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Pew research findings on younger couples' marriage views

As newly published information released by the national Pew Research Center indicates, Americans’ attitudes toward gender roles in marriage have changed appreciably within the past generation. That shift has notable implications toward perceptions concerning fundamental family law topics such as child custody, visitation and spousal maintenance.

Two factors especially have emerged that point to the materially altered expectations of millions of persons across the country regarding their perceptions of how a marriage should ideally look.

First, and in regard to husbands, far more people now than just a generation ago believe that the male spouse in a marriage should exercise increased responsibilities in the home. Most specifically, that means taking on more tasks and assuming a larger role concerning child rearing, an area that has, historically, been deemed by a strong majority of Americans as being the province of the female spouse and mother.

Second, more people than ever before see a marriage role for women that is highly differentiated from previous decades, where, again, the wife was more traditionally seen as a homemaker and child rearer, with the husband working outside the home to provide for the family financially. Nowadays, and especially among younger people, a view has strongly emerged that favors both spouses working outside the home.

One interesting outcome of recent research is that, despite younger people most strongly favoring such changes, it is actually couples in their 30s, 40s and beyond that are most frequently living that ideal.

The reason for that, Pew researchers note, is that it is simply harder to follow those ideals for a couple just starting out in marriage, especially when one or more children add to the family’s size. While they grow, it is simply an imperative in many cases that one of the parents stays home to provide on-hands care.

Source: Pew Research Center, "For young adults, the ideal marriage meets reality," Wendy Wang, July 10, 2013

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