What College Students Really Think About Marriage

College students have enormous expectations for themselves. They strive to achieve certain grades, pursue a particular professional interest, acclimate to the college environment, adapt socially, and even engage in romantic relationships. The attitudes and beliefs a young adult has about his or her abilities to succeed in these areas can directly impact the outcome. It is believed that establishing and maintaining an intimate relationship is a core component of development, especially during young adulthood. Understanding what factors affect an individual’s approach to relationships can help clarify how social, familial, and peer input influences overall development.

Three specific domains that can guide marital and relationship attitudes include marriage messages received (MMR), relationship self-efficacy (RSE), and general marital attitude. RSE refers to one’s perception of how well he or she can maintain a productive and healthy relationship with another person, while MMRs refer to marital input and suggestions from peers, family members, media, religious groups, and other sources. In an effort to comprehend the relationship between these three domains, and how they relate to demographic factors in young adults, Matthew W. Shurts of the Department of Counseling and Educational Leadership at Montclair State University in New Jersey recently surveyed 211 college students. He asked them about their parents’ marital status, their current relationship status, MMR, RSE, and marital attitude.

Shurts found that the students who were currently romantically involved and had positive marital attitudes had higher levels of RSE than the other students. Also, Shurts discovered that the younger students and females had more positive attitudes related to marriage than older students and male students. This could be due in part to MMRs that older students receive from family, church, and society to be married by a certain age. Also, African-American students had more negative attitudes toward marriage than white students. Interestingly, being a child of divorce did not significantly impact students’ attitudes. “On the basis of our findings, it is evident that the three variables of interest involved in romantic relationships (i.e., MMR, marital attitudes, and RSE) are related to one another,” Shurts said. Future work is needed to gain insight into how attitudes evolve over time, as well as how sexual minority individuals’ relationship attitudes are shaped in the context of these three domains.

Shurts, Matthew W., and Jane E. Myers. Relationships among young adults’ marital messages received, marital attitudes, and relationship self-efficacy. Adultspan: Theory, Research & Practice 11.2 (2012): 97-111. Print.

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  • Leia


    November 20th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    Contrary to popular belief there are still those sorority girl types who are more interested in obtaining an MRS than anything else

  • Violet


    November 20th, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    What they think about marriage is more than likely directly related to how healthy their parents’ relationship is. If they have grown up in a family with a normal and loving relationship then they most likely feel that this is what marriage is all about. if they have seen abuse and distrust then they are likely more fearful of getting married. I think that most college kids are smart enough to know what they want out of a relationship and know how to create a good one but only if they have been given a strong role model by their own parents growing up.

  • Steven


    November 21st, 2012 at 5:14 AM

    Kind of surprises me that children of divorce don’t have unusually higher rates of being against marriage.
    If I ever thought about getting married it would be too soon because I saw my own parents marriage and how horrible it was and I wonder why I would ever want to do that to myself.

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