Millennials, Marriage, and Children

By Walter Fenton –

The Wall Street Journal(WSJ) has reported that the growing trend among the millennial generation is to marry and have children after marriage.

Demographic Intelligence, a Virginia based research firm, found that millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) are increasingly tying the knot and having children in wedlock. As recently as 2010 over 50 percent of children born to millennials were born to unmarried parents. But this year 59 percent of children born to millennials will be to married parents.

“The narrative about millennials has been they’re putting parenthood before marriage, [and] never going to get married,” Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence, told the WSJ. “Now that the cohort is in the middle of their 20s, from here on out you’re going to see a lot of millennial marriages and a lot of millennial married births.” His firm projects that by 2025 the share of births to millennials who are married will be 77 percent.

“Millennials are more accepting of cohabitation and more open to the idea of children being raised outside marriage,” Kim Parker, director of social trends at Pew Research Center, told WSJ. However, those arrangements are apparently not what the majority of millennials are actually opting for.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that children born to cohabitating unwed parents or single parents are more likely to face major obstacles than children born to parents who are married and reside in the same household. Their social environments are less stable. They are less likely to receive a high school diploma. And their chances of living in poverty are considerably higher than children with married parents living in the home.

Given the devastation visited upon millions of children born out of wedlock since the 1960s, is it possible millennials have noted the trials that come with single parenting and have recognized that giving birth to and raising children in wedlock is the way to go?

An additional finding by Demographic Intelligence possibly lends credence to this hypothesis. It notes that more millennial women are postponing having children until their 20s or early 30s and doing so after marriage. The report also noted “the coming wave of millennial births will increasingly come from the college educated” who are more likely to avoid raising children in poverty.

There are many good reasons for the church to continue the fight for its traditional view of marriage. First and foremost, its view is anchored in Scripture and the teachings of the church universal for nearly 2,000 years. It is also the case that raising children in wedlock is better for children and society in general.

Given this new research on millennials the church has an opportunity and a great responsibility. First, many of the millennials planning to marry in the next 10 years will want a traditional church wedding or least the participation of Christian clergy. This gives pastors the opportunity to reinforce church teachings through pre-marital counseling. Second, the church must work harder to find authentic ways to welcome both single parents and their children and same-sex couples and their children, while still staying true to its values. Marginalizing people will help no one.

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and analyst for Good News.

To read the article by Josh Zumbrun, click here.

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