While it was formerly believed that the older a couple is when they marry, the less likely they will divorce, new research suggests otherwise. The study, conducted by sociologist Nicholas H. Wolfinger at the University of Utah, was based on a statistical analysis of data from the National Survey of Family Growth from a nationally-representative survey administered by the CDC, and finds that while the risk of divorce declines steadily from your teens into your late 20s, it starts to rise again somewhere in the early 30s, and rapidly.
“Those who tie the knot after their early thirties are now more likely to divorce than those who marry in their late twenties,” Wolfinger said.
The data reveals that thirty-something marriage continues to yield a higher divorce rate even after controlling for sex, race, family structure, age, education, religious tradition, and sexual history.
Still, those marrying before the age of 20 face the highest risk of divorce. According to the study, titled “Want to Get Divorced? Wait to Get Married, but Not Too Long,” someone who marries at the age of 25 is more than 50 percent less likely to get divorced than is someone who marries at the age of 20.
“It’s no mystery why people who marry as teens face a high risk of divorce. Just recall your high school boyfriend or girlfriend. Along with the exhilaration of first love often came jealousy, insecurity, pressure from parents or friends, and tearful doubts about the future. Now imagine getting married under the same conditions,” Wolfinger wrote…[m]ost youthful couples simply do not have the maturity, coping skills, and social support it takes to make marriage work. In the face of routine marital problems, teens and young twenty-somethings lack the wherewithal necessary for happy resolutions.”
So, is it best to wait as long as possible to get married? Maybe not. According to The Washington Post, Wolfinger also says that the amount of time couples wait to get married may indicate that they are not the marrying type. “Perhaps people who marry later face a pool of potential spouses that has been winnowed down to exclude the individuals most predisposed to succeed at matrimony,” Wolfinger said.
The study showed that couples who married at age 35 or greater had a 19 percent risk of divorce, compared to a 20 percent risk for those aged 20 to 24, and a 32 percent risk for those who married before they were 20. Wolfinger noted that the increase in divorce rates for those above the age of 30 is a new development. He also found that past the age of 32, the odds of divorce increase by about 5 percent per year of age at marriage.
In related news, another study recently found that having multiple sexual partners prior to marriage significantly increases the chances of getting divorced. The Washington Post also revealed that overall divorce rates remain on a 30-year decline from their peak in the early 1980s.
So when is the best age to get married? According to Wolfinger’s study, it may be somewhere between the ages of 20 and 30. But time will tell if these findings that challenges the conventional wisdom that it is better to marry older will yield consistent results in the years to come.