College Lifestyle | Fall 2012

Like Bieber and Oprah, College Students More Eager for Marriage Than Their Parents

via Brigham Young University |


In a preview clip of the interview posted on Entertainment Tonight’s website, Winfrey asks if it’s true that the 18-year-old singer really wants to tie the knot by age 25. The interview was conducted prior to Bieber’s reported split from pop star Selena Gomez. When Bieber says, “I think so, yeah,” Winfrey tells him, “Rethink that, will you? Bieber asks, “Why?” Winfrey replies, “I think 25′s too young, actually. I really do — and particularly for you.”

Winfrey explains to Bieber, “Your whole 20s is about discovering who you really are, and you owe that to yourself, particularly because of the business that you’re in, there’s not a lot of self-discovery time because so much is already defined for you.”

“Well, we’ll see when we get there,” Bieber replies, and goes on to tell Winfrey that he also wants “a handful” of kids. Winfrey tries to pin him down, saying, “So, you were gonna get married at 25 but now you’re gonna rethink it because I’m telling you to?” Bieber smiles and says, “Yeah, I mean, you are Oprah, you are telling me I should not get married at 25, I should probably listen to you.” “You maybe should,” Winfrey agrees. (via ABC News)

justin-bieber-oprah-winfreyReaching adulthood certainly takes longer than it did a generation ago, but new research shows one way that parents are contributing to the delay.

A national study found that college students think 25 years old is the “right age” to get married, while a majority of parents feel 25 is still a little too soon. So, it's no coincidence that when Justin Bieber said he'd like to wed by 25, Oprah Winfrey urged him to wait longer.

“The assumption has been that the younger generation wants to delay marriage and parents are hassling them about when they would get married,” said Brian Willoughby, a professor at Brigham Young UniversityBrigham Young University and lead author of the study. “We actually found the opposite, that the parental generation is showing the ‘slow down’ mindset more than the young adults.”

Willoughby and his co-authors in BYU’s School of Family Life gathered info from 536 college students and their parents from five college campuses around the country (not including BYU). As they report in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the scholars found the hesitation is consistent across gender.

“Initially we thought that this might be dads wanting their daughters to delay marriage,” Willoughby said. “Moms and dads trended together – gender wasn’t a factor.”

One of the driving forces behind parents’ restraint is the feeling that their children should get an education first. While they generally feel marriage is important, parents think the “right age” is one year older than what their children say. Excluding teen marriages, research does not support the notion that there is an optimal time to tie the knot.

“I think parents have a lot of fear for their kids that make them want to delay the transitions to adulthood,” Willoughby said.

According to census data, the median age for first marriages is 27. Willoughby says that what people say is the “right age” generally comes a few years before the actual marriage age.

“What happens is that someone thinks that [age] 25 is when they want to get married,” Willoughby said. “So at age 25, they start changing their patterns around dating, and it takes two or so years to make the transition.”

Though BYU students weren’t in Willoughby’s sample, the university’s own records show about 25 percent of its students are married. Willoughby said that Mormon young adults typically marry about two years younger than their peers nationally and have risen in sync with national trends.

Chad Olsen, a graduate student in BYU’s School of Family Life, is a co-author on the new study. Professors Jason Carroll, Larry Nelson and Rick Miller are also co-authors.


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