When it comes to the views of young adults on relationships, it is evident that a marked shift in attitudes has occurred. Statistics regarding relationships in younger adults indicate that fewer young adults are seeking marriage, more young adults believe in co-habitation and young adults seeking marriage are doing so much later in life.
Young adults are also highly sexually active. Statistics show that 90 percent of 20 to 24- year-olds report having sexual intercourse even though they are not married or in a longterm, committed relationship. The changes in attitude of young adults regarding their relationships are quite significant when compared with older generations. Even though older generations were delaying marriage until their late twenties or early thirties, many supported the idea of marriage as a principal foundation for raising a family. Young adults today believe that cohabitation is the only requisite for starting a family. If two individuals love each other and live together, this environment is suitable. These changes in attitudes have created some concern over the future of marriage and the ability of couples to provide for their children over the long-term. However, even though more young adults are eschewing marriage, many believe in having committed relationships.
For parents of young adults, new attitudes regarding marriage and family life may seem quite shocking and surprising. Many parents may believe that in order for their children to have happy and successful families, marriage is needed. For some parents and young adult children, this difference in values may prompt conflict. Parents that adhere to their values may find it difficult to accept the views of their children.
This may create notable barriers to successful communication and positive relationship outcomes. For parents faced with this difficult situation, moving forward can be a challenge. However, it is necessary for parents to recognize their role in their adult children’s lives and attempt to accept the decisions made by them. Although adult children are often seen as still in need of support and guidance, parents need to recognize that their role in shaping outcomes for their children has changed. As adults, children have the right to explore their worlds, determine what is right for them, make mistakes and learn from these mistakes. As adult children follow through these processes, parents must respect their children’s decisions and recognize that their adult children have the right to determine and direct the course of their own lives.
Although this advice can be presented in a logical and rational manner, the emotions involved in parents letting go of their children can be quite intense. Parents, because of their natural desire to protect their children, want to spare them from harm and provide them with the benefit of their wisdom. As such, even when parents see their adult children making a mistake, their first response is
to intervene and to stop the mistake from happening. Emotions involved in this process will typically drive behavior, and in the end, action from parents may result in a broader set of problems and more conflict. Even when parents have the best intentions, the outcomes may not reflect these intentions. The view of relationships held by young adults clearly challenges the views of parents and society, especially when it comes to marriage and building a family. While the views of young adult children on relationships may be much different than those held by their parents, young adults have the right to express their opinions and live their lives in a way that they believe suits their needs. Parents that must come to terms with differences in opinions regarding marriage and family may find it difficult to avoid conflict on the issue. In order to overcome this conflict, parents have to recognize the need for their young adult children to make free and autonomous decisions. While allowing this process to occur may create internal conflict for the parent, it will ensure that parents are able to maintain positive relationships with their adult children.
Dr. Clatch practices at the Courage to Connect Therapeutic Center, 2400 Ravine Way, Suite 600, Glenview. For more info, call 847-347-5757 or visit couragetoconnecttherapy.com.