Family Formation: Men’s Attitudes, Values, and Expectations

Publication Date
November 13, 2019

The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse recently published a new Data Snapshot revealing how men’s behaviors, attitudes, and values on family formation have changed in recent decades. The data show that men are delaying marriage and increasingly living with partners prior to getting married. Additionally, they are becoming fathers at increasingly older ages.  These changes in behavior are mirrored by men’s attitudes towards children, family life, marriage, and cohabitation. For instance, the majority of men ages 15-44 believe that:

  • being able to support a family financially is very important for a man to be a good husband/partner, but not necessarily important for a woman to be a good wife/partner.
  • divorce is not the best solution when a couple cannot work out marriage problems.
  • it is okay for a young couple to live together without being married.
  • spanking young children is an acceptable form of discipline.

Data was drawn from published reports that use nationally representative data and the NRFC authors’ analyses of the General Social Survey data and 2013-2015 National Survey of Family Growth data.

Results of this Data Snapshot can be used to assess current materials, programs, and initiatives to better target fathers to help address the current attitudes, values, and expectations of contemporary fathers.  Some ways practitioners can use this data include:

  • To assess materials in your program on cohabitation to ensure that it discusses the benefits and challenges of living together before marriage.
  • To educate fathers on alternative forms of discipline besides spanking. Research shows spanking is not an acceptable method of disciplining young children. Practitioners can develop tip sheets or trainings on acceptable discipline techniques to use instead of spanking.
  • To use this Data Snapshot as a conversation starter at fatherhood meetings or study groups to start discussions on the findings and your audience’s beliefs about fatherhood.

Understanding the needs and values of the fathers and the families in your community is critical. Being aware of the latest trends in fatherhood can help you better serve the fathers in your community by developing and refining the materials and services you offer for contemporary fathers.

Citation: Whitfield, B. & Wildsmith, E. (2019). Family formation: Men’s attitudes, values, and expectations (NRFC Data Snapshot). National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.

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