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An 18-month study of the attitudes and values of today's college women regarding sexuality, dating, courtship, and marriage – involving in-depth interviews with a diverse group of 62 college women on 11 campuses, supplemented by 20-minute telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 college women – yields the following major findings.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.Yet comparatively little research examines how young people meet, mate, and decide to marry in the first place.
It is important, however, not to use them for estimates of the precise prevalence of any of the phenomena studied.
Surprisingly, the proportion agreeing that "Being married is a very important goal to me" was somewhat lower in the national sample (83 versus 91 percent), but the national sample respondents were more likely than the qualitative study subjects to say they would like to meet their future husbands in college (63 versus 50 percent).
Given the differences between the two samples, the results of the qualitative interviews should be interpreted with caution, but it seems likely that the kinds of attitudes, feelings, and experiences prevalent among the qualitative subjects are common at least among the women enrolled in the kinds of elite institutions at which these subjects were enrolled.
Since none of the 62 women interviewed in the qualitative portion of the study were enrolled in church-related institutions or in nonelite state-supported colleges, it is not surprising that these women were, on average, less religious than the women in the national sample and less traditional in some of their attitudes (see the comparisons in Appendix A, Table 2, available only in the pdf version of this report).
The largest and probably most important difference is that 78 percent of the national sample but only 37 percent of the qualitative study subjects "strongly agreed" with the statement, "I have a clear sense of what I should do in my romantic/sexual interactions" – an indication of greater confusion among women in the latter group.