4 minute read

Mennonite) Anabaptists (Amish

Mennonite Families

In the twentieth century Mennonite community and family life changed in some significant ways. At the beginning of the century they were primarily an agrarian people who lived in homogenous rural communities. By the close of the century less than 7 percent of Mennonites were still on the farm (Kauffman and Dreidger 1991). For the most part they have given up traditional dress, have left the agrarian way of life, have moved into most professions, and are much more involved in the life of the dominant culture. They have developed their own institutions of higher education, an insurance industry, an international mission and service organization, retirement communities for the elderly, and many other formal organizations.

Within families there has been an increasing emphasis on egalitarian childrearing and a trend toward a balance of power between husband and wife. This change is probably associated with the increasing emphasis on employment for women. The majority of married Mennonite women are employed full-time outside of the home (Kauffman and Meyers 2001).

The average number of children in Mennonite families also approaches the national norm. In contrast to the Amish who continue to have large families, with the average family including 7 children (Hostetler 1993), Mennonites average 2.3 children per family among couples under the age of 49 (Kauffman and Driedger 1991).

Although Mennonite families are similar in many ways to families in the larger society, there are some unique characteristics of this population. Mennonites continue to place great value on marriage. Ninety-one percent of women and 98 percent of men marry. The majority of Mennonites prefer to marry within their religious tradition. Furthermore, in the United States Mennonites tend to marry earlier than the rest of the population. The average age at marriage for men in 1989 was 23.2 and women 21.3 (Kauffman and Meyers 2001). In contrast the average for males and females in the general population was 26.2 and 23.9 (Eshleman 1997).

Mennonite families also tend to have higher incomes and lower rates of divorce than the dominant culture. The most recent comprehensive survey of Mennonites was taken in 1989 and in that year divorce rates were less than half of the non-Mennonite population in the United States. Only five percent of the respondents over the age of thirty who had married at some point in their life were divorced or separated (Kauffman and Meyers 2001).

Finally, progressive Mennonites tend to be less sexually active prior to marriage than the larger society. Approximately one-third of Mennonites admit to premarital intercourse, which is less than half the incidence in the general population (Lauman et al. 1994).


Braght, T. van. [1660] (1990). The Bloody Theater; or Martyrs' Mirror, trans. J. F. Sohm. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.

Eshleman, J. R. (1997). The Family, 8th edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Graber-Miller, K. (2001). "Innocence, Nurture and Vigilance: The Child in the Work of Menno Simons." Mennonite Quarterly Review 25(2):173–198.

Hostetler, J. A. (1993). Amish Society. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Hostetler, J. A., and Huntington, G. E. (1992). Amish Children. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Kauffman, J. H., and Dreidger, L. (1991). The Mennonite Mosaic. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.

Kauffman, J. H., and Meyers, T. J. (2001). "Mennonite Families: Characteristics and Trends." Mennonite Quarterly Review 25(2):199–210.

Kraybill, D. B. (1989). The Riddle of Amish Culture. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kraybill, D. B., and Bowman, C. F. (2001). On the Back-road to Heaven. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kraybill, D. B., and Nolt, S. M. (1995). Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Laumann, E. O.; Gagnon, J. H.; Michael, R. T.; and Michaels, S. (1994). The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Meyers, T. J. (1993). "Education and Schooling." In The Amish and the State, ed. D. Kraybill. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Meyers, T. J. (1994a). "Lunch Pails and Factories." In The Amish Struggle with Modernity, ed. D. B. Kraybill and M. A. Olshan. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.

Meyers, T. J. (1994b). "The Old Order Amish: To Remain in the Faith or to Leave." Mennonite Quarterly Review 68(3):378–395.

Nolt, S. M. (1992). A History of the Amish. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.

Redekop, C. W. (1989). Mennonite Society. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Roth, J. D. (2001). "Family, Community and Discipleship in the Anabaptist-Mennonite Tradition." Mennonite Quarterly Review 75(2):147–160.

Scott, S. (1996). An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.

Snyder, C. A. (1995). Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press.

Other Resources

Mennonite World Conference. (2000). "Mennonite and Brethren in Christ World Membership Totals for 2000." Available from http://www.mwc-cmm.org/Directory/mbictotal.html.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsMennonite) Anabaptists (Amish - Amish Community And Family Life, Stages Of Amish Family Life, Mennonite Families