View Resource File >

This brief reviews trends in family structure in the United States and implications for children, adults, and society. Data is shared on rates of divorce, nonmarital births, and nonmarital cohabitation. Statistics are cited that indicate the probability of marriages ending in divorce increased more or less continuously until 1990 and then stabilized; between 43% and 46% of current marriages will end in divorce and divorce rates vary by ethnic background; the share of children born outside of marriage has increased substantially, rising from 11% of all births in 1970 to 36% in 2004; and cohabitation among unmarried couples has increased dramatically in the U.S. during the last several decades. The shift from companionate marriage attitudes towards individualistic marriage attitudes is noted, and the negative impact of these trends is explained. The brief concludes that changes in American marriage and family structure since the 1960s have decreased the mean level of child well-being in the population, lowered the well-being of many adults, increased child poverty, and placed a large financial burden on society. 35 references.