Throughout history, marriage and parenthood have been interconnected milestones on the journey to adulthood. But for today’s young adults, these social institutions are being valued differently and are becoming decoupled. A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials (ages 18-to-29) say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life. Just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage, producing a 22 percentage point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage.

When this question was posed to 18- to 29-year-olds in 1997, the gap was just seven percentage points. Back then, 42% of the members of what is known as Generation X said being a good parent was one of the most important things in life, while 35% said the same about having a successful marriage.

Pew Research surveys also find that Millennials are less likely than adults ages 30 and older to say that a child needs a home with both a father and mother to grow up happily. They are also less likely to say that single parenthood and unmarried couple parenthood are bad for society.
The young adults of today also are slower to marry in comparison to their counterparts past years. Just 22% of Millennials are currently married. When today’s Gen Xers were the same age as today’s Millennials, some three-in-ten them were married, as were more than four-in-ten Baby Boomers and more than half of the members of the Silent Generation (ages 65 and older). Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.