“Best-Laid Plans”: Barriers to Meeting Marital Timing Desires Over the Life Course*

Rachel Arocho, Claire M. Kamp Dush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most youth desire to marry, and often around a certain age, but many individuals marry earlier or later than originally desired. Off-time marriage could have consequences for subsequent relationship stability and mental health. Whereas barriers to marriage goals in the short term have been studied extensively, predictors of meeting marital timing expectations over the life course are less well understood. This study examined possible barriers, including socioeconomic characteristics and family experiences, both background and formation, to meeting marital timing desires by age 40 using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort (NLSY79). Multinomial logistic regression revealed that greater education, religiousness, cohabitation, and premarital childbearing were associated with delayed or forgone marriage, but associations varied by gender and the age at which respondents stated their expectations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-656
Number of pages24
JournalMarriage and Family Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • adulthood
  • expectation
  • life course
  • marriage

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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