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The Handbook of Lifespan Communication

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Jon F. Nussbaum

The Handbook of Lifespan Communication is the foundational scholarly text that offers readers a state of the art view of the varied and rich areas of lifespan communication research. The fundamental assumptions of lifespan communication are that the very nature of human communication is developmental, and, to truly understand communication, change across time must be incorporated into existing theory and research. Beginning with chapters on lifespan communication theory and methodologies, chapters are then organized into the various phases of life: early childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. Top scholars across several disciplines have contributed to chapters within their domains of expertise, highlighting significant horizons that will guide researchers for years to come.
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Chapter Twelve: Commitment and Marriage

← 234 | 235 →CHAPTER TWELVE

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TARA G. MCMANUS

The most public and socially acknowledged expression of commitment is marriage. With women’s average age at marriage being 25.8 years and men’s average age being 28.3 years in the United States, women and men are marrying later in life than were generations in the past century (Copen, Daniels, Vespa, & Mosher, 2012). This is not to say that marriage is viewed as undesirable; adolescents and emerging adults in the United States still perceive marriage as a life goal (Sassler, 2010; Willoughby, Olson, Carroll, Nelson, & Miller, 2012). Rather, Americans are delaying marriage. Today, the typical age of first marriage coincides with the approximate age that individuals transition from emerging adulthood to young adulthood (Arnett, 2000).

By delaying marriage, emerging adults may forgo several benefits of long-term commitment until later in life. For instance, married emerging adults and adults were physically and psychologically healthier and engaged in fewer risky behaviors (Schoenborn, 2004). Earlier marriage also contributed to less drug and alcohol use (Willoughby et al., 2012). However, remaining single also is associated with several benefits. Emerging adults reported fewer emotional problems (Meeus, Branje, van der Valk, & de Wied, 2007). Also, because they likely have one or more serious romantic relationships prior to marriage (Sassler, 2010), their pre-marital relationships provide opportunities to cultivate the skills and abilities necessary for maintaining long-term committed romantic relationships (Cate, Levin, & Richmond, 2002). Through these committed non-marital relationships, emerging adults learn ← 235 | 236 → how to nurture relationships and...

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