New Research on Divorce Risks & Age of Marriage

New Research on Divorce Risks & Age of Marriage

Question: I saw that chances of divorce rise again for those married over age 32.  Is that true?

New Research on Divorce Risks & Age of Marriage

You may have seen the alarming articles, warning readers that now getting married at a later age will increase your chances of divorce. Yes, a new study did come out showing that delaying too long might actually increase the odds of divorce, but with no conclusive reasons as to why. And those articles make it sound like the risk is huge when it is still quite small, compared to those getting married at a young age.

Here are a few details.  Nick Wolfinger, sociologist at University of Utah, looked at the same data (2006-2010 CDC/NSFG) that we did for The Good News About Marriage.  Posted by Institute for Family Studies, the research found that those who get married after age 32 increase their odds of divorce by 5% every year.  This is quite a new development, as previous research suggested the risk of divorce simply leveling off after a certain age. After receiving some criticism with his findings, he repeated this same analysis with nearly identical findings, using the 2011-2013 CDC/NSFG data.

Interestingly, Wolfinger compares the results of the 1996 CDC/NFSG to the 2006/2010 CDC/NSFG data, somewhat like Shaunti did in The Good News About Marriage. He used a different method that allows nonlinear relationships to be revealed.  Wolfinger found an increase in divorce on both ends of the graph, those that marry under 20 and those that marry over 35.  The over 35 group increased 6% in that time frame, while the under 20 group only rose 3%.  Keep in mind that this data, as we point out in The Good News About Marriage, is used to measure fertility, so has a bigger population of younger marriages than the national norm.

Wolfinger also confirmed what others, including us, have reported: getting married in your mid-to-late twenties and even into early thirties seems to reduce the risk of divorce the most.  His analysis shows that for each additional year a person ages before marrying, they reduce their chance of divorce by a significant 11 percent.  That is until the age 32 or thereabouts and then the divorce risk begins to increase.  The National Marriage Project’s 2013 publication, Knot Yet, also found women who wed when they were in their midtwenties reported the highest percentage of being “very happy.”

Both studies show the highest divorce percentage, bar none, remains with those that get married as teenagers.  Wolfinger estimated only a 19% chance of divorce in the first five years of marriage for those 35 and over, as compared to a 32% chance of divorce in the under 20 group.  And in Wolfinger’s update using the more recent data, the chance of divorce for the young marrieds reaches 38%, as compared to 17% in the 35 and over group.

The good news for those single in their thirties: the divorce risk is still way lower than getting married super young. Also, as reported in Knot Yet, when one adds up those that reported being “very happy” when married at 30 or over, with those that reported being “pretty happy,” the result was 88% of overall happy marriages and only 8 percent divorced.  That is still pretty good news.

Tally Whitehead, M.A.P.T., is a researcher and writer as well as Director of Christian Formation at her church. She has served as Shaunti’s Senior Researcher for the last several years and was a contributing author for The Good News About Marriage. She resides in the Columbus, Ohio area with her husband and four kids. You can find out more about Tally at www.tallywhitehead.com

Links to Studies

Wolfinger’s original study can be found at: http://family-studies.org/want-to-avoid-divorce-wait-to-get-married-but-not-too-long/

Wolfinger’s research update can be found at: http://family-studies.org/replicating-the-goldilocks-theory-of-marriage-and-divorce/

The National Marriage Project’s Knot Yet report can be found at: http://twentysomethingmarriage.org/

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