Emerging research finds that the younger generation is ready to marry at a younger age that their parents.
The finding may have long-term implications as experts believe reaching adulthood takes longer than it did a generation ago.
Ironically, researchers believe parents are contributing to the delay in reaching maturity. In the new national study researchers discovered college students think 25 years old is the “right age” to get married, while a majority of parents feel 25 is still a little too soon.
So it’s no coincidence that when teen idol Justin Bieber said he’d like to wed by 25, Oprah Winfrey urged him to wait longer.
“The assumption has been that the younger generation wants to delay marriage and parents are hassling them about when they would get married,” said Brian Willoughby, Ph.D., a professor at Brigham Young University and lead author of the study.
“We actually found the opposite, that the parental generation is showing the ‘slow down’ mindset more than the young adults.”
Willoughby and his co-authors in BYU’s School of Family Life gathered info from 536 college students and their parents from five college campuses around the country (BYU was not in the sample). As they report in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the scholars found the hesitation is consistent across gender.
“Initially we thought that this might be dads wanting their daughters to delay marriage,” Willoughby said. “Moms and dads trended together — gender wasn’t a factor.”
A consistent belief among parents is the desire for their children to receive an education before marriage. While they generally feel marriage is important, parents think the “right age” is one year older than what their children say.
Excluding teen marriages, research doesn’t support the notion that there is an optimal time to tie the knot.
“I think parents have a lot of fear for their kids that makes them want to delay the transitions to adulthood,” Willoughby said.
According to census data, the median age for first marriages is 27. Willoughby says that what people say is the “right age” generally comes a few years before the actual marriage age.
“What happens is that someone thinks that 25 is when they want to get married,” Willoughby said. “So at age 25, they start changing their patterns around dating, and it takes two or so years to make the transition.”
Though BYU students weren’t in Willoughby’s sample, the university’s own records show about 25 percent of its students are married. This ratio is higher than other colleges as Mormon young adults typically marry about two years younger than their peers nationally and have risen in sync with national trends.
Given the results of the new research, experts expect the median age of marriage will begin to decline and the married student ratio to climb across the ranks of higher education.
Source: Brigham Young University