"Marriage is More Than Being Together": The Meaning of Marriage for Young Adults

Maria J. Kefalas, Frank F. Furstenberg, Patrick J. Carr, Laura Napolitano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Based on 424 qualitative interviews with a racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse population of young people ranging in age from 21 to 38, the authors ponder the paradox of the evolving role for contemporary marriage within the developmental perspective of the transition to adulthood. The authors identify two groups: marriage naturalists and marriage planners. Naturalists comprise one fifth of the sample, are largely from rural America, and follow the fast-track into marriage that defined the mid-twentieth century. Planners comprise the remainder of the sample, are based in metropolitan areas, and follow an elongated transition to adulthood. The authors examine the views of each group on commitment and the nature of relationships, and apply their findings to the debates about whether marriage is resilient, in decline, or becoming deinstitutionalized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-875
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Marriage
  • Relationships
  • Transition to adulthood
  • Youth


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