UPDATE 1-Young Americans want sex, no weddings-study

Updated 4:49 PM ET June 6, 2000

By Patrick Rizzo

NEW YORK, (Reuters) - Romance and marriage are out while casual sex and
low-commitment relationships are in among young Americans, researchers
said Tuesday.

A study by Rutgers University's National Marriage Project found that
young men and women in their twenties, unlike generations before them,
aren't interested in finding marriage partners when they date.

Instead, as the study's title suggests, they are more concerned with
"Sex Without Strings, Relationships Without Rings."

"Today's singles scene is not oriented toward marriage, nor is it
dedicated to romantic love as it has been in the past," said David
Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project and a sociology
professor at Rutgers in New Jersey.

To be sure, young Americans today did not invent the concept of "free
love," such as existed during the 1960s. The difference, researchers
said, is that young people today are more concerned with economic and
sexual self-gratification than past generations.

"They don't really have pictures in their minds that the road they are
walking along leads to having a family," said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead,
co-author of the report with Popenoe, in a phone interview.

The study gathered together "focus groups" of unmarried men and women
age 21 to 29, in five major metropolitan areas -- northern New Jersey,
Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Most of the participants had some education beyond high school but not
college degrees.

The study was part of the project's second annual report on the social
health of marriage in the United States, "The State of Our Unions

Young people in America today, the study said, are more concerned with
having fun and making money and less focused on forming lasting
relationships that lead to marriage and raising a family.

The report said that young Americans:

+ favor living together as a try-out for marriage or as an alternative
to marriage

+ believe sex is for fun and has no strings attached

+ have a fear of divorce

+ see marriage (and divorce) as a potential economic liability.

Oddly, however, most of the young men and women who participated in the
study expected some day to meet and marry somebody who fulfilled their
emotional and spiritual needs.

The problem, researchers said, is that their current mercenary mating
habits do not easily lead to the fulfillment of that goal.

"There is this more calculated approach," said Whitehead.

Whitehead said the men and women in the study, because of the high
incidence of divorce among their parents, did not count on having
lasting relationships with each other. Instead, they focused more on

"There is a self-protective kind of response to what they see as the
high incidence of divorce," she said.

One result of all this, the study said, is that many more young women
see single motherhood, which was once taboo, as a viable option.

While the men and women in the study shared similar mating habits and
goals in their early twenties, as the late twenties approached women
much more than men wanted a committed relationship.

But women also became more disenchanted with the pool of prospective
partners and the likelihood of finding a mate.

Nearly half of the women in the study said they considered unwed
motherhood a socially acceptable option if they could not find and
marry the right man by their late thirties.

"We may be seeing a massive change that would mean that romantic love
and courtship might be giving way to something altogether new. Or we
may be in a period of cultural cluelessness," Whitehead said.

"Most societies have had a script and young adults have been guided
through that script. And now the script is being so radically revised
that nobody knows what it is anymore. Or people have torn it up," she

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