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New Clark Poll: 18- to 29-year-olds are traditional about roles in sex, marriage and raising children

♦ Top results: Sex with emotional commitment; marriage before children; unions that last forever ♦

In an age of short-lived celebrity marriages, widespread divorce, babies being born outside of marriage, and the ever-popular “hooking up,” young people are remarkably traditional about their expectations for love, marriage and children—for both themselves and society at large, according to a new Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults.

The poll, directed by Clark psychology professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, reports that 86 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed nationwide expect to have a marriage that will last a lifetime.

How do young people today view relationships with parents, idealism, and the road to adulthood? Watch for upcoming reports from the findings of the Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults. Visit online, at

“It’s striking to see how optimistic today’s emerging adults are about their prospects for having a life-long marriage. They grow up knowing that half of marriages end in divorce, yet nearly all of them expect to be in the half that doesn’t,” said Arnett. “Of today’s emerging adults, the ones with divorced parents are often the ones who are most determined to avoid divorce, even though they are statistically most likely to get divorced themselves.”

The study also reveals that 57 percent feel it is not okay for two people to have sex if they are not emotionally involved with each other and 73 percent believe that couples should be married before having a child.

One noteworthy way emerging adults are not traditional, however, is in how they prioritize family goals over career goals: 61 percent expect they will give up some of their career goals in order to have the family life they want. Surprisingly, young men are as likely as young women to have these expectations. “That’s a lot different from the past. Traditionally, women have been far more likely to sacrifice career goals for family. These new findings suggest that this may change in the new generation of emerging adults to a more equal sharing of family responsibilities,” said Arnett.

The Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults is based on 1029 interviews of 18- to 29-year-olds nationwide. The margin of error is +/- 3.06 percent. A mixed-mode methodology was used for this project.

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a small, liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP is Clark’s pioneering model of education combining a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences.