As our cultural lenses have shifted over the years, one area that has been greatly impacted is the concept and definition of ‘family’.  The traditional views of family have steadily eroded over the years, and will have an effect and impact on our future generations.  Working in youth ministry has facilitated the opportunity to connect with many different families on many different levels.  I’ve encountered numerous family structures over the years, and have witnessed multiple family dynamics (living on your own since 16 and with 6 families will do that!).  In my younger days I ‘assumed’ everyone pretty much had the same kind of  values and definitions about family, but soon realized that was definitely not the case.  As a pastor, when I would visit and interact with a family for the first time, I learned to never blindly expect to encounter the ‘traditional’ family anymore…because times have changed.  Common-law and same-sex relationships have now joined the traditional/nuclear, blended and single parent family dynamic as a societal norm.  The sanctity of marriage is also under even more attack and cynicism than ever…even from some ‘Christian’ forums.

Now there’s still many families that have what we’d call traditional values, but unfortunately there are many others where traditional biblical values have been misplaced over the years with the influence of shows like Modern Family, The Simpsons, American Pie (Reunion), and GCB.  We now have a very different message about family and marriage, and our post-modern culture seems to be celebrating the erosion of ‘what was’, to ‘what’s now.’

The Source 4 Youth Ministry offers an insightful perspective into the ‘what is‘, but also point us to the ‘what ought to be‘ in the context of family and marriage.  And the Pew Research Center offers an in-depth research study from their 2010 project: The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families.  I’m certain there are many other excellent resources and stats out there, but I think these two will do well to shed some light on the current landscape of marriage and family.

Here’s a quick snapshot summary from of the articles (you can view the rest, and the sources, in the articles above);

Marriage, while declining among all groups, remains the norm for adults with a college education and good income but is now markedly less prevalent among those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

The (above) survey finds that those in this less-advantaged group are as likely as others to want to marry, but they place a higher premium on economic security as a condition for marriage.

Nearly four-in-ten survey respondents (39%) say that marriage is becoming obsolete; in 1978 when TIME magazine posed this question to registered voters, just 28% agreed. Those most likely to agree include those who are a part of the phenomenon (62% of cohabiting parents) as well as those most likely to be troubled by it (42% of self-described conservatives).

86% say a single parent and child constitute a family; nearly as many (80%) say an unmarried couple living together with a child is a family; and 63% say a gay or lesbian couple raising a child is a family.

The Huffington Post has said that young couples with children born to them out-of-wedlock “are more likely to have become parents in their teens, more likely to have had children with other partners, more likely to be poor, suffer from depression, struggle with substance abuse, and to have been incarcerated.”

The research group Child Trends, working in tandem with The New York Times, claims that “more than half of births to American women younger than 30 are outside marriage.” And across all ages, a whopping 4 babies in 10 are born to mothers without a ring on their finger. 

Life is rarely like the movies, but several of Ypulse’s Youth Advisory Board members have told us that “Friends With Benefits” is a good representation of Millennial relationships. They believe that relationships can develop from friendships and from one night stands, and that can obviously make things a little complicated from the start. Millennials believe in trying things out before settling on a decision.

If you’ve come across any resources you found helpful in addressing this issue, or you have any thoughts…as always…I’d love to hear from you!

  1. Nicki says:

    Hi Shawn, I as a product of a single parent, who eventually became a single parent can say that we are facing a domino effect. I did not have a role model growing up of a two parent family. I was not given the opportunity to witness how a relationship works. There was no give and take to be witnessed or how to resolve differences and make it to the point of making up. I feel this greatly effected my relationships when I approached dating age and then my want for the white picket fence grew as the media shaped my view of what a relationship should look like. When I was married I had no idea how a real relationship worked and between me and my husband we totally mucked that one up as we had the disposable marriage.

    I am now seeing a generation that has come from a chain of single parents making the gap in how a relationship works widening with out a model to follow.

    I am thankful to God for answering a prayer when I first became a Christian when my kids were preschoolers. I asked him to keep his promise to be a father to the fatherless and be that for my kids and he has truly been there for my kids and blessed them with many couples to role model relationships for them and I know he will never leave them.

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