Sociologically, we know that marriage, itself, socializes people. For instance, very few violent crimes are committed by married men as opposed to single or cohabiting men.
It turns out, however, that new research shows that even the thought that “I want to be married in the next five years” inspires greater responsibility and maturing in young adults.
“This is a reminder that marriage still matters,” said Claire Kamp Dush, co-author and professor of human sciences at Ohio State. “Just the expectation of marriage may be enough to change some people’s behavior.”
The study appears online in the Journal of Marriage and Family and will be published in a future print edition.
The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. This study included 7,057 people who were 15 to 20 years old when the data for this study was collected in 2000 and 2001.
The participants were asked in 2000 and 2001 to estimate the percent chance that they would be married in five years. They were also asked whether they had committed certain delinquent acts – including property theft, personal assault, drug dealing and property destruction – since the last time they were interviewed for the study.
On average, participants in 2000 thought there was a 43 percent chance they would be married within five years, increasing to 48 percent in 2001.
In 2000, there were 1,492 young people in the study who reported any delinquent acts and they averaged 1.74 such acts in total. In 2001, participants reported slightly fewer delinquent acts, with 1,273 reporting an average of 1.62 incidents of misconduct.
The key finding was that young people with higher marital expectations in 2000 had lower levels of delinquent activity in 2001.
There are good reasons why people who expect to marry may be avoiding a life of delinquency, Arocho said.
They probably feel they have to watch their behavior to gain social acceptance and be seen as “marriage material,” she said. Plus, people with a job, good income and education all have a better opportunity to get married – and delinquency stands in the way of achieving these goals.
“If you’re thinking of getting married soon, you may do things differently and you act more like an adult,” Arocho said. READ MORE