Is the American Family Changing?

Many people in their early 20s attend more baby showers than weddings, a trend that was underscored by recent interviews of young adults in New York.

“Marriage doesn’t make your relationship any stronger than it would be without the marriage license,” said Mikhail Liverpool, 21, of Queens. He has a 4 month old son with Amanda Lucas, 22, of the Bronx who he is no longer seeing. When asked if he ever thought about marrying his child’s mother, he responded “No, we had problems before Jace was born and now we have more.”

Liverpool was among a group of young adults who were interviewed recently about love, marriage, and having kids. His cousin, Kerwin Barker, 25, of Brooklyn, expressed the same sentiments as Liverpool. “I want to focus on my career and becoming successful, marriage is the last thing on my mind,-” he said.

Their views were supported by a study issued this October by the national Pew Center for Research. “Marriage rates among adults in their 20s have declined sharply since 1990 for both the college-educated and those without a college degree,” the report stated. “But the decline has been much steeper for young adults without a college education.” Not all of the interviewees agreed with that finding.

Video: Young New Yorkers on sex, marriage and kids

“I don’t think your views on marriage have anything to do with school or education,” said Shawn Williams, 25, of the Bronx. “I think it’s more on how you were brought up and your experiences.” Williams has a 1- year- old daughter with Danielle Harewood, 23, a college graduate, of Queens, who he has no intention of marrying now. When asked about his child’s mother, he said, “Ever since she had Sarai, she has been different and I don’t know if I ever want to marry this new person.” It seems that this current group of 20-somethings residing in New York City might or might not be having babies but one thing they all agree on is that marriage is not one of their priorities.

“Marriage is just a piece of paper telling me that I have to give her half once we get divorced. Half of all marriages end in divorce,” said Nico Santana, 20, of Queens. Santana continued “Marriage doesn’t validate anything and it doesn’t help me in any way so I’m not doing it!”

Brian Duran, 24, of Queens, said, “I think males at our age don’t want to get married because we want to have sex with a lot of women. We are programmed as men to want to play a lot before we settle down with just one woman. When we don’t wait, we cheat. Look at athletes like Shaq and Tiger Woods. We come around eventually just not in our 20s and depending on the maturity maybe not even our 30s.”

Echoing those thoughts, Liverpool said “There are two types of men: nice guys and not so nice guys. I’m young and trying to live life so I’m not nice now but with maturity and growth I will become a nice guy hopefully.” He said that with a chuckle. The men in the group weren’t the only ones to speak disparagingly about the institution of marriage. The women, too, had serious reservations.

“I think the reason I really want to wait for marriage is because my parents got a divorce and it really made me wonder what the importance was,” said Leonora Martelly, 21, of Queens. “Does marriage really better your lives as a couple? I really don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong I want to get married but it has to be really right.”

Williams, though engaged, expressed concerns about what would happen when he and his fiancé eventually were married.’ “I proposed to Danielle just because I knew that’s what she wanted but I don’t want it,” he said. “She is going to accuse me of cheating whether I pay for that expensive wedding or not so we might as well not be married.”

Within the last 20 years, the American family has undergone a dramatic transformation. Everyone interviewed for this story seemed to agree that the family structure has changed compared to the 1940s and 1950s. It was a different time back then, there weren’t many divorces and children came after the marriage. There was more pressure to be married and have children after. Premarital sex was more taboo and frowned upon.

Evelyn Guzman, 22, of Harlem, said about her boyfriend, “Even though I have a child with him and love him, I don’t want to rush a wedding. We have time to get married.”