This report examines potential precursors of the changes in adult marriage patterns in recent decades. It draws on data from four large national surveys to examine the experiences and attitudes of teenagers to gain a better understanding of factors that influence their views of marriage and their relationship choices in adulthood. The report analyzes teenagers' initial exposure to, and experiences with, romantic relationships and marriage, as well as their general attitudes toward marriage. It also examines marriage and relationship patterns among a recent cohort of young adults and identifies factors in adolescence associated with the likelihood of choosing various relationship pathways in early adulthood.
This information is useful for several reasons. First, trends in teenage attitudes toward marriage can provide an indication of whether current trends in adult marriage patterns are likely to continue. In addition, information on teen romantic relationships is an important indicator of adolescent health and well-being, making this information of interest to a range of policymakers and researchers concerned with the status of teens. Finally, the growing interest in marriage and relationship skills programs that serve adolescents has created a need for improved research evidence concerning teens' romantic relationships and attitudes toward marriage. This information can help program developers design relationship and marriage education programs that are age-appropriate and in tune with the experiences of today's youth. It can also help policymakers and program operators better assess the needs of teens in their communities and choose program models that are most appropriate for the teens they serve. (Author abstract)