Tag Archives: marriage rates

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

Choose Exciting over Pleasant Activities to Boost Marriage

Exciting activities improve marital satisfaction much more than pleasant activities. A new study by the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory of New York State University showed that a group of couples who spent two hours each week engaging in a new, exciting activity gave a dramatic boost to their marital satisfaction. A second group who engaged in highly pleasant, but only moderately exciting, activities, showed no significant change in their perceived marriage quality.

I found the results interesting, because I would have expected at least some reported improvement in both groups. However, I’m not surprised the first group with their novel experiences created stronger results. This is because previous research has focused on the hormone oxytocin that is released when a couple falls in love, has sex, or shares novel, exciting experiences together. This hormone helps a couple bond and feel all lovey-dovey. In addition, if you are learning about or experiencing something new together, you are united in your goal of accomplishment. It can be exhilarating to enjoy a new experience or learn something challenging together.

As many married couples find it difficult to keep their passion alive, the study is a great reminder to focus at least some of our attention on how to keep things exciting. It can be a bit daunting, however, for those of us who don’t spend much time climbing mountains or exploring underwater caves. So, it’s important to find something you both would find enjoyable, new and exciting.

The study authors had couples make a list of things they would like to do that are exciting. This is a perfect starting point for you. Make a list, and rate each activity 1-10 for pleasantness and excitement. Find something that you both find moderately pleasant but high on the excitement scale.

You might consider:
• Travel to a new, exciting destination
• Learning a new language together
• An outdoor activity, such as zip lining, biking in a challenging terrain, training together for a mini marathon.
• Taking a cooking or dancing class
• Getting a couples massage
• Talking about, and experimenting with new techniques in the bedroom (or buying an enticing, sexy new garment)
• Going to a rock concert or venue you wouldn’t normally attend
• Surprise each other occasionally with a gift or a date night
• Go on a marriage retreat or a weekend getaway
• Brainstorm ideas that fit your interests and area of the world—scuba diving, hiking in the mountains, skiing, camping—but only activities that are NEW for you, not what you find yourself doing over and over again.
• Learning a new skill together—photography, pottery making (remember that scene in Ghost?!), a musical instrument, race car driving, flying an airplane

Married life doesn’t have to be dull. What makes affairs exciting is the notion of getting to know someone attractive and new, going to new places, trying new activities, and having new sexual experiences. Have an affair with your own spouse, and experience these exhilarating feelings in the safety of your own marriage. Maybe you do your hair differently, or put at attractive outfit together. Then, go do something really fun together, and enjoy the boost in your marriage. There’s no excuse for saying married life is boring.

What’s the most exciting thing you have done lately as a couple?

Interesting Links:

Bikinis or briefs? Read a new study that proves bad underwear can ruin your day. Really. So, choose your panties carefully, and it may improve your life and make you feel sexier and more confident. Your hubby may also appreciate this.

Divorce’s Impact on Teens. More than half of American teens (55%) do NOT live with their married mother and father. Using United States Census Bureau data from 2008, a study revealed that 62 percent of Asian-American teens live in two-parent households, compared to 54 percent of whites, 41 percent of multiracial background, 40 percent of Hispanics, 24 percent of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, and 17 percent of African-Americans.

Walk through effects of Divorce. A new program in Britain—the country with the highest divorce rates in Europe—suggests that couples on the brink of divorce confront the realities how divorce would impact their family before taking the next step. It’s based on an educational program in Norway that has been effective at keeping families together.

Do you believe in soul mates? This marital therapist at Psychology Today does not, and says the idea alone contributes to relationship failures. She says too many people leave their marriage then they decide they have finally met their “true” soul mate, who ends up not being so ideal in the end.

Photo credit: © Maxim Petrichuk/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.

Current Divorce and Marriage Rates

Someone asked me recently whether the often cited divorce rate of 50 percent was correct for Americans. The answer: Not really. That figure is a result of averaging a lot of facts together. In addition, the divorce rate has fallen some in recent years.

If you are interested, here are details on divorce rates. The higlights:

  • 41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce
  • 60% of second marriages in the U.S. end in divorce
  • 73% of third marriages in the U.S. end in divorce

There are also disparities in the age of the married couple. Those who married between ages 20 to 24 have the highest divorce rates.

Couples with children have lower divorce rates than those without. It has been reported that sociologists believe childlessness to be a common cause of divorce. The absence of children leads to loneliness and weariness and even in the United States, at least 66 percent of all divorced couples are childless. I researched this fact after interviewing a couple who was infertile for 14 years of marriage and later went on to adopt and have two biological children. While infertility did put a strain on their marriage, in the end it brought them closer together as they learned to focus on what they had, rather than on they didn’t have.

To learn more about why people divorce, read the best divorce predictors. Also, read the reasons Americans give for their divorces.

Interestingly, the vast majority of Americans still think marriage is worth the risk; 81% of men and 86% of women marry by the age of 40.

The Marriage “Haves” and “Have Nots”

I’ve posted a guest post today at The Marry Blogger about the societal divide of marriage in the United States. Here’s the intro:

College educated married couples are about half as likely to divorce as their less educated peers. Americans have seen divorce rates drop by about 30 percent since the early 1980s, but Americans without college degrees saw their divorce rates rise 6 percent.

This has created a social class divide in our society where the marriage “haves” (along with their children) receive the proven benefits of marriage, while the “have nots” fall further behind, economically, emotionally and socially, according to The Evolution of Divorce from National Affairs magazine’s fall 2009 issue.

To read the entire article, to go The Marry Blogger.

Marriage 101: Is It Teachable?

When I was a 24-year-old bride, I thought my husband should know when I was upset, should apologize when he was wrong and should agree with me when I pointed out why I was right. Ah, young love. The stuff of storybook romances.

The fact is many of us have unrealistic expectations of marriage at the outset. Diane Sollee, who coined the phrase “marriage education” says while people are given instructions on how to court, get engaged and get married, how to have a great honeymoon and get through pregnancy, people are not often educated about what to expect in a normal, good marriage. She founded the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education in 1995, because she believed there was a fundamental understanding in society of the importance of a complete, biological, intact family.

One common misconception is that there are compatible and incompatible couples. When the industry moved from studying failing marriages to studying successful marriages in the 1980s, they learned there is no compatible couple. “All couples disagree the same amount. Couples have to manage money, children, sex, others and time, and they will disagree about those,” said Sollee in an Examiner.com article. Experts now teach how to effectively manage (not “resolve) conflict, which is found in every marriage.

Sollee’s organization provides an educational web site to provide information helpful to maintaining long, happy marriages. It’s part of the Utah Marriage Initiative launched to help make marriages stronger. Educational articles help fill in the blanks when family role models or personal experience aren’t perfect, or for people who want their marriages to be better than average.

Does is surprise you that Utah has a state-wide initiative? It shouldn’t. Our nation is working at the Federal level to promote two-parent families and discourage out-of-wedlock births, and the government and is measuring states’ performances and linking welfare funds to those objectives. In 1999, Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating launched the nation’s largest marriage initiative to cut that state’s high divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates. It appears their motivation was at least partly financial, as it followed a 1998 report that showed the state’s economy was suffering as a result of high family breakdown and increasing poverty levels. Utah was spending $276 million per year on unwed childbirth and family fragmentation prior to its initiative.

Religious, professional and political groups are all mobilizing toward the same goal of preventing family breakdown as detailed in this article. Their motivations may be moral, financial, political or seeking to improve the welfare of our nation’s families. All of them have to return to the basics, because the two questions to which many in our society don’t know the answers (especially those who grew up in fragmented families), are “Why should we value marriage?” and, “How can we create a long-term, happy marriage?”

Probably the most compelling answer to the first question for couples who plan to have children is the overwhelming evidence that children do better in all respects when they are raised in an intact family. Research also shows society as a whole benefits when divorce rates and out-of-wedlock rates decline. Marriage and family experts are trying to educate the public to help them answer the second question, but the overall conclusion is that couples can learn how to have more fulfilling, happier marriages if they work at it and have realistic expectations.

Thankfully, I’ve learned from quite a few mistakes during the last nearly 15 years of marriage. Do you think you can learn to be a better spouse, or is marriage unteachable? What can we teach the next generation to help build stronger families?

Be Optimistic about Relationships

Sometimes the bad news about marriage can seem overwhelming. Dr. Russ Guss writes about optimism in relationships in his Moment-to-Moment Optimism blog. He finds there is plenty of good news, for example some facts he shares:

*The 10-year marriage failure rate of college and non-college graduates is down to 16% for first time marriages in the 1990s.

*Men and women born in the 1930s and married in the 1950s have the highest marriage without divorce rate of any generation: 96%.

*The majority of couples who experience infidelity in marriage remain married.

*Individuals who marry after age 25 have better odds of making their marriage succeed.

*Weaker relationships appear to be ending before marriage. (Selecting a life mate is a huge decision. I’m hoping people are giving it a little more serious consideration.)

*Couples are choosing to overcome tough problems and make their marriage work through “hard work.”

*Society cares little whether the man or woman makes more money.

*In the early stages of a romantic relationship, our brains “turn off the button” that searches for perceived personality flaws and focuses on fun and pleasure. (This may be helpful when it comes to falling in love, but keep in mind that your brain is naturally inclined to be more negative with your long-time spouse than with the new cutie in the next cubicle. Your perceptions can override reality. Instead of looking elsewhere, if you continually put positive energy in your marriage, you will improve your chances for success.)

What Factors Make Your Marriage Less Likely to Last?

Love isn’t enough for a marriage to succeed, say researchers from the Australian National University, who followed 2,500 couples for six years to learn which couples stayed together and which did not.

First, the factors which do NOT seem to impact a marriage’s success rate:

  • How many children a couple has
  • Whether or not the wife works
  • The number of years the couple is employed

The factors that played a significant part in whether marriages lasted were:

  • Second/third marriages—90% are likely to separate or divorce.
  • Age—If a man is under 25 when he marries, or is nine or more years older than his wife, the marriage is twice as likely to fail as if the man is older than 25 or closer to his wife’s age.
  • Blended families—Of those who marry with children from prior relationships, 20% end up divorced.
  • Desire for children—If the woman’s desire for children is much stronger than a man’s, the marriage is unlikely to succeed.
  • Parents’ relationships—Children of divorce had a 17% divorce rate, versus 10% divorce rate for those from intact families.
  • Smoking—Having one smoker in a marriage increases the likelihood of divorce.
  • Money—16% of self-reported poor couples in which the man was unemployed broke up, while 9% of those with comfortable bank accounts divorced.

If one or more of these factors is a concern for your marriage, don’t be pessimistic about your relationship. Instead, discuss it with your partner and seek tools or support for any areas of concern. But if you haven’t married yet, and your fiancé is a 22-year-old unemployed smoker, he has two children from a previous marriage, and he doesn’t want any more children (and you do), think long and hard about it.

What do you think about marriage statistics? Do you give them any credence or do you feel your relationship is unique and not impacted by outside trends?

Prospects Strong for those Wishing to Marry Later

Two decades ago, Newsweek magazine joked that a 40-year-old single woman was “more likely to be killed by a terrorist” than ever marry. Though the comment was made in jest, it stuck and was often cited. However, even the not-joking marriage probability rating they offered for a 35-year-old woman was only 5 percent. The story induced quite a lot anxiety, which, it turns out, wasn’t warranted.

While fewer married in their 20s, the rate of women who eventually marry was much higher than expected, according to Newsweek.com’s Marriage by the Numbers. Some trends that did pan out as expected were the higher rates of cohabitation and the emergence and growth of single mothers by choice.

The biggest marriage shift for women has been to wait longer to marry. Additionally, marriage rates for better educated women is much higher than for women with lower levels of education. While the old stereotype said that women who excelled professionally may have been less appealing or “overqualified” as spouses, a 2001 Princeton study shows that college degrees make a woman more likely to marry, not less so. The trend is so pronounced that researchers now worry “that marriage, which confers a host of economic, tax and child-rearing advantages, is becoming disproportionately reserved for better-educated, middle- and upper-class elites.”

Many of today’s 30-somethings are less alarmed today if they haven’t found the perfect mate, says the article. Odds are, in fact much better for those in their 30’s and 40’s who wish to marry to find a spouse than had been assumed. Approximately 90 percent of baby-boomers have married or will marry. In 1960, half of women married by 20. Now, many more women are waiting to finish college and at least begin their careers. As of 1996, a single 40-year-old woman had about a 41 percent chance of marrying. Those odds have increased to just under 50 percent. Today, the median age for a first marriage is 25 for women and 27 for men.

While most of the research focused on women, because data on them was more available, men’s attitudes toward marriage have also changed over time. Both genders of Gen-Xers are said to have a greater commitment to marriage because so many watched their parents divorce. Many men openly seek a wife as much as the reverse. Women are also considering younger men, where previously that was more taboo.

Newsweek revisited 11 of the 14 single 20-something women who were interviewed for the original story. Eight are married, including a pediatrician who met her husband while hiking the Badlands and married at 45. Some said they wished they had found their spouses earlier, especially when battling infertility. Three remained single, one whose fiancée died, another who chose to adopt as a single woman. None who married divorced.

Are you still looking for the perfect spouse? Do you think it helps that people are marrying later in life when they are more mature and established? What are your predictions for future marriage rates? (Or, would you prefer we ignore these predictive statistics entirely?)

For the full Newsweek article, visit: http://www.newsweek.com/id/52295/

Number of Unwed Mothers Rises Sharply in U.S. & Worldwide

When I see my children with their father, I can’t imagine their lives without him there on a daily basis. The bond they share is as close as theirs to me, but it’s different in many ways. Fathers provide not only a vital role in child rearing, but also in supporting and assisting mothers and in demonstrating to children how a man should treat a woman. Apparently in the U.S., fewer and fewer children are enjoying this important bond with their fathers.

The number of children being born to single mothers has risen sharply in recent years, according to The Washington Post. This trend is being attributed not to teen parents, but to women in their 20s and 30s who are choosing to have children without being married. Nearly 40% (4 of every 10 births) are now to unmarried women, up from 18% in 1980.

Some causal factors being discussed include a lower social stigma associated with unmarried motherhood, an increase in cohabitation and delaying of marriage, and an increase in financially independent and older women deciding to have children on their own (for instance after delaying having children until their career was established).

The Post cited some experts giving positive reasons more women are now single mothers, for instance in the past more were compelled to give up children for adoption or coerced into abortions, and now pregnancy to a single mother is common. Other experts said “the trend is disturbing because children who grow up without stable, two-parent families tend not to fare as well.” (Just a note: I think it’s clear there are many single moms who do an excellent job given a difficult set of circumstances, and they should be acknowledged.) 

Worldwide, this trend is even more apparent, according to USA Today. In Northern European countries, marriage rates are substantially lower than in the U.S. Iceland has the highest number of out-of-wedlock births, with 6 in 10 births to unmarried women. There are some differences between the U.S. and other countries, however. “U.S. mothers are more likely to be single parents because the non-married relationship doesn’t tend to last very long,” says demographer Patrick Heuveline, so many more of these children in the U.S. are born to single mothers without fathers present. In European countries these births tend to be in two-parent cohabitations, to parents who are in a stable union but unmarried.

How do you react to these statistics? How do you think these trends will affect the next generation of Americans? Does marriage provide any value to society or is it a dying institution? Do you think fathers are vital or optional to children’s upbringing?