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Race/Ethnic Differences in the Marital Expectations of Adolescents: The Role of Romantic Relationships


Population Research Center and Department of Sociology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station G1800, Austin, TX 78712-0544 (


I use a sample of 12,973 adolescents in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to examine race/ethnic differences in perception of the likelihood of marriage in adulthood and the role of heterosexual romantic relationship experience in explaining this difference. Compared to adolescents from other race/ethnic backgrounds, White adolescents are more likely to date and are especially more likely than Black adolescents to participate in serious romantic relationships that increase marital expectations. Although the type of current or recent relationship is associated with marital expectations, they do not explain the observed race/ethnic gap in these expectations. Overall, the results suggest that these adolescent romantic experiences likely play only a small role in determining differential marital expectations.