According to a new Pew Research Center survey, something we’ve had an inkling of for a while now may indeed be true. Young adults — let’s be more obnoxious and call them “Millennials” — have changing views of social institutions like marriage and having children. Not surprisingly, they are less concerned with marriage, and more interested in being good parents, than their own parents and even their immediate predecessors, those aging-before-our-eyes Gen Xers.
52% of Millennials (that’s, roughly, today’s 18- to 29-year-olds) are more concerned with being a good parent, which they say is “one of the most important things” in life, than having a successful marriage (30%). Back in 1997, 42% of Gen Xers were on the parent track, with 35% emphasizing a successful marriage. Note, then, that Pew’s headline “For Millennials, Parenthood Trumps Marriage” is not incorrect, but a little misleading — Gen Xers felt the same way, but less extremely so.
As you’d imagine, Millennials are also more open-minded than those who came before, “less likely than adults ages 30 and older to say that a child needs a home with both a father and mother to grow up happily and that single parenthood and unmarried couple parenthood are bad for society.”
And, as you might also imagine, they’re getting married later in life. Or maybe not getting married at all.
Someone, sooner rather than later, will begin to foam at the mouth and say that we have no values anymore and that lazy young people who don’t want to get married are destroying all of our important social foundations, like marriage, traditional gender roles, mommy & daddy homes, and the like. For shame.
But while out-of-wedlock births have increased over the years, parenthood among young adults has actually declined — “in 2010, 36% of women ages 18 to 29 had ever had children.” And, it’s not to say that Millennials don’t want to marry and have kids — 70% of them do. They just want to do it, dare we say, differently than their parents did.
Is that so wrong?