The Development of Marriage Expectations, Attitudes, and Desires from Adolescence into Young Adulthood

Kathleen Mullan Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Hedwig Lee, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

We contribute to research on understanding changes in marital behavior by examining marriage attitudes among young people during the time when they first begin to formulate their expectations and desires for union formation during adolescence and the transition to adulthood. We use national data from Add Health and document how marriage attitudes vary by social groups defined by race, ethnicity, immigrant generation, socioeconomic status, family background, and parenthood status. We model theoretical-derived factors that play a role in the development of marital attitudes, focusing on sociocultural effects associated with socialization processes in the social contexts of adolescent life, such as family structure role models among friends, in school and the neighborhood, as well as experiences with abuse in childhood and in adolescent romantic relationships. Models also include economic opportunities that bear on marriage decisions. Preliminary findings indicate clear socioeconomic differences in attitudes regarding affective dimensions of marriage compared to economic dimensions.

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Presented in Session 175: Attitudes toward Union Formation