The younger generation values marriage more highly than their parent’s generation – including TV personality Oprah Winfrey – and they want to get married earlier than their parents would like. This revelation began with the release of a study by a research team at Brigham Young University titled:  “Sooner or later? The marital horizons of parents and their emerging adult children”.

Using academic speak, the researchers reported that parents supported “a higher desired age for marriage, lower importance of marriage as a life goal, and emphasised different criteria of marriage readiness than their emerging adult children”.

In other words, the 536 students who took part in their study, attached more importance to marriage than the 806 parents who were surveyed. The students also thought they should get married earlier. Specifically, the students said they would like to get married around the age of 25, while their parents’ generation said they should marry when they were older than 25. Lead author of the study, Dr Brian Willoughby, commented: 

The assumption has been that the younger generation wants to delay marriage and parents are hassling them about when they would get married,” We actually found the opposite, that the parental generation is showing the “slow down” mindset more than the young adults. 

Just as the findings of the study were being released, Washington Post journalist Janice D’Arcy noticed the conflicting views between the generations  being played out in a real-life drama on the Oprah Winfrey show. Winfrey was interviewing 18-year-old teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, who declared that he wanted to be married by the age of 25!

Oprah responded with disapproval: “Rethink that, will ya?” she retorted, expressing the jaded view of her ageing peers.

If the younger generation’s view prevails it could have a big impact on the age at which young Americans marry. At present the median age for first marriages is 27. More importantly, though, it is encouraging to find that young people have more confidence in the institution than their parents. Perhaps that will translate into less marriage breakdowns in the future. 


William West

William West is a Sydney journalist.