During the past week I started once again my "Preparation for Marriage" class at BYU. I have taught the class more than 80 times at five different universities during the past 20 years. Early in the course I give the students a quiz on marriage. Perhaps you would like to take it.
1. What percent of the adult population at the turn of the century married at least once?2. What percent of the adult population at the present time marries at least once?
3. What is the median age for males for a first marriage today?
4. What is the median age for females for a first marriage today?
5. What percent of the adult population is married by age 35?
6. True or false? Most people who marry for the first time stay married to their first marriage partner.
7. What percent of those who marry later divorce at some time during their lives?
8. Of those women who divorce, what percent eventually remarry?
9. Of those men who divorce, what percent eventually remarry?
Here are the answers:
1. 80 percent. About 20 percent of the population remained single at the turn of the century.
2. 97 percent. Only 3 percent of the population never marries at the present time.
3. 25 years of age. The "median" means that 50 percent of men are married by age 25 and 50 percent marry after age 25.
4. 23 years of age for women. The interesting trend for marriage for both men and women is that people are waiting longer to marry. The median age for first marriages for both men and women is going up one year every three years at the present time.
5. 90 percent. The vast majority of those who do marry do so by age 35. Another 7 percent, however, will marry after age 35.
6. True. 60 percent stay married to their first spouse.
7. 40 percent will divorce sometime during their lifetime.
8. 75 percent. Those divorced women who do remarry do so within six years after the divorce.
9. 85 percent. Divorced men usually remarry within three years after the divorce.
Why do I give my students this quiz? These statistics indicate that, all debate to the contrary, marriage is more popular today than ever before. Only 3 percent never marry at the present time compared with 20 percent who remained single at the turn of the century. The vast majority of the adult population in the United States still chooses to live their adult lives in a marriage regardless of its inadequacies and limitations. The trend verifies what Dr. John Sirjamaki noted in 1949 that "marriage is a dominating life goal of almost all men and women in the United States regardless of race, religion or economic background." Even among those who terminate a first marriage by divorce, the vast majority enter into a second marriage within three to six years.
In the 1970s David Olson at the University of Minnesota noted that "marriage is one of the most popular voluntary social institutions in the United States." Apparently the trend remains. We can philosophize and debate all we want about contemporary marriage, but when it comes to choices . . . people vote with their feet. No one has to marry but almost everyone does. And once married, the majority stay married to their first spouse.
If you have comments write to 1234 SFLC, Brigham Young University, Provo UT 84602.