Most millennials, Gen Z don’t view marriage, family formation as life goals: study

Bixby Creek Bridge, Monterey, United States
Bixby Creek Bridge, Monterey, United States | Unsplash/Sammie Vasquez

New research from Barna reveals that younger generations around the world are more interested in the pursuit of professional success than they are focused on family formation and building a home.

The study, called "The Connected Generation Report," documents findings collected from over 15,000 interviews with young people in both the Gen Z and millennial generations in 25 nations and nine languages.

The Barna group conducted the research along with Christian humanitarian organization World Vision.

The nations selected for the study were based on countries and regions where Barna and World Vision receive frequent requests for research-based insights, the researchers noted in the report released Thursday. The survey was offered in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Romanian, Korean, Indonesian and Taiwanese.

Among the survey participants, approximately half had both completed their education and become financially independent from their parents. Around 40 percent reported having traveled to other nations, begun a career, and becoming "spiritually mature."

A quarter had prioritized getting married and caring for the poor; fewer still, 21 percent, said they prioritized purchasing a home.

Practicing Christians who were surveyed led young adults in family formation, with nearly one-third stating that they had gotten married, 37 percent reported becoming a parent, and 53 percent said they had become more spiritually mature. The study distinguished between "practicing" and "non-practicing" Christians.

"While family-oriented goals may climb higher on the list of priorities as these respondents move further into adulthood, nearly four in 10 young adults also aim to follow their dreams (38%) and about one in three wants to start a business (36%), travel to other countries (32%) or become financially independent from their parents (30%)," the Barna report noted.

"Goals that did not make the top 10 list for young adults around the world include caring for the poor and needy (23%), becoming more mature spiritually (21%) and enjoying life before having more responsibilities (20%)."

Numbers were notably higher among practicing Christians.

The Barna data shows that 32 percent of practicing Christians expressed desire to care for the poor and needy in contrast to 21 percent of non-practicing Christians, 26 percent of young persons of non-Christian faiths, and 17 with no faith.

The data also reveals that both millennials and Gen Zoomers are highly success-oriented, "with both generations moving further away from more traditional life goals of generations past to a life course that demands achievement or at least stability in their education, career and finances."

Because of this, 40 percent of survey respondents in these younger generations indicated that they are as likely to feel “optimistic about the future” as they are “uncertain about the future,” in addition to “afraid to fail” and “anxious about important decisions.” Thirty-six percent reported feeling “pressure to be successful.”

The report coheres with other survey data in recent years from reputable polling organizations which show that younger generations around the world, but especially in the U.S., are moving away from faith and are now categorized as "nones" — those with no particular religious affiliation. Such a shift likely explains, in part, the trend of moving away from goals related to family formation, which is often associated with the active practice of faith.

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