Marriage and Separation Trends Familiar to a Divorce Attorney or University Professor Might Surprise
In Utah, where Family comes first, divorce rates are on the rise for some people while steadily declining for others. And while a therapist, church leader or divorce attorney could give you their opinion about the matter, one University Professor has done the research and has hard evidence to back up his hypothesis that marrying either early or late means a bigger likelihood of divorce, while “couples who marry in their late 20s and early 30s have the greatest chance of a successful marriage.”
He’s termed it the “Goldilocks rule of thumb” for what age to tie the knot—not too old, not too young, but just right (in the middle). After analyzing data trends across several years, he’s confident in his results. Apparently something important happens between age 20 and 25 that contributes to a lasting marriage when you wait those five years before deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone.
Nicholas Wolfinger is a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, and he says that his findings might even surprise a divorce attorney who sees hundreds of couples spilt firsthand. That’s because the data has appeared to change over time. 20 years ago, evidence showed that the longer you wait to get married, the better your odds would be of staying married. Now, though, there seems to be a cutoff point.
But neither a divorce attorney nor the social researcher is able to account for “why divorce rates are changing for people who marry in their mid-thirties or later.” The professor speculates that perhaps “being single for a long time somehow changes you,” or perhaps it’s something else that “has changed in society in marriage.” He only knows what the numbers show, and it’s that even across gender, race, education, religious participation, sexual history, and geographical location, “the trend remains constant across a variety of other factors.”
Maybe it’s a generational difference, or “experiences growing up,” Wolfinger posits; “most of those getting married now were born between 1970 and 1990,” and the experiences of their cohort differ significantly from the previous ones studied, born between 1950 and 1960 in terms of family and societal values, national economic and political stability, and a range of other factors.
What do the husbands and wives themselves say? One Utah couple that hasn’t called a divorce attorney so far attributes their success to the time period in their lives in which they chose to get married—that perfect “Goldilocks” stage. Both established in their careers, the Brands say that they were able to develop a good sense of themselves as individuals before joining as a couple, and having “robust but realistic expectations in a lifelong partner” is something that was more likely to happen once they had time to explore job opportunities and develop lifelong friendships independent of their marriage.
It’s also worth noting that, for the record, Wolfinger’s study confirmed that “higher education attainment, religious participation, and sexual abstinence before marriage all remain factors that prevent divorce.”