Early marriage in the United States : why some marry young, why many don’t, and what difference it makes

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Title: Early marriage in the United States : why some marry young, why many don’t, and what difference it makes
Author: Uecker, Jeremy Elliot
Abstract: American family life has undergone drastic changes over the last five decades . The median age at first marriage has risen sharply over that time , a trend that has attracted the attention of a number of family scholars . Less is known , however , about those who continue to marry early in a society where such a practice is increasingly rare and where the benefits to marriage during young adulthood are thought to be diminishing . In this dissertation , I ask specifically (a ) what types of people continue to marry early in a context where delayed marriage is the norm , (b ) how culture can impact marital timing , and (c ) what effect marriage has on the mental health and well -being of young adults . To answer these questions , I analyze survey data primarily from the first and third waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health , a panel study of American adolescents that began in 1994 -95 and tracked its respondents into young adulthood in 2001 -02 . The results suggest that a significant minority of young adults—25 % of women and 16 % of men—marry early , and early marriage occurs most frequently among young adults with low educational trajectories and who come from families with more limited resources . These young adults are typically found in rural communities and in the Southern United States , and they tend to identify with conservative religious traditions like conservative Protestantism and Mormonism . Culture , in the case of involvement in a religious community , can shape marriage timing by limiting the appeal of cohabitation , increasing marital desires and expectations , and by reducing perceived conflict between marriage and higher education . Moreover , a prevailing cultural schema that prescribes full time work as a prerequisite for marriage keeps even young adults who wish they were married from doing so . Finally , young adults who are married or engaged exhibit the best mental health in young adulthood . These findings suggest that demographic and cultural shifts in marriage have not spread evenly throughout the population , and despite its poor reputation early marriage may have some benefits for young adults .
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /ETD -UT -2010 -05 -1158
Date: 2010-10-07

Citation

Early marriage in the United States : why some marry young, why many don’t, and what difference it makes. Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /ETD -UT -2010 -05 -1158 .

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