Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults

by Linda Waite, Frances K. Goldscheider, Christina Witsberger

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Young adults in recent cohorts have been leaving the parental home earlier and marrying later now than they did several decades ago, resulting in an increased period of independent living. This Note, originally published in American Sociological Review, v. 51, no. 4, August 1986, explores the consequences of time spent in nonfamily living, using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Men and Young Women. The authors expect that experience in living away from home prior to marriage will cause young adults to change their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, and move them away from a traditional family orientation. They find strong support for this hypothesis for young women; those who lived independently became more likely to plan for employment, lowered their expected family size, became more accepting of employment of mothers, and more nontraditional on sex roles in the family than those who lived with their parents. Non-family living had much weaker effects on young men in the few tests that could be performed for them. The Note also addresses the conditions under which living away increases individualism, and discusses the implications of these findings.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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