Social institutions that have been around for thousands of years generally change slowly, when they change at all.
But that’s not
the way things have been playing out with marriage and family since the middle of the 20
Century. Some scholars argue that in the past five decades, the basic architecture of these age-old institutions haschanged as rapidly as at any time in human history.This Pew Research Center report, done in association with TIME, sets out to illuminate these changes by usingtwo complementary research methodologies: a nationwide survey of 2,691 adults we conducted from Oct.1-21,2010; and our analysis of a half century of demographic and economic data, drawn mainly from the U.S. Census.
The trend analysis is designed to show how Americans’ behaviors related to marriage an
d family have changedsince 1960. The survey is intended to help explain why these changes have happened and what the public makesof them.As is the case with all Pew Research Center reports, our research is not designed to promote any cause, ideologyor policy. Our mission is to inform the public on important topics that shape their lives and their society. We believe that the research tools at our disposal are particularly well-suited to this topic.As the reader will discover, the survey reveals a public that is suspended between acceptance and unease
welcoming some changes, disapproving of others. However, this collective society-wide ambivalence is anamalgam of different views by different demographic sub-groups
including those defined by class, age, race,gender, religion and marital and family circumstance.The report takes on a wide range of intriguing questions. Is marriage becoming obsolete? Why have marriagerates dropped more for some groups than others
and to what extent does the growing marriage gap align witha growing economic gap? How much have gender roles within marriage changed? When it comes to marriage,does love trump money?
Are today’s marriages closer than those of a generation ago? What does the
publicthink about the decoupling of marriage from parenthood? How does it define family?
We don’t always claim to provide definitiv
e answers, but we hope that on these questions and others, our reportwill leave readers better informed about one of the most important social transformations of our era.
Much of the report is based on a new nationwide telephone survey of 2,691 adults ages 18 and older. It wasconducted from Oct. 1-21, 2010. A total of 1,520 interviews were completed with respondents contacted bylandline telephone and 1,171 with those contacted on their cellular phone. In an effort to capture theexperiences and attitudes of those living in both traditional and less traditional family arrangements, the surveyincluded oversamples of three key groups: (1) adults who are divorced or separated and have at least one childyounger than age 18; (2) adults who are living with a partner and have at least one child younger than age 18; (3)adults who have never been married and are not currently living with a partner and have at least one childyounger than age 18.