Gen Z and The Unappealing ‘I Do’
Due to shifting social norms, a statistical majority of Gen Z is uninterested in marriage. Are they giving up on love entirely? Certainly not.
Even though a survey showed that 74% of Americans acknowledge marriage is unappealing to younger generations, most Gen Zers still desires exclusivity with partners. As commitments to marriage decrease, divorce rates increase. What is responsible for lagging marriage rates amongst younger generations? According to experts at Family Research Council, a variety of factors are behind these developments.
In comments to The Washington Stand, Joseph Backholm, FRC’s senior fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement, said, “I think the reason Gen Z is less interested in marriage than other generations is that they haven’t been taught to see the value of marriage. They’ve been taught to see the value in doing whatever makes you happy.” In an age where young people seem to stray from the uncomfortable, marriage is now on the list. “Marriage is uncomfortable, but wonderful,” Backholm added.
Likewise, David Closson, FRC’s director of the Center for Biblical Worldview, added, “Members of Gen Z and millennials, for that matter, are increasingly pursuing the goods of marriage, such as companionship, sex, and children, outside of God’s design for marriage. As a result, commitment to marriage as an institution is at an all-time low.” According to Closson, a strong marriage culture is the foundation of a thriving society, and as marriage crumbles, a host of social maladies will follow.
In comments to the Stand, Closson outlined three developments that he believes have led to a deterioration in marriage norms in the United States.
First, we must “understand where our nation is regarding worldview. Only a fraction of Americans view all of life according to Scripture.” Closson explained how worldview shapes everything one thinks and does. A biblical worldview provides the context for strong families which are the basic building block of strong societies. Within a biblical worldview, the proper context for sex is the covenant of marriage which provides security, permanence, and stability — intangible benefits that are especially important for women and children. A secular worldview, which has “decoupled sex from marriage,” fails to provide a stable context for families to thrive. Despite its promises of liberty, a “hook-up culture devalues and dehumanizes its participants,” Closson noted.
A second factor is the exposure to pornography among men. “Recent research reveals a record high of men who are single and uninterested in marriage,” Closson said. “Sixty-seven percent of 13-year-old boys have seen pornography, resulting in about 90% by age 18.” For Closson, exposure to pornography corrupts how marriage is viewed today because “pornography destroys what one expects in a relationship” and changes how men interact with women.
The third factor pertains to the rise of social media use, which affects both males and females. “We are swimming in an age of superficiality,” Closson commented. “We are losing the ability to create relationships in person — the kind of relationships that lead to marriage.” As Backholm put it, “The ideal situation for children is to grow up with their biological mother and father who have made lifelong commitments to each other.” But with pornography altering how men view relationships, and social media mitigating authenticity, these lifelong commitments are becoming increasingly difficult to build, they argue.
Baylie McClafferty, a (Gen Z) intern at FRC, shared her thoughts on marriage. “The eternal bond between a husband and wife takes time and care, but it is definitely rewarding,” she said. “This is the same with our covenant with God. He asks for our love and diligence, and we gain His love, protection, and glory found within the New Covenant we have with Him. Marriage is the closest modern-day imagery we have of the bond and covenant between God and man.”
However, as the statistics reveal, perspectives such as Baylie’s are not the norm among Gen Z. Not valuing marriage causes rising rates of divorce and fatherlessness, which also cause “a rise in poverty, crime, mental illness, a lack of educational achievement, and so much more,” Backholm noted. “We should expect those trends to continue until the way we think about marriage changes.”