His research on the sexuality, family dynamics, and religious behaviors of youth and young adults in America led Mark Regnerus to become an advocate for early marriage. Associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford, 2007), Regnerus offered an "emotional, biological, and economic case for marrying young" in the Washington Post in April 2009. Later that year he added biblical and theological considerations in a cover story for Christianity Today. Leadership's Brandon O'Brien asked Regnerus what his research might mean for youth and young adult ministries in local churches.
Why do you advocate for young marriage?
Marrying early is certainly not something everyone ought to do. But the 20s seem meant for marrying and having children. It's how God designed us, both in terms of normal sexual development and fertility.
What's wrong with waiting to marry until 30 or later?
We say we like families. We try to honor marriage. But we're witnessing a nationwide slowdown in the formation of families that signals a declining confidence and interest in marriage among young people, especially men. This is true both outside and inside the church.
Why do churches not encourage younger marriages?
Plenty of Christian parents attribute their own failed marriages to the young age at which they married. As a result, they counsel their children to marry later. Many parents think their early 20-something children aren't mature enough for marriage. Then there's education: more of it seems required today than ever before, and having a full-time job has been a traditional indicator of marital readiness. Finally, some of the delay is probably a ...