Over the past 50 years, the link between marriage and parenthood has become much more tenuous. The share of babies born to unmarried mothers increased eight-fold from 1960 to 2008. By 2008, four-in-ten babies born in the U.S. were born to an unwed mother.

The public generally views this trend negatively. Across the age spectrum, most adults do not view this as a change for the better. Despite this consensus, sharp generational differences do exist.

Fewer Millennials (ages 18 to 30) view this change negatively than do members of older generations, according to a survey conducted in 2011. Just over half (52%) of millennials see it as a change for the worse, in comparison to 62% of Gen Xers (ages 31 to 46), 67% of Boomers (ages 47-65) and 76% of the Silent generation (over 65).

Previous surveys by the Pew Social & Demographic Trends project show similar generational splits on other trends relating to family and living arrangements. In a 2010 survey, a majority of Silents (62%) said that the trend toward more unmarried couples living together was a bad thing for society; only 27% of Millennials agreed. Similarly, there was a 30 percentage point gap between Silents and Millennials (58% vs. 28%) on the question of whether the trend toward more gay and lesbian couples raising children was bad for society. Read More

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