NFI Releases Report on National Marriage Survey

By — National Fatherhood Initiative
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has released With This Ring… A National Survey on Marriage in America, a report on one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on Americans’ attitudes towards the institution of marriage.

Norval D. Glenn, the Ashbel Smith Professor and Stiles Professor in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, headed the research project and wrote the report. The Office of Survey Research at the University of Texas at Austin interviewed, via telephone, a representative sample of 1,503 Americans over the age of 18.

Interesting Findings

Is it ever too late to get married?

We have all heard the conventional wisdom that getting married as a teenager is risky business. The data has shown that couples who get married as teens are significantly more likely to get divorced than other couples. However, have you ever thought that maybe you could get married too late?

According to the findings of the survey, it appears that for both men and women there may be a “peak marriage age” in the mid-twenties. More precisely, people who get married between the ages of 23-27 are much less likely to get divorced than those who marry as teens. People between the ages of 23-27 are also much more likely to be in high-quality marriages than people who marry in their late twenties or later. This new finding goes against the conventional wisdom that it is wisest to delay marriage until the late-twenties or thirties when one becomes more established. The reasons behind this finding are unclear. Some possibilities are that late-marriers may have unrealistically high standards for a spouse, or poor social skills. Also, having a longer succession of low commitment relationships may make it harder for persons to commit to marriage.

Nevertheless, this finding should cause us to reevaluate our views on when it is “best” for people to get married.

Are people happily married?

If you look for an answer to this question in the movie theater or on TV at night, you may think that all marriages are stale, unhappy, and sexless. But this survey suggests that Americans are by and large a happily married bunch. In fact, 69% of respondents said their marriages were very happy, and 88% said they were completely or very satisfied with their marriage. Granted, one must take into account the phenomenon that people tend to report answers in surveys that they think others want to hear. So, even if they are not happily married, they may just say that they are to avoid embarrassment or going against social expectations. However, the survey also asked people to assess the happiness of the marriages of people they know, and 73% of the respondents said that most couples they know have happy marriages. This is encouraging news. However, the encouragement that this news provides is dampened by the reality that most unhappy marriages tend to quickly end in divorce. Since unhappy marriages do not last very long, the marriages that remain intact are the happy ones. The degree of happiness in marriage, therefore, is not a completely accurate indicator of the overall health of marriage in general. But we should still be heartened by this important finding about the happiness and satisfaction of married couples in America.

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