Due to COVID-19, we are providing FREE consultations via PHONE or VIDEO conferencing for your safety and convenience. Please don't hesitate to call us if you have any questions! 1-800-537-4154. Learn More »

Trends in Attitudes About Marriage, Childbearing, and Social Behavior

Trends in Attitudes About Marriage, Childbearing, and Social BehaviorA report issued in March 2016 by the CDC’s National Center for Health Resources describes the results of a study conducted to determine trends in Americans’ attitudes towards social changes from 2002 to 2013. Data was based on the National Survey of Family Growth for 2002, 2006–2010, and 2011–2013; for some of the questions there was no data available from the 2002 survey.

Respondents for the 2011-2013 survey were further divided into 3 age groups: 15–24, 25–34, and 35–44. Analysis of the data showed that younger respondents tended to be more accepting of the social changes.

For each category the respondents were given a series of questions to which they were asked to agree or disagree. These were the categories covered:

  • Marriage, Divorce, and Cohabitation Attitudes
  • Childbearing Attitudes
  • Sexual-Behavior Attitudes

Percentages of those who agreed are given for each question.

Attitudes Related to Marriage, Divorce and Cohabitation

Respondents were asked four questions that relate to marriage, divorce, and cohabitation.

  1. “Living together before marriage may help prevent divorce.”

The percentage of men and women who thought that living together before marriage may help prevent divorce did not change very much between 2006–2010 and 2011–2013. More women than men agreed with the statement.

  • women: 67%
  • men: 60%
  1. “Divorce is usually the best solution when a couple can’t seem to work out their marriage problems.”

The percentage of both men and women who thought that divorce is the best option decreased between 2002 and 2011–2013, indicating a possible trend toward a less positive view of divorce.

  • women: 46.7% (2002), 43% (2006–2010), and 38% (2011–2013)
  • men: 44.3% (2002), 42.8% (2006–2010), and 39.3% (2011–2013)
  1. “A young couple should not live together unless they are married.”

The percentage of both men and women who thought it is wrong for an unmarried couple to live together decreased between 2002 and 2011–2013, showing a greater acceptance of cohabitation.

  • women: 34.7% (2002), 30.8% (2006–2010), and 28% (2011–2013)
  • men: 32% (2002), 28% (2006–2010), and 24.8% (2011–2013)
  1. “Marriage has not worked out for most people I know.”

The percentage of both men and women who agreed with this statement was basically unchanged. About 64% of women and 68% of men continued to hold a more positive view of marriage.

  • women: 36%
  • men: 32%

Attitudes Related to Childbearing

Respondents were asked four questions that relate to childbearing.

  1. “It is okay to have and raise children when the parents are living together but not married.”

The percentage of men and women who thought that it is okay for unmarried couples to have and raise children did not change much between 2006–2010 and 2011–2013. About 75% of the population surveyed thought it was all right.

  • women: 74.7%
  • men: 75.9%
  1. “It is okay for an unmarried female to have and raise a child.”

Both male and female respondents showed an increase in the acceptance of single mothers. It is also worth noting that the acceptance rate was substantially higher for females than for males.

  • women: 69.5% (2002), 78.4% (2006–2010), and 78.3% (2011–2013)
  • men: 58.9% (2002), 70.1% (2006–2010), and 69.2% (2011–2013)
  1. “Gay and lesbian adults should have the right to adopt children.”

Both male and female respondents showed a significant increase in the acceptance of the right of gay and lesbian adults to adopt. The acceptance rate was quite a bit higher for women than for men.

  • women: 55.4% (2002), 65.6% (2006–2010), and 74.8% (2011–2013)
  • men: 46.9% (2002), 55% (2006–2010), and 67.5% (2011–2013)
  1. “People can’t really be happy unless they have children.”

The low percentage of men and women who agreed with this statement did not change very much between 2006–2010 and 2011–2013.

  • women: 6.4%
  • men: 9.4%

Attitudes Related to Sexual Behavior

Respondents were asked three questions that relate to sexual behavior.

  1. “It is all right for unmarried 18 year olds to have sexual intercourse if they have strong affection for each other.”

The percentages of both men and women who thought it was okay for an 18 year old to engage in sexual intercourse increased from 2002 to 2011–2013, but there was a slight decrease for women between 2006–2010 and 2011–2013. More men agreed with the statement than women.

  • women: 50.6% (2002), 55.4% (2006–2010), and 54.2% (2011–2013)
  • men: 59.8% (2002), 62.3% (2006–2010), and 64.1% (2011–2013)
  1. “It is all right for unmarried 16 year olds to have sexual intercourse if they have strong affection for each other.”

Percentages of those who agreed with the statement remained about the same from 2002 to 2011–2013. Most respondents—about 85% of women and about 79% of men—thought it was not okay for 16 year olds to be sexually active.

  • women: 14.7%
  • men: 20.9%
  1. “Sexual relations between two adults of the same sex are all right.”

Percentages of those who agreed with this statement increased from 2002 to 2011–2013 among both men and women. This increase indicates an increased acceptance of same-sex relationships. The rise in acceptance was especially significant among women.

  • women: 42.3% (2002), 51.2% (2006–2010), and 60.2% (2011–2013)
  • men: 39.7% (2006–2010) and 48.9% (2011–2013)

Trends: 2002 to 2011–2013

The data collected in these surveys seem to indicate that from the time of the 2002 survey to the time of the 2011–2013 survey respondents’ acceptance of these matters increased:

  • premarital cohabitation;
  • raising a child outside of marriage (no  change 2006–2010 to 2011–2013)
  • same-sex relationships;
  • the right of gays and lesbians to adopt a child; and
  • premarital sex for those 18 years of age and older.

With each survey—2002, 2006–2010, and 2011–2013—fewer respondents approved of divorce as the best way to solve marital problems, indicating a trend toward a more negative view of divorce.

No Change

There was no change from 2006–2010 to 2011–2013 in attitudes regarding these matters:

  • marriage
  • cohabitation and the risk of divorce;
  • sexual intercourse at 16 years of age;
  • an unmarried couple raising children; or
  • the necessity of having children in order to be happy.

The findings of this study show that attitudes regarding marriage, divorce, cohabitation, and sexual behavior vary. To read the entire report, click here.

Citation:

Daugherty J, Copen C. Trends in attitudes about marriage, childbearing, and sexual behavior: United States, 2002, 2006–2010, and 2011–2013. National health statistics reports; no 92. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016.

 

Contact Information