Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.


Most young adult Catholics still the marrying type

A recent CARA survey reveals that 86% of young adult Catholics, age 18 to 35, are either married (39%) or say it is at least “somewhat” likely that they will marry in the future (47%).

Only one in ten young adult Catholics have never been married and believe it is only “a little” likely that they will in the future.  Some 4% say that this is “not at all likely.”  Two percent of young adult Catholics have married but are either separated or divorced.

Among young adult Catholics who have never married but who say it is at least “a little” likely that they will marry in the future, the most common reason noted for having yet to marry is “I haven’t met the right person” (59%) followed by “I am focused on other aspects of my life” (57%).  Forty-three percent also say “I am not personally ready to marry.”

Few, less than one in five each, cited their own independence (17%), a lack of willingness to marry from a partner (14%), or negative experiences in relationships (12%), or the negative experiences of relatives or peers who have been married a reason for not having yet married themselves.

Two-thirds of married young adult Catholics (66%) have a Catholic spouse.  By comparison, 73% of married Catholics older than 35 are married to a Catholic. 

Among never-married young adult Catholics, only 27% say it is “somewhat” or “very” important to them that a future spouse be Catholic.  Twenty-six percent say this is only “a little important” and 48% indicate it is “not at all” important to them that their future spouse be Catholic if they were to marry.  This does not mean they are actively seeking a non-Catholic spouse and in fact many who do marry will likely wed a Catholic spouse due to social proximity.

At the same time, many never-married young adult Catholics do say it is important for them to be married in the Catholic Church.  Nearly half (48%) say this is “somewhat” or “very” important to them and 24 percent indicate this is “a little” important to them. 

Sixty-four percent of married young adult Catholics were either married in the Church (60%) or have had their marriage blessed by the Church (4%). By comparison, 71% of married Catholics older than 35 were married in the Church (66%) or have had their marriage blessed (5%). 

Young adult Catholics are slightly more likely than older Catholics say they at least “somewhat” believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment (91% compared to 85%).  However, they are less likely to believe similarly that marriage as a calling from God (51% compared to 56%) or as a vocation (50% compared to 55%).

Young adult Catholics have very similar opinions to those of older Catholics regarding the acceptability of divorce.  Seventy-six percent of both groups agree with Church teachings that divorce is acceptable in some cases (e.g., the Church does not require one to stay in an abusive relationship).

When asked about specific circumstances, young adult Catholics were slightly more likely than older Catholics to believe divorce is acceptable for all of the situations listed. 

Young adult Catholics are more likely than older Catholics to agree that when they marry they want their spouse to be their soulmate first and foremost (84% compared to 75%) and that couples don’t take marriage seriously enough when divorce is easily available (76% compared to 69%).

Young adult Catholics are significantly more likely than older Catholics to agree that living with a partner before marriage decreases the risk of divorce (41% compared to 22%).  Eight percent of surveyed young adult Catholics indicated that they are unmarried and currently living with a partner, compared to 4% of older Catholics.

Catholics under the age of 36 are just as likely as those who are older to agree “somewhat” or “very much” that:
  • Marriage is an outdated institution (11% compared to 9%)
  • Personal freedom is more important than the companionship of marriage (both 12%)
  • Marriage is not necessary if a couple decides to have children (both 16%)
  • Divorce is usually the best solution when a couple can’t seem to work out their marriage problems (both 29%)
  • Watching children grow is life’s greatest joy (both 78%)
A full report of the results of the survey is available at:

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