New Challenges for the Church, as Millennials Delay Marriage, Having Children

Christopher White writes:

A new study shows that as millennials are approaching age 40, their family life radically differs from past generations, a reality that Catholic leaders and scholars say present particular challenges for passing on the faith and for building Catholic community.

An analysis released last month by the Pew Research Center of new government data reveals that millennials are slower than previous generations in building their own households, with most choosing to delay marriage and childbearing.

Among the summary findings, Pew found that only three-in-ten millennials live with a spouse and their own child, which is a dramatic decline from previous generations. Further, more than half of millennials are not married and those that do get married, do so much later in life. The analysis also found that millennial women are less likely to give birth, compared to previous generations, although they noted that those who are mothers aren’t necessarily having fewer children.

According to Christian Smith, professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame and the Director of the Global Religion Research Initiative (GRRI), “the Catholic millennials look pretty much just like the rest of the millennials. They don’t really differ that much.”

“American religion and American family are closely connected,” he told Crux. “If people are not engaging in family formation, if they’re delaying that or never having families, they’re going to be much less likely to be involved in the Church.”…

“In theory,” Wittberg told Crux, “it used to be that people would fall away from religious practice in their late teens or in college while they are unmarried and then they would get married at the age of 24 or 25, they’d have kids a year or two later, and then they’d start going back to church.”

“But if you’ve got millennials not getting married until their thirties, you’ve got a good ten years in there where they’re not getting married and not having kids and doing the whole ‘millennial thing,’” she noted. “And this presents serious challenges where we’re still trying to figure out how to respond.”