This report is based on original research conducted by the Institute for American Values' 16-member Courtship Research Team, led by Norval Glenn, professor of sociology at the University of Texas, and Elizabeth Marquardt, an affiliate scholar at the Institute.
Why this report? (From the Introduction)
"All of us are fascinated by how young people meet and mate, and as a society we are particularly interested in how college students - the next generation
of social leaders - make these decisions. Each generation of young people comes up with its own, seeming impenetrable vocabulary to describe their experiences, and outside observers are eager to learn the meaning behind these
terms. This report should satisfy those within and outside the academy who want to know something about what college women today are doing, thinking, and feeling regarding sexuality, dating, courtship, and marriage."
What do college girls mean when they say "I hooked up last night?" (From the chapter Hooking Up)
"On most campuses today there is a widely recognized practice, usually called
"hooking up," that explicitly allows sexual interaction without commitment or even affection ... Hook ups can occur between two people on just one occasion, or they can occur more than once between the same two people
over a period of weeks or months. The most common definition we heard was that a hook up is anything 'ranging from kissing to having sex," and that it takes place outside the context of commitment."
Whatever happened to dating? (From the chapter, Joined at the Hip or Hanging Out, and Little In Between)
"... probably few parents or older adults are aware of how extraordinarily different
'dating' is today. In our on-campus interviews we found that no term for interactions between college women and men holds more ambiguity, and reflects more confusion, than the word 'dating'. Indeed, there are at least four
separate ways that the word is used ... A UC-Berkeley student observed, 'There really is not much ... dating it's like people either just start hanging out together and live together and they are boyfriend and girlfriend. Or,
they just like do random hook ups and whatever and go into relationships.'"
Are there any generalized norms and socially prescribed practices that help young women think about sex, love, commitment, and marriage? (From the chapter, When Courtship Disappears)
on-campus interviews we found that many women, usually independently, were struggling to articulate rules and expectations that would help them to make sense of the prevailing confusion. Some women were clear that more rules
were needed, such as a sophomore at Colby College who said, 'Hooking up ... I think its okay for people to do that if that's what they want. But I also think that like rules should be laid out in the beginning.' Other women may
not have recognized that they were looking for 'rules,' but they nevertheless cited specific procedures or advice that they tried to follow in their interactions with the opposite sex."
Do college women want to get married? (From the Chapter, Marriage)
"We were surprised to discover the strength of the marriage aspirations of today's college women ... a significant number of
women told us that they thought college, in theory, should be a good place to meet a husband, but many also observed that it does not seem to be working out that way."
Should 'Grown-Ups' Care About the Mating of the Young? (From the chapter with the same title)
"Throughout history, the mating of young adults has rarely if ever occurred in a vacuum, but instead has
taken place in a thick nexus of social relations that included older adults who helped to influence young people toward good marital choices. Yet today, it appears that older adults, including college administrators and social
leaders who have access to the young through education, media, health professions, and more seem largely to have withdrawn from this role ... whether they realize it or not, the decisions that college administrators and others
make have a strong role to play in shaping a campus culture and thus helping to determine the environment in which young women and men meet and mate and perhaps consider marriage."
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- Responses (in percent) to the National Survey of College Women
- Responses (in percent) to the National Survey of College Women by Status of Parents' Marriage
- Responses (in percent) to the National Survey of College Women by Degree of Religiosity
- What's Love Got to Do With It?, Washington Post, July 27, 2001
- Hookups starve the soul, USA Today, July 26, 2001
- Campus Romance, Unrequited, Washington Post, July 26, 2001
- College Women Find the Non-Dating Game Confusing, USA Today, July 26, 2001
Praise from the Experts
"A shocking revelation: impropriety is not as much fun as it was cracked up to be." -Judith Martin, novelist and author of "Miss Manners" syndicated column and books, Washington, D.C.
"A remarkable, in-depth look of the world of dating and mating on college campuses. Students will see their experience accurately represented, and parents of students will be stunned at the
differences, some for the better and many for the worse, from their college experiences. The report is a wake-up call to the adult generation to reengage with young people who are struggling with
ambiguous and often unhealthy social norms about relating to the other sex."
-William J. Doherty, Professor of Family and Social Science and Director of the Marriage
and Family Therapy Program, University of Minnesota, and former President of the National Council on Family Relations
"Today's college women are struggling with how to handle the sexual freedoms their mothers fought for and won. The report makes clear that courtship is out and casual sex is in, but also richly
portrays the diversity of relationships found on most college campuses. Whether women have benefited from these new freedoms is not altogether clear. Read these interviews if you wish to
understand the ways in which the dating scene has changed over the last few decades and what this implies for pathways into marriage or other more committed relationships."
-Isabel Sawhill, Senior Fellow, Johnson Chair, the Brookings Institution, and President of the
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
"This report tells parents and college administrators a story that has been suppressed and invisible to older generations. Now we can see more clearly, whereas before we were blind. We don't need
to condemn college life today to imagine how its contribution to relationships, marriage, and family life can be improved."
-Don S. Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor of Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences,
and Director, the Religion, Culture and Family Project, University of Chicago
"A fresh view on an important topic. Both intellectually rigorous and highly readable, this report points out how today's adults are failing young people in their journey toward adulthood."
-Linda J. Waite, Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago, and former President of the
Population Association of America
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About the Author
Elizabeth Marquardt is an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values in New York City and co-author of a ground-breaking study on college women's attitudes about sex and dating on campus, titled "Hooking
Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today." The study was featured in national publications including the
Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and by columnists including William
Raspberry and Maureen Dowd. Currently, Ms. Marquardt is researching and writing a book on the moral and spiritual lives of children of divorce, a topic she began studying while in graduate school at the University of Chicago.
Ms. Marquardt has appeared on television programs including NBC's Today Show, CNN's Talk Back Live, ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Fox's O'Reilly Factor and The
Judith Regan Show. She has been interviewed on more than a dozen radio programs including National Public Radio's All Things Considered Weekend Edition and the Voice of America. Her
writings have appeared in publications including the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune Magazine, and the Christian Century.
She has spoken to college audiences and presented at conferences around the country. Ms. Marquardt lives with her husband, Jim, in Chicago.
Read the commentary ``Hooking Up in College: A Guy's Perspective" by Elizabeth Marquardt.
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