Tag Archives: divorce rates

Religious Practice is Relevant to Divorce Rate

It’s common to hear people say that Christians have the same divorce rate as non-Christians. In fact, most people believe this is an established fact. When digging deeper, however, this turns out to be false, at least when we’re talking about practicing Christians. Religious practice, not religious affiliation, makes the crucial difference.

W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, conducted his own analysis which concludes there is a big difference in the divorce rates between those who are committed to religious practice and those who self-identify with a particular faith.

To explain it further, people who refer to themselves as Catholics are 5 percent less likely to divorce, but active Catholics are 31 percent less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation. Among Protestant Christians, those who are nominal Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce than nonreligious people. Conservative Protestants are 10 percent less likely to divorce, and Conservative active Protestants are 35 percent less likely to divorce than people in the general population. The difference was a much more stark difference among Jewish individuals. Nominal Jewish people were 53 percent more likely to become divorced, and active Jewish people were 97 percent less likely to divorce than the non-religious. Wilcox controlled for socio-economic factors.

So, contrary to what you have heard, religious commitment and practice within a traditional religious faith does correlate with stronger and longer marriages. Reasons for these church-goers’ lower divorce rates may include having a community of support to help churchgoers live out the churches’ teachings. There were important correlations of note:

“Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said they were more religious reported higher levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce, and lower levels of negative interaction.  These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education, and age at first marriage,” reported Professor Scott Stanley, sociologist from the University of Denver. (From FactChecker: Divorce Rate Among Christians)

Jennifer Roback Morse writes in the National Review Online that the false assumptions that Christians divorce at the same rate as others is harmful because 1.) It contributes to a general sense that divorce is inevitable. 2.) It demoralizes people on a personal and policy level. 3.) It makes Christians appear to be hypocrites. 4.) People don’t know that religious practice has a stabilizing effect on marriages.

However, in every culture and religion, I think we can agree that divorce more common than we would hope.

Do you believe your belief system and/or religious practice affects your marital strength?

Get Inspiration for Your Marriage:

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com. Pick up your copy today!

Photo by David Castillo Dominici courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Divorce Rates are Declining, and Why Stats are Overrated

One of the biggest myths I frequently hear reported is that half of all marriages end in divorce. Analysts at McCrindle Research report that the divorce rate is one in three, not one in two.  “Marriages are actually doing better these days and the divorce rates are declining and have been for more than 30 years,” says social analyst Mark McCrindle.

The “one in two marriages will fail” is an example of a myth perpetuated by careless reporting of statistics. McCrindle says myths become accepted because the numbers give them “an element of believability.”

What harm is there to believing incorrect facts about marriage? Plenty. Couples enter marriage with lower expectations when they hear divorce rates of 50 percent and higher. Some decide it’s not even worth the risk of marriage, because they fear divorce is inevitable. I hear many young people questioning why they would get married when they lived through a family breakdown and/or hear the difficult odds of marital success. And others decide not to fight for their marriage or commit during difficulties, because they don’t believe they will succeed “against the odds.” Incorrect stats can therefore lead to lower marriage rates and higher divorce rates.

Research was carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics-based research to disprove five commonly accepted, but incorrect assumptions often heard in daily life. Two of the assumptions related to marriage. Other than the divorce rate, the other myth relates to the “seven-year itch” when people believe most divorces occur. In fact, researchers say divorce comes after an average of 12.3 years. To read about the other myths, read the Herald Sun article here.

Keep in mind that “on average” means that many last longer, and many don’t last as long. If many couples divorce in the first year, that brings the average marriage length way down. If a “median” is reported, that means half of the cases fall above this time period, and half fall below it. It doesn’t mean that time period for divorce is the most frequent.

 The U.S. Census reports that roughly one in five adults has ever been divorced.

What’s the point?

The takeaway is read/share your data with a skeptical eye, and to not perpetuate myths like “half of all marriages end in divorce.” Plenty of people complain about the difficulties of marriage, but if you have a strong marriage, don’t be shy about encouraging others. Be a positive voice for marriage where you work, in your church, in your home, and your words will have a ripple effect. Share blog posts with a couple who might find them helpful, along with a short email. Or consider mentoring a younger couple if you have a strong marriage.

If you know a couple who is planning to get married, realize that they are hearing many negative comments about the odds of their eventual success. Counter that with loving comments and positivity. No couple wants to be a part of a statistic; they want to know their union is unique and celebrated.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. The book tells the true stories that demonstrate that marriage can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. Learn from 12 inspiring couples who experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, interracial relationships, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other. Available from Amazon.com or at your favorite e-book retailer.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.

Unemployed Men Have Higher Divorce Rate

While our culture’s views about women working have changed substantially in recent decades, our views about men working appear not to have budged very much. Case in point, a study of more than 3,600 couples published recently in the American Journal of Sociology, which links unemployed men with higher divorce rates.

Despite the fact that more men are choosing to be stay-at-home dads while their wives work, this particular study surprised me in saying it’s still not culturally acceptable for men to be the primary care givers. Men who are not working face a greater likelihood that their wife would leave them. In addition, the men themselves were more likely to leave the relationship.

Whether a woman worked or not had no bearing on her husband’s likelihood of leaving her. However, a working woman who was very unhappy in her marriage was more likely to begin divorce proceedings than if she was unemployed. Researchers explain that these women have the resources that allow them to leave, but they said the employment itself wasn’t the source of tension.

So, there’s a bit of a dichotomy between working men and women. The reasons aren’t clear, although one possibility was that unemployed men are more likely to suffer from depression. And our cultural expectations of men appear to be still wrapped up on them being providers. (However, American women’s have outpaced men in education and income growth during the last 40 years. Read Who’s Marrying for Money?)

The study, reported in Time Magazine, is consistent with one from Ohio State, which also showed that men who don’t have a job have higher rates of leaving the relationship, and that their partners also have higher rates of leaving the relationship.

I have known some very competent stay-at-home dads with professional wives who are the breadwinners. I know it can work for many families, so I don’t want to come off as against this sort of arrangement. I think the knowledge of this research makes it clear that a couple who chooses to go this route will be going against the cultural grain and should be prepared to discuss the ongoing challenges. In addition, they should both be aware of the risk of depression, possibly from loss of social network or feeling overwhelmed by child-rearing responsibilities. They should also work hard to make the marriage a priority in the family.

One note, I don’t think the research differentiates between the men who were unemployed by choice and those who were unemployed by circumstance. It seems the latter group would have higher rates of depression.

See a summary of the study here.

Do you or your partner have experience being a stay-at-home parent? Do you think the challenges are different for men than for women? Do you think society’s views on men working are outdated or appropriate?

Related Posts:
Can women breadwinners have it all?
Are househusbands the ultimate status symbol?
Women breadwinners are more likely to be cheated on.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com.

Census: Divorce rates fall; long-lasting marriages rise

It may seem that divorce is all around us, and I think that influences the number of people who consider marrying or staying married. The reality is the U.S. Census Bureau just reported that the divorce rate has dropped and the number of long-lasting marriages has risen. Most Americans marry once and remain married.

With headlines questioning whether marriage has lost its relevance, and with spotlights on the high-profile marriages that fail, it’s not surprising that we as Americans have an inaccurate picture of reality. Here are some of the recently reported census facts:

  • Seventy-seven percent of couples who have been married since 1990 reached their 10-year anniversaries.
  • Fifty-five percent of all married couples have been married for at least 15 years.
  • Thirty-five percent of all married couples have celebrated their 25th anniversaries.
  • Six percent of married couples have been married more than 50 years.

Census data also tells us people are waiting longer to get married and that fewer people are choosing to marry. So it would make sense that people who do marry are more certain of their decision. “Couples that get married in their mid-twenties or later than that are more likely to avoid divorce court,” said Bradford Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. He added that marriage is coming more stable, while divorce is becoming less common in the U.S.

Unfortunately, certain segments of the population are seeing increases in divorce and in childbearing. These include Americans without a college degree who are less affluent, working class or poor. Wilcox calls it the marriage divide and says 41 percent of kids today are born outside of marriage, are likely to be exposed to a “carousel of romantic partners and to suffer as a consequence.”

As a country, we still have significant improvements to make. This recent divorce decline comes after decades of increases in divorce rates. Those who are financially struggling have more difficulties staying married. In addition, certain races face higher divorce rates. The Associated Press reports the percent of first marriages that end in divorce are as follows: Black women: 49 percent; white women: 41 percent; Hispanic women: 34 percent; and Asian women: 22 percent.

See: ABC News story on the Census Report

In addition, rather than simply reduce the divorce rate, we hope to improve marital quality. That’s the goal of this and many other blogs and marriage professionals. Please share with me (either via email or by commenting) what topics you would like to see that relate most to improving your own marital quality.

Related Links:
Do we have too much of a fix-it mentality toward marriage? I think so. Read “What’s wrong and how do I fix it?” I’ve agreed with Corey’s philosophy in past posts, that what we focus on gets larger. So focusing on a small problem on your marriage can potentially grow into a serious one. Corey spells out very clearly the better strategy to focus on where you want to go and on how you can be a better spouse.

What causes divorce? I tend to agree with Paul that many times it’s death of a marriage by 1,000 cuts rather than one specific item.

Men who seek to improve marital quality may enjoy these two men-only Christian marriage blogs:
Better Husbands and Fathers –shares a list of date ideas for you and your wife.

I like the post “Be there for her” at the web site Romantic Act of the Day.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Divorce Rates Hit Lowest Rate Since Early ’70s

The divorce rate in the U.S. is now at its lowest point since the early 1970s, according to data recently released by the National Center for Health Statistics.  Infidelity rates, marriage and birth rates are also declining.

According to a New York Times analysis, there were approximately 3.4 divorces per 1,000 people in 2009, falling from 3.6 in 2007 and 3.5 in 2008.  Marriages and birth rates also declined. Some say Americans are holding off on these major life changes due to a dismal economy. In 2007, 7.3 marriages per 1,000 people were reported. In 2008, rates fell to 7.1, and in 2009 to 6.8. Read the full report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Americans continue to have the misperception that half of marriages fail. It may even make us feel like the odds of marital success are so high that we can’t be held responsible if we fail. If you’re living in poverty, a teenager, a high school dropout, a person with a lower-than-average IQ (yes, low IQ is a risk factor for divorce), a person on your third or fourth marriage, yes, your odds of marital success are low, and premarital education and skills training are essential. However, the success rate for first-time married college-educated adults (among other groups) is excellent. Prepare and believe in the success of your union, and you will be more likely to succeed.

The problem is that increasingly, young couples don’t feel equipped to enter into marriage, often because of their economic or job situation. Education and income level have a direct impact on family life and marital strength. An interesting article by Andrew Cherlin and Bradford Wilcox called “The Generation that Can’t Move On Up” states:

These working-class couples still value marriage highly. But they don’t think they have what it takes to make a marriage work. Across all social classes, in fact, Americans now believe that a couple isn’t ready to marry until they can count on a steady income. That’s an increasingly high bar for the younger working class. As a result, cohabitation is emerging as the relationship of choice for young adults who have some earnings but not enough steady work to reach the marriage bar.

The problem is that cohabiting relationships don’t go the distance. In fact, children who are born to cohabiting parents are more than twice as likely as children born to married parents to see their parents break up by age five. These break-ups are especially troubling because they are often followed by a relationship-go-round, where children are exposed to a bewildering array of parents’ partners and stepparents entering and exiting their home in succession.

Research points to education playing heavily into the solution of more stable families. While 40 percent of infants today are born to unwed mothers, 90 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth. College-educated adults don’t learn the key to marital success while studying at a university. Instead, they are more prepared for the job market, and they can often avoid the extreme financial stresses of those without an education…stresses that can cause a marriage to quickly unravel.

Whatever reason the pundits ascribe to the falling divorce rate, I’ll call it good news. As for bridging the economic and educational gap in America, I’m afraid we have a significant distance to go.

Are 20-Somethings in a Relational Wasteland With No Courtship?

Chances are you met your mate, dated for a while, fell in love, got engaged, then got married. It’s the “courtship narrative” we were brought up with. But it’s not the case anymore. For many, “this narrative has been disrupted, without being replaced, leaving many 20-somethings in a ‘relational wasteland.’” Sadly, in this super-connected society, true emotional connections are becoming more difficult.

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project a the University of Virginia, writes in The Washington Post about young people who are Lost in a World Without Courtship.

Why the change? Sexual activity is starting much earlier than in previous generations, but the average age at which people marry is later. This leaves a hormone-filled gap—during which our culture (including parents and churches, according to Wilcox) provides little guidance. Casual sex generally fills the gap, with no discussion of love, and often no dating or courtship. (It’s not uncommon to hear about “sexual favors” being performed casually in elementary and middle school.) Even after graduating from college, many 20-somethings go out in groups and “hook up” as they wish, rather than go out on dates. Occasionally, a couple creates a “relationship,” but marriage is not the next step in their narrative.

Wilcox says young people have evolved their own narrative, and the next step is cohabitation. “For some, it is a test-drive for marriage. For others, it is an easier, low-commitment alternative to marriage.” From 1960 to 2007, cohabitation increased forteenfold. “Serial cohabitation trains people for divorce…and can poison one’s view of the opposite sex,” says Wilcox, adding that engaged couples who cohabit are generally not adversely affected.

The bigger problem for society is when cohabiting couples decide to procreate. “Cohabitation is no place for children,” says Wilcox. Three-fourths of children in such unions see their parents split by age 16, while one-third of children with married parents see them divorce. He says marriage is society’s best tool for binding the parents together in the common interests of the child. Children in single-parent homes are considerably more disadvantaged—financially, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Wilcox suggests the ideal age to marry seems to be in the early to mid-20s. Teen marriages have a much higher divorce rate, and those marrying after 27 are at risk of being too set in their ways or having unrealistically high standards. (Kathleen Quiring has just written a series on why early marriage can be a positive trend in her opinion. Read the series at Project M.)

What’s your story? How did you meet your mate and fall in love? Do you think courtship, romance, dating and love are dying out with the young? How do you think marriage will be affected for the next generation? What do you teach your children about love and sex?

Top Reasons Americans Give for Their Divorce

After today we’ll get away from the stats. For the data-seekers, here are some top reasons Americans say they divorce (they could select more than one reason). Po Bronson’s web site has much more analysis on family issues, divorce rates and marriage trends, as well as international divorce rates. The info is a little out of date but Bronson gives real insight. I was surprised at the high rate of physical abuse toward women. Top reasons why American women said they’d gotten divorced:
           communication problems (69.7 percent)
           unhappiness (59.9 percent)
           incompatible with spouse (56.4 percent)
           emotional abuse (55.5 percent)
           financial problems (32.9 percent)
           sexual problems (32.1 percent)
           spouse’s alcohol abuse (30 percent)
           spouse’s infidelity (25.2 percent)
           physical abuse (21.7 percent)*

Top reasons why American men said they’d gotten divorced:
communication problems (59.3 percent)
incompatible with spouse (44.7 percent)
unhappiness (46.9 percent)
emotional abuse (24.7 percent)
financial problems (28.7 percent)
sexual problems (30.2 percent) *

   
 

In a U.S. study, more than 25 percent of the women said that their husbands’ unfaithfulness was a factor in their divorce. Less than half as many men (10.5 percent) said it was their wives’ infidelity which was a cause of their divorce. In fact, more men said that their wives’ in-laws were a reason for the divorce (11.6 percent) than said it was because their wives had had an affair.

Sources from PoBronson.com:

* According to a 1985 study. Totals do not add up to 100 percent because respondents could select every reason that was applicable. Margaret Guminski Cleek and T. Allan Pearson, “Perceived Causes of Divorce: An Analysis of Interrelationships,” Journal of Marriage and the Family (February 1985) p. 179, 181.

 

     

*Margaret Guminski Cleek and T. Allan Pearson, “Perceived Causes of Divorce: An Analysis of Interrelationships,” Journal of Marriage and the Family (February 1985) p. 179, 181.