Introduction to Marriage and Family

What you’ll learn to do: Define marriage and family

A family of two adults and two children are walking by a big body of water.

In this section, you’ll learn how family is defined and how family dynamics are changing and evolving. For example, between 2006 and 2010, nearly half of heterosexual women (48 percent) ages fifteen to forty-four said they were not married to their spouse or partner when they first lived with them. That’s up from 43 percent in 2002, and 34 percent in 1995 (Rettner 2013).

The Pew Research Center reports that the number of unmarried couples who live together has grown from fewer than one million in the 1970s to 8.1 million in 2011 to 18 million in 2016. Of the 18 million, 8.9 million are ages 18-34, 4.7 million are ages 35-49, and 4.0 million are 50+. [1]. Cohabiters aged 50 and older comprise one quarter (23%) of all cohabiting adults in 2016, a category which grew by 75% since 2007; although this seems high, only 4% of U.S. adults 50 and older were cohabiting.[2]

Watch It

Before we talk about cohabitation and/or marriage, take a look at this video about perceptions on modern dating and consider how you might respond to these same questions about relationships. In what ways are our responses shaped by societal expectations, culture norms, and the processes of socialization?

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  1. Stepler, R. 2017. "Number of U.S. Adults Cohabiting With a Partner Continues to Rise." Pew Research Center. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/06/number-of-u-s-adults-cohabiting-with-a-partner-continues-to-rise-especially-among-those-50-and-older/
  2. Stepler, R. 2017. "Number of U.S. Adults Cohabiting With a Partner Continues to Rise." Pew Research Center. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/06/number-of-u-s-adults-cohabiting-with-a-partner-continues-to-rise-especially-among-those-50-and-older/.