New Rutgers report cites reasons why men are slow to commit to marriage

June 25, 2002

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Men are not anti-marriage, they just aren't in a hurry to get to the altar according to the latest study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers.

"Why Men Won't Commit: Exploring Young Men's Attitudes About Sex, Dating and Marriage" reveals the top 10 reasons why men are taking a longer time to wed, including enjoying single life, getting plenty of sex without marriage and facing fewer social pressures to marry.

The study is featured in the National Marriage Project's annual report on the social health of marriage in America, "The State of Our Unions: 2002." Study findings were based on eight focus groups with 60 not-yet-married heterosexual men, ages 25 to 33. Focus groups were conducted January 2002 to April 2002 in four major metropolitan areas: northern New Jersey, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Houston.

The focus groups explored attitudes on sex, dating, meeting women, living together, marrying a soul mate, the timing of marriage, social pressures to marry, divorce, desire for children and the work/family balance.

"The median age of first marriage for men has reached 27, the oldest age in our nation's history," said David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project. "The good news is that men who marry later may be more financially stable and emotionally mature. The bad news is that they may be more inflexible and less able to make the compromises needed in marriage and family life."

"Cohabitation contributes to men's delay of marriage," noted Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project. "Men are able to enjoy many of the benefits of marriage by living with a girlfriend without giving up their independence."

According to the data collected from the focus groups, here are the top 10 reasons why men are slow to commit:

  1. They can get sex without marriage more easily than in times past
  2. They can enjoy the benefits of having a wife by cohabiting rather than marrying
  3. They want to avoid divorce and its financial risks
  4. They want to wait until they are older to have children
  5. They fear that marriage will require too many changes and compromises
  6. They are waiting for the perfect soul mate, and she hasn't yet appeared
  7. They face few social pressures to marry
  8. They are reluctant to marry a woman who already has children
  9. They want to own a house before they get a wife
  10. They want to enjoy single life as long as they can.

On the issue of children, none of the men in the focus groups expressed a burning desire for children, and most saw having children as a remote life goal and a responsibility they weren't yet ready to deal with. However, there was an overwhelming consensus that the men didn't want to put their future children in "stranger care" and that it was preferable for one parent to stay at home or for relatives or grandparents to provide childcare.

"If this trend of men waiting to marry continues, it is likely to clash with the timing of marriage and childbearing for the many young women who hope to marry and bear children before they begin to face problems associated with declining fertility," stated Popenoe, who explained that the median age of first marriage for women is 25.
For more information about the National Marriage Project, or to receive a copy of "State of Our Unions: 2002" or copies of previously released National Marriage Project reports, visit the Web at:

EDITOR'S NOTE: The report will be publicly released and available on the National Marriage Project Web site,, Wednesday, June 26, at 7 a.m. To arrange an interview in advance and receive a copy of the report prior to release, contact Stacey Hersh, Office of Media Relations, (732) 932-7084, extension 616, or Theresa Kirby, National Marriage Project, (732) 445-7922.

Rutgers University

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