Item from the Smart Marriages Archive, reproduced in the Divorce Statistics Collection

From: Scott Stanley, University of Denver
(author: The Heart of Commitment)

1) As recently as 1992, the U.S. Bureau of Census completed a
sophisticated analysis and concluded:

". . . if one assumes a continuation of recent divorce trends, about 4 out
of 10 first marriages to the youngest cohort may eventually end in divorce.
Alternatively, if one assumes a return to the pattern of divorce during
the 1975 to 1980 period, 5 out of 10 first marriages may eventually end in
divorce (Current Population Reports, P23-180, 1992, p. 5), ."

So, the 40-50% number is a projection for younger folks marrying for the
first time. As comes across in this piece, conditions in society could
change to affect this either way. In fact, Andrew Cherlin, one of the
prominent scientists in this area, believes that these kinds of projections
are very valid, but also suggests that it is particularly hard to
confidently predict the future in times of great social change.

2). So, what is the divorce rate? Consider the following statements:

+ Approximately 31% of your friends and co-workers, aged 35 to 54, who are
married, engaged, or cohabitating have already been previously divorced.

+ If your parents have been married many years (let's say 35+ years) and
have never been divorced, the likelihood of their marriage ending in
divorce is nil.

+ The rate of divorces per year per 1000 people in the U.S. has been
declining since 1981.

+ A young couple marrying for the first time today has a lifetime divorce
risk of 40%, unless current trends change significantly.

Each of these statements is true and defensible. They each tell you
something different about divorce. On the positive side, the rate has been
slowing declining. On the negative side, a young couple really does have a
very high chance of not making it.

3) William Mattox, who writes for USA TODAY, has raised an excellent
concern about the ways such numbers can be misunderstood. Do couples
really understand that the 40-50% number is only a projection that is not
written in stone? Does this projection leave couples demoralized, feeling
that most couples are doomed to fail anyway? Or does it give rise to
motivation to take marriage more seriously? We really do not know the
answer to this question. Mattox's point is very important: couples need to
know that they do not have to live out the prevailing societal trends.
There's nothing wrong with the 40-50% projection, it's just that couples
don't necessarily have to stand by and let it come to pass.

4) New data shows that first-born kids are now less likely to be born to
a married person than an out-of-wedlock person.
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