Education and Capstone Marriage




Peterson, Riley

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Many have noted the substantial changes which have occurred in the American family over the past half-century, including a decreasing birthrate, shifting attitudes towards gender and sex, and a rising median age at first marriage. While opinions differ about whether these changes have been positive, it is clear that a significant and underspecified relationship exists between delays in marriage and higher education’s expanding role in facilitating the transition to adulthood. While some emphasize the predominant role of the “capstone” model of marriage in delaying marriage in general, others have pointed out that significant differences in marriage schemas exist along educational lines. To help clarify these tensions, I completed a cross-time analysis of 6 premarital expectation variables from the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) and found that capstone marriage schemas are particularly strong and stable among those who complete just a bachelor’s degree and marry, but are less predominant more generally, especially for those in other educational trajectories, particularly as they get older and as they marry. These findings demonstrate some key limitations of the capstone model of marriage, namely, that such ideas about what must be accomplished prior to getting married may not be so all-encompassing for many, if not most, young people in America.



Sociology, Marriage and Family, Capstone Marriage, Education