The purpose of this study was to better understand the current culture of marriage preparation among emerging adults and the primary factors that influence their attitudes about marriage and family life. A total of 254 students from five universities in the United States completed questionnaires on criteria for marriage readiness and criteria for adulthood. The results indicate that we are witnessing the formation of a unique culture of marriage preparation in the rising generation of educated young adults in comparison to the one experienced by their parents and grandparents. This study supports the notion that marriage still matters for the majority of young people and that they are both planning and expecting to marry in the future. Although they continue to maintain a strong marriage ideal, it appears that a growing number of emerging adults believe that they will not be ready for marriage until they go through an extended period of single adulthood that permits them to explore and experiment in various areas of life. In addition, the results indicate that emerging adults may be as much preparing for divorce as they are preparing for marriage during this period of exploration and experimentation. Most importantly, the findings from this study present evidence that some emerging adults are taking certain pathways to marriage readiness that result in unintended consequences. Indeed, this study suggests that the single period of life known as emerging adulthood may be contributing to attitudes and behaviors that will be problematic for marriage readiness. Emerging adults may be establishing unstable foundations for their later marriages and scholars need to pay more attention to this critical period in order to prepare better emerging adults for marital success and family life.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage, Family, and Human Development



Date Submitted


Document Type





marriage readiness, marriage preparation, emerging adults, transition to marriage