Divorce rates in America have been at a consistent high for the past decade, with rates hovering around 45 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, despite those odds, Americans are still getting married — as many as 90 percent before they turn 50 years old, according to a marriage and divorce study conducted by the American Psychology Association in 2017.
These numbers might change dramatically over the proceeding decade, based on what University of Georgia students had to say about it. In a survey of 50 students, less than 50 percent said they “absolutely wanted to get married at some point.”
The majority of the students that responded (46 percent) expressed being indifferent to marriage, choosing the option that “they were open to it, but it wasn’t a necessity.”
Kai Yost, sophomore entertainment media studies major from Smyrna, was on the cusp of these options, expressing a desire for marriage but not necessarily a need.
“I definitely romanticize marriage, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it didn’t happen for me,” Yost said. “I grew up in a monogamous household, so that affected my world view of marriage, but I think that more people are realizing it’s not the only option.”
Yost also discussed how people’s perception of marriage has shifted, and how it’s become more flexible and symbolic than it has been in the past.
“The dynamics [of marriage] are changing. Gender roles are less important, and it’s no longer expected that you have to be married to have kids. It’s more of an expression of love now, rather than the exchange of power that it used to be,” Yost said.
However, a few people did not feel as optimistic about the prospect of marriage and monogamy. Six people surveyed said that they were “firmly against getting married,” and Declan Jones, a freshman accounting major from Macon, had the strongest opinion about it.
“Personally, I don’t see the value in getting married, other than maybe the tax incentives,” said Jones. “Marriage used to be something that was expected of people, something they were obligated to do, but now that it’s not, people just don’t want to be restricted like that anymore, myself included.”
Alongside high divorce rates, Americans are also increasingly choosing to be child-free, according to an annual analysis by the CDC. This was somewhat reflected in 50 UGA students’ responses about whether they wanted children or not.
The majority of students expressed the desire to have children at some point — however, only a third of them wanted to have children strictly through biological procreation.
“I absolutely want to raise kids, but I want to adopt,” said Paulina Afnani, a sophomore marketing major and women’s studies minor from Atlanta. “There are so many children without the kind of love and support I grew up with. I want to provide a beautiful life for at least one child — it almost feels like my duty.”
Harley Langley, a fourth-year marketing major from Dekalb, expressed a similar sentiment, but for very different reasons.
“I don’t want to get pregnant and get fat. That’s a one hundred percent serious answer,” Langley said. “I just know I’ll use pregnancy as an excuse to get huge and I’ll never bounce back.”
A third of the survey participants said they “absolutely do not want children at any point in time,” but there was one student who deviated from the formal answers and had something different to say.
“I like kids, but I don’t love kids,” said Sonya Kim, a junior biology major from Atlanta. “I think I just want to be the cool aunt. I’ll shower them in gifts and sugar, but peace out when a temper tantrum or a dirty diaper comes along.”
Although divorce rates are high now, things seem like they might change in the near future. Based on what UGA students had to say, more and more people are embracing the flexibility of modern day expectations.
“You can get married and not have children, you can have children and not be married and you can also choose to do neither,” Langley said. “There’s no right answer, so there’s a chance for everyone to be happy.”