Topic: College of Applied Sciences and Technology

February 23, 2015

Marriage remains an important role for young adults, who believe the formal relationship is their lifetime achievement, says a new study by faculty from Ball State and Brigham Young universities.

Marriage Matters but How Much? Marital Centrality Among Young Adults” surveyed 517 students at Ball State to explore marriage centrality — how young adults rate marriage against other adult roles.

“Marriage is still widely considered the highest point a romantic relationship can reach — or the highest commitment one can make,” said Scott Hall, a Ball State family and consumer sciences professor who co-authored the study with Brigham Young’s Brian Willoughby. The Journal of Psychology recently published the study.

“People are generally still interested in the security and status this kind of a commitment can bring, though an increasing minority of people don’t put as much stock into this reasoning,” he said. “For some, marriage is just what you do, and there isn’t much more to it than that. As long as the option for marriage exists, I think couples will feel some pressure to marry. Otherwise it could seem — to others around them or themselves — that they are settling for less. The whole push for same-sex marriage has arguably reinforced the value of being married as a symbolic gesture of relationship importance and legitimacy.”

Their research found that young adults expected that marriage would be more important to their lives than parenting, careers or leisure activities.

The study also found:

• Women and young adults with strong religious beliefs were more likely to place a high value on marriage.

• Subjects with higher values of marriage were less likely to binge drink, used less alcohol in general, consumed less pornography and were less sexually permissive and more child centered.

• Participants with higher values of marriage also had a greater belief that marriage takes effort, embraced stereotypical gender roles and believed in the overall importance of marriage.

“Some associate marriage with traditional gender roles — which is why some people are not very interested in marriage,” Hall said. “I think the majority of young people have a fairly flexible ideal regarding gender roles, but I think most believe that gender is inherent in the types of interests and tasks people engage in or aspire toward, so they accept — and even embrace — some gendered divisions of marital roles."