I have become increasingly alarmed by frequent comments I hear from young male adults and teenagers as they express fear about the thought of taking on the responsibilities of marriage and children. What has been most surprising is that most of these young men come from conservative, family-focused homes. As I pry deeper to understand the motive behind the concerns, I find their anxiety is usually based on divorce statistics and firsthand experience watching marriages unfold around them. There also seems to be heightened fear associated with the current economic climate and ability to financially support a wife and children.
After hearing their concerns and experiences, it is not difficult to feel their anxiety and understand from their limited view why they feel the way they do. In today’s world, much of the news focuses on affairs and divorces, and of course, the global financial collapse. It is easy for any of us to start becoming discouraged by the statistics and news.
So, is the story all doom and gloom? No! A study by the Department of Health and Human Services found:
“Teenage attitudes toward marriage are a strong predictor of later relationship outcomes in adulthood (Fein et al. 2003). For this reason, encouraging healthy, positive attitudes toward marriage has been a common goal of recent adolescent relationship and marriage education programs (Karney et al. 2007).”
Positive educational material and exposure can increase the young adult’s’ attitude toward getting married.
So, what can you and I do? Perhaps our new year’s resolution can be to become aware of how we discuss marriage and budgeting with our children. Perhaps this year we put effort into having positive discussions with our children about marriage and the influence marriage can have on individuals, families, and society. In these conversations we can help our children identify successful marriages and how they have impacted others. When we discuss financial concerns, perhaps we speak about the issues in a realistic – yet instructive matter and not in a discouraging and fateful manner.
Perhaps – we start with changing our own attitudes and making sure that our words and example reflect our positive feelings about marriage and children. Perhaps – we are the agent of change when it comes to their feelings about marriage. Let’s start now!