New research says that getting married at a much older age may no longer be the best move for those wanting to avoid divorce.
After analyzing 2006-2010 data from the National Survey of Family Growth, a nationally representative survey conducted by the CDC, University of Utah sociologist Nicholas H. Wolfinger found that the conventional wisdom of getting married later to avoid divorce no longer holds true.
According to his research, while those who get married in their late 20s do indeed experience less divorce than those who wed during their teens or early 20s, the risk of divorce rises for those who marry in their early 30s or later. Wolfinger writes in his analysis:
“My data analysis shows that prior to age 32 or so, each additional year of age at marriage reduces the odds of divorce by 11 percent. However, after that, the odds of divorce increase by 5 percent per year.”
The results of his analysis were found to still be valid even after he controlled for other factors for divorce like race, religion, education, city size and number of sexual partners.
According to Wolfinger, the divorce rate for older newlyweds has been creeping upward for 20 years and is a reversal of a previous, decades-old trend.
He believes that a selection effect may explain why those who wait to get married are experiencing more splits:
“[T]he kinds of people who wait till their thirties to get married may be the kinds of people who aren’t predisposed toward doing well in their marriages. For instance, some people seem to be congenitally cantankerous. Such people naturally have trouble with interpersonal relationships. Consequently they delay marriage, often because they can’t find anyone willing to marry them. When they do tie the knot, their marriages are automatically at high risk for divorce. More generally, 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.”
Although Wolfinger’s research is an important new development in current marriage research, older newlyweds would be wise to remember that a higher statistical risk of divorce doesn’t automatically mean divorce — the actuality of divorce is up to the individuals, after all.
Nonetheless, as Wolfinger puts it:
“This finding changes the demographic landscape of divorce, and lends credence to scholars and pundits making the case for earlier marriage.”