Four in 10 say marriage is becoming obsolete...

[deleted account] ( 12 moms have responded )

WASHINGTON – Is marriage becoming obsolete?

As families gather for Thanksgiving this year, nearly one in three American children is living with a parent who is divorced, separated or never-married. More people are accepting the view that wedding bells aren't needed to have a family.

A study by the Pew Research Center, in association with Time magazine, highlights rapidly changing notions of the American family. And the Census Bureau, too, is planning to incorporate broader definitions of family when measuring poverty, a shift caused partly by recent jumps in unmarried couples living together.

About 29 percent of children under 18 now live with a parent or parents who are unwed or no longer married, a fivefold increase from 1960, according to the Pew report being released Thursday. Broken down further, about 15 percent have parents who are divorced or separated and 14 percent who were never married. Within those two groups, a sizable chunk — 6 percent — have parents who are live-in couples who opted to raise kids together without getting married.

Indeed, about 39 percent of Americans said marriage was becoming obsolete. And that sentiment follows U.S. census data released in September that showed marriages hit an all-time low of 52 percent for adults 18 and over.

In 1978, just 28 percent believed marriage was becoming obsolete.

When asked what constitutes a family, the vast majority of Americans agree that a married couple, with or without children, fits that description. But four of five surveyed pointed also to an unmarried, opposite-sex couple with children or a single parent. Three of 5 people said a same-sex couple with children was a family.

"Marriage is still very important in this country, but it doesn't dominate family life like it used to," said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University. "Now there are several ways to have a successful family life, and more people accept them."

The broadening views of family are expected to have an impact at Thanksgiving. About nine in 10 Americans say they will share a Thanksgiving meal next week with family, sitting at a table with 12 people on average. About one-fourth of respondents said there will be 20 or more family members.

"More Americans are living in these new families, so it seems safe to assume that there will be more of them around the Thanksgiving dinner table," said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center.

The changing views of family are being driven largely by young adults 18-29, who are more likely than older generations to have an unmarried or divorced parent or have friends who do. Young adults also tend to have more liberal attitudes when it comes to spousal roles and living together before marriage, the survey found.

But economic factors, too, are playing a role. The Census Bureau recently reported that opposite-sex unmarried couples living together jumped 13 percent this year to 7.5 million. It was a sharp one-year increase that analysts largely attributed to people unwilling to make long-term marriage commitments in the face of persistent unemployment.

Beginning next year, the Census Bureau will publish new, supplemental poverty figures that move away from the traditional concept of family as a husband and wife with two children. It will broaden the definition to include unmarried couples, such as same-sex partners, as well as foster children who are not related by blood or adoption.

Officials say such a move will reduce the number of families and children who are considered poor based on the new supplemental measure, which will be used as a guide for federal and state agencies to set anti-poverty policies. That's because two unmarried partners who live together with children and work are currently not counted by census as a single "family" with higher pooled incomes, but are officially defined as two separate units — one being a single parent and child, the other a single person — who aren't sharing household resources.

"People are rethinking what family means," Cherlin said. "Given the growth, I think we need to accept cohabitation relationships as a basis for some of the fringe benefits offered to families, such as health insurance."

Still, the study indicates that marriage isn't going to disappear anytime soon. Despite a growing view that marriage may not be necessary, 67 percent of Americans were upbeat about the future of marriage and family. That's higher than their optimism for the nation's educational system (50 percent), economy (46 percent) or its morals and ethics (41 percent).

And about half of all currently unmarried adults, 46 percent, say they want to get married. Among those unmarried who are living with a partner, the share rises to 64 percent.

Other findings:

_About 34 percent of Americans called the growing variety of family living arrangements good for society, while 32 percent said it didn't make a difference and 29 percent said it was troubling.

_About 44 percent of people say they have lived with a partner without being married; for 30-to-49-year-olds, that share rose to 57 percent. In most cases, those couples said they considered cohabitation as a step toward marriage.

_About 62 percent say that the best marriage is one where the husband and wife both work and both take care of the household and children. That's up from 48 percent who held that view in 1977.

The Pew study was based on interviews with 2,691 adults by cell phone or landline from Oct. 1-21. The survey has a total margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points, larger for subgroups. Pew also analyzed 2008 census data, and used surveys conducted by Time magazine to identify trends from earlier decades.


Lise - posted on 11/28/2010




I believe it, but think it's sad... Marriage (to me) is a way of announcing your dedication, love, and partnership.

[deleted account]

Of course you don't NEED marriage to have a family. But it helps.

Like it or not, many people are influenced by the concept of marriage. If you go through the ceremony, you're more likely to take it to heart. Especially when there are children int he picture.

Plus it offers legal protections you can't get without the "I Do!"


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Lacye - posted on 11/28/2010




I don't think it is. To me, marriage is bringing together two souls. You can have a family without marriage. But to me marriage is more about the husband and wife declaring their love for each other and showing the world that they are devoted to each other. It's a total shame that people now a days just jump into marraige simply because it's something to do.

Tah - posted on 11/27/2010




@Amanda counseling is usually required depending on if you get married at a church. I know lots of preachers require that before they will marry you. I think it is a good thing. i don't think you have to be married to be a family, i just think it helps. Now are you and your fiancee planning on having any children once you are married??

Amanda - posted on 11/26/2010




I don't think that 2 people need to be married to be a family. My parents divorced when I was a junior in highschool. I had my son when I was 16 and than with his father my ex had my oldest daughter 3 yrs later. I was young and dumb and me and him were better off without eachother if it was ever going to work. I than got married to my 2 youngest daughters father. We were married for 2 years and it honestly probably would of been a happier relationship if we hadn't gotten married! I think it was a waste of money and you don't need to get drunk to have a piece of paper signed saying your married! Needless to say we are done now and I am happily with my fiance now who has no children but loves mine as if they were his! They all call him daddy and they all still see their bio dads. And my exhusband is glad to see that the girls have someone stable in their lives since he's active in the military and is getting ready for deployment. My however hates my fiance and talks nothing but badly about him to my 2 oldest. So it's a tough experience now since they have to go every other weekend! And he's married as well! Grr....but anyway back to the point, you don't need to be married to have a family. Marriage still exists it's just not as common as it used to be. Divorce costs too much and I think too many people are rushing into marriage without fully understanding what it's about. I think classes or tests should be done before 2 people walk down the aisle, but that's my opinion!

Tah - posted on 11/25/2010




you don't have to be married to have a family, you don't have to be an adult to have a baby...but as schmoopy said, it does help imo. I don't think that marriage is becoming obsolete in the least just because some people opt out of marriage doesn't negate what it means to us. I was watching the view and someone said something like living together is velcrow and marriage is glue..or something to that effect. I think in theory it should be like that. I am not naive in thinking that all relationships work like that, but i do see the logic in it. I think there are so many benefits in being married. Literally, health I also feel more secure, it puts our realtionship in a new light, i would be willing to fight harder for us, we don't feel as if we have other options, we don't view marriage as just a piece of paper. We took vows and made promises acknowledged by the states and laws etc. I know some people call persons their husbands that aren't, why do that if having a husband isn't want you want. If you are satisfied just having a boyfriend or partner, then call it that. That says something to me. It says that more women want to be married then are admitting it.

some women are willing to settle because they want the guy, or they will think if they do everything the way he wants, eventually he will give her the ring(as a matter of speaking because anyone can get a big rock), or give her and the children his last name, commitment before God and everyone else. Provide her with security that doesn't come without being married. It always bothers me when i hear of people that have been together for years and years and then something happens to the guy(or girl) and the "partner" can't even go in and say, hey continue these life-saving methods or, just let him go, he wouldn't want to live like this, we talked about it last week in bed. it won't matter unless you are literally called the next of kin, or go get that specific paperwork, which alot of unmarried couples don't think about.

I also see people counting down to the common law marriage. "We will be common law in x amount of time." If the thought of that gives you comfort or is something you are looking forward to, again, why not just go get married?, it is apparently something that has crossed you mind if you are looking forward to the state saying in essence saying "hey, it's been a long time, since you won't do it, we will...your married now..sorta..still won't have the same benefits or security, but geez already"...i would rather choose it and make the commitment together then have an outside agency say that it is time to live right, in essence. That is what they are saying because if they didn't feel like marriage was the "right" way, there wouldn't even be a such thing as common law marriage. I think marriage is just as important as it was years ago.

I have parents that have been married 43 years, in laws married 40, a older sister married about 10(with him for 22) i also have a sister married for about 8 years and they are having issues, but it doesn't change how important marriage is to us. I guess i am saying, it isn't obsolete...

Johnny - posted on 11/23/2010




I don't think you need to be married. I also don't think marriage is becoming obsolete. I'd like to think people are just able to have more choices about what kind of relationship they want for themselves. To me, that is a good thing. I don't think it is healthy for everyone to follow the same life path.

Sherri - posted on 11/23/2010




I don't think so. Nobody I or my husband hang around with as couples isn't married, family or friends.

If this is the case it is a very sad day in our society.

[deleted account]

In my sons class when he was in primary school he was the only child in the class who had two parents that were married. All the rests parents were either divorced or the dad hadnt stuck around in the first place. My son felt quite left out because all his friends had two houses lol.

Amber - posted on 11/21/2010




You don't have to be married to be family. Everybody has their own definition of family, who are we to tell people that their loved ones aren't family?
And I don't think that putting your children first means that your relationship suffers. Everybody in a family has to be important and be loved. It doesn't matter who is first or second, as long as everybody is loved, respected, and 100% included as an important member of the family.
The foundation of the family is not cemented by a relationship or marriage, but the link and committment of ALL members to one another.

Amy - posted on 11/19/2010




You don't have to be married to have a family. The only issue I have with how things are going is that parents put children above their own relationship, thus the relationship crumbles because they spend more on kids than each other. I thought in some states, once you lived together for seven years you had a common law marriage or something. Anyway....I think that our entire view of a family and how it should function is wrong. I love my children, but I am to raise them, not be their buddy. And my marriage came before my children. It is the foundation our family stands on. Hopefully marriage not only stays, but increases in longevity.

Brie - posted on 11/18/2010




I believe it... I don't think you have to be married to be a family... My husband and I had our son out of wedlock but we chose to get married and there isn't a person alive that could convince me we weren't a family before we got married.. A family, to me, includes parents and children. Whether it be same sex or opposite sex, marriage or no marriage. In a way that would be like saying that step children aren't really your family because they aren't yours... Who is to tell you what constitutes your family and what doesn't? My husband has been divorced. I haven't. My parents are divorced. They divorced when I was 20 I am now going on 24. Oh and something else that needs to be revised is the state saying even if your childs father lives with you and supports their child you have to be married or they try to make you take child support from him. (My husband and I decided to get married before we knew I was pregnant but because of this I didn't get my "wedding" we had to do it sooner so we were married by a justic of the peace at the court house. I live in ohio)

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