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Trends in attitudes about marriage, childbearing, and sexual behavior

By OnePlusOne, 30 March 2016

The composition of families in the United States, as in other countries, has changed significantly over the past 50 years. These changes include a delay in the age of first marriage, lower fertility rates, and an increase in cohabitation. While research has long shown that social and cultural attitudes vary by age, recent studies have demonstrated that attitudes about family life have also changed with the passage of time, such as an increasing acceptance of premarital sex, cohabitation, and divorce.

This report illustrates these changes in attitudes, finding an increase in the percentages of men and women who agreed with statements about the acceptability of premarital cohabitation, nonmarital childbearing, the right for gay and lesbian adults to adopt children, same-sex sexual relations, and premarital sex among those aged 18, between 2002 and 2011–2013. The report found there was a decrease in the percentages of men and women who agreed with the acceptability of divorce.

However, no change was seen in attitudes regarding whether most marriages end in divorce, whether cohabitation decreases the risk of divorce, whether children are necessary for one’s happiness, the acceptability of raising children in a cohabiting union, and the approval of premarital sex among those aged 16.

Read the full report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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