Relationships in America Survey

2014

Sponsored by The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture

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Introduction

American society has undergone a veritable revolution over the past half-century in the way in which its population understands and approaches family life, religious faith, and sexuality. Within that span technological, cultural, and legislative changes have shifted the way many think about each of these.

No doubt some of the changes in the way we perceive families and relationships have made life better, promoting individual and familial well-being. Some, however, have not been as successful in helping us reach these ends. At bottom, many of the changes in American family life are neither unqualified successes nor obvious failures, but rather have both positive and negative consequences, the merits of which we will leave to others to debate. Nevertheless, the rapidly changing nature of relationships and families in America necessitates a fresh look at how social forces, demography, and religion continue to shape attitudes about family and intimate relationships. The Relationships in America survey is uniquely equipped to do that, answering a wide variety of questions and providing up-to-date estimates, which can inform our national discussion of family matters.

The survey was designed to provide a broad overview of the social forces that shape American society, as well as to document trends that affect individual and familial well-being. As such it asks respondents about a wide variety of human-interest topics, from their participation in religious services and religious beliefs, to questions about their attitudes regarding marriage, divorce, cohabitation, and other family forms, to specifics about sexual behavior, abuse, and domestic violence.

Since the project is wide in its scope—with lots of diverse questions germane to families, relationships, sexuality, and religion—we chose to organize this summary report in a unique manner. Instead of summarizing what we learned about one general area, we present each section as a question that addresses the unifying themes of that section. As such, the sections (or questions) can stand alone, and we encourage readers to skip around and pay attention to those most interesting to them, or most relevant to their work or area of study. The table of contents contains the questions that guide each of the sections of the research and that should help guide the reader to the topics that interest them the most.

The survey employs a very large weighted probability sample and as such represents the diversity of American adults’ contemporary experience. GfK, formerly Knowledge Networks, fielded the survey in early 2014 using their nationally-representative panel of adults. We acquired 15,738 completed surveys from this group. The survey includes only those Americans who are between the ages of 18 and 60, and is representative of this population. The survey is not poised to talk about the actions and attitudes of populations outside of this age range. More details about survey weighting, methodology, and sample selection are available in Appendix A.

We recognize that any analyses of these issues are incomplete, and this report is no exception. All analysis builds on previous work, and we are grateful to the many researchers whose work has helped us to shape and position this report. The sections, or questions, should not be thought of as comprehensive as more thorough examinations consonant with academic journal articles or book chapters. Additionally, this report is not peer-reviewed. But we hope that the research featured here adds to growing interest in research in these fields, and that others who come after will find this data and these analyses useful in shaping their understanding of the complex issues that shape American families and society. We invite comments and further inquiries, as we have just begun to explore all that the survey has to offer. We anticipate further study on these and other topics, and hope that others will join us as well in analyzing this data, and use it as a tool to enhance our collective understanding of social forces shaping American families. We invite readers to sign up for future research updates. In an effort to allow others to build upon our work, and as part of our commitment to transparency in research, we are pleased to announce that the full data set will be made available in mid-2015.


Questions, media inquiries, and comments should be directed to our research team. They can be reached by email at research@austin-institute.org. If you find this information interesting and helpful we also invite you to visit our website, like us on Facebook, or share stories on social media.

Report Sections
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Religion
Relationships and Sex
Marriage and Divorce
Family Attitudes
About the Report
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Questions, media inquiries, and comments should be directed to our research team. They can be reached by email at research@austin-institute.org. If you find this information interesting and helpful, we also invite you to visit our website, like us on Facebook, or share stories on social media.