ASIDE FROM A 29-INCH WAIST and a full head of hair, there isn't much to recommend the 20-something male.
He is footloose and fancy-free -- except for the fact that he is likely to be living with his parents. It takes him longer to leave home than his women friends, and he is more likely to return.
He is, of course, sexually active and therefore at increased risk of unmarried fatherhood, but he doesn't especially like kids.
He considers them a financial burden and an irritant in any relationship with the mother.
He is openly suspicious that a woman would try to trap him with a pregnancy or that a one-night stand would result in a pregnancy and a long-term parenting relationship with a woman he doesn't care about and doesn't want to marry. This fear, how-ever, doesn't keep him from regularly waking up with a stranger.
He can father children well past middle age, so he is in no hurry to marry.
He is looking for a "soul-mate," and he believes there is someone out there whom he is destined to love.
If he finds her, he is also likely to find that the relationship does not live up to this romantic ideal, but it will be easy enough to divorce these days.
In the meantime, he is taking his time looking for her because he can, so his current lifestyle is likely to extend into his 30s.
He is living an extended adolescence -- an adult-olescence -- and every immature, irresponsible, self-absorbed thing he does is reinforced by the latest issue of his favorite men's magazine.
If one of his sexual liaisons does result in a child, there are no longer any social pressures for him to commit to family life.
He is likely to live with the mother for a while or enter a loose child-rearing contract that does not include any commitment between the parents.
Women are losing patience with this guy. According to a Gallup Poll, 40 percent of women in their 20s would consider having a child on their own if, by their mid-30s, they had not found a good man to marry.
"It's kind of an apocalyptic view," says Rutgers sociologist David Popenoe, but one sketched for us by the research from the National Marriage Project, a nonprofit, pro-marriage research organization.
In taking stock of the state of matrimony, Popenoe and partner Barbara Dafoe Whitehead found a "good dad-bad dad" dichotomy in the profile of fathers.
For every father who takes the 2 a.m. feeding, packs lunches or helps with homework, there are biological fathers who are running in the other direction.
"If you look at fathers in intact marriages, they are certainly doing much more than their own fathers did, in terms of child care and helping around the house and in establishing egalitarian relationships with their wives.
"But if you look in the aggregate, men are withdrawing from family life in various ways," says Popenoe
"Men are delaying marriage longer.
"Relationships where there are out-of-wedlock births or cohabitation with children tend to break up.
"Then there is the high divorce rate.
"Add that up, and you get a very different picture."
In a recent report, Popenoe and Whitehead concluded:
"The pattern in American fatherhood today is confounding: while a growing number of fathers are highly engaged in their children's lives, there are also more fathers who are disengaged or entirely absent.
"The key factor contributing to this divergent pattern is marriage."
Marriage is the glue that holds fathers to their children. Without it, they drift away.
Even fathers who live with but are not married to the mother "fail to show as much warmth or put in as much time or money in the care of their biological children as do married fathers."
The lives of children have become "more turbulent, insecure, and anxiety-filled" as a result of this loose-jointed relationship between their parents, and they face more than twice the risk of social and behavioral problems.
What is the answer, especially if the 20- and 30-year-old male is such poor marriage material?
Popenoe is cautiously hopeful.
"We are beginning in this nation to talk about marriage more -- on a national level. And there is widespread agreement that living with two biological married parents is the gold standard for the well-being of children.
"We can only live with so much turmoil, and people may wake up and realize we have to work harder toward family stability."