By Don White
What’s the average marriage age in America? The average age at which people marry in the United States has been steadily increasing over the past few decades – from a low in 1960 with averages of 20.3 years for women and 22.8 years for men, it has risen to 25.6 years for women and 27.5 for men.
The early marriage downside: While early marriage may sound enticing to our youth, what is the downside? It should be obvious that those considering marriage today are not the same as their forbearers almost 50 years ago. The economic situation for married couples has changed significantly (with far more two-income households); the educational needs of most couples are different (with both sexes earning more advanced degrees); and the social pressures are different.
It’s not all that surprising that some research suggests that marriage is “better” at a young age (though past the teenage years), and other research suggests that it’s better in your thirties.
An article in USA Today has a lot of opinions ranging from it’s better to marry earlier so there’s less of a risk for problems having children, to it’s better to marry later when you “know yourself. USA Today misses some really obvious issues that cast a shadow on the research. First, what is the definition of “better”? There are many couples living together that are not married, and while they have not officially tied the knot, they may live happier lives than some married couples where one spouse sleeps on the couch. So one way to try and answer the question is to look at divorce rates.
One fact that USA Today neglected to mention is that divorce rates went up from 1960 to 1980, and then experienced an overall decline from then until now. Was this a result of all those who married young in 1960 coming to their senses? Or was this the result of tumultuous social change in the United States? Are divorce rates higher if you marry earlier or later?
The divorce rate is lower among older people who get married – but it’s also lower for more educated people and our thrust would be to better educate all kids and at a faster rate. No one is quite sure if later marriage or more education best reduces divorces. Instead of recommending people to marry later to ensure a successful marriage, should we recommend, instead, that they get more college credits and get them sooner?
And then there’s money: Greater economic security is also correlated with less divorce. While those searching for economic security have traditionally married later, that will change with Dr. No’s earlier marriage plan.
Some people also point to the advantage of living together first and “testing out” whether the union is good before involving the legal status of marriage and possibly divorce; others point to the notion that such a “test” is simply marriage without commitment, one that will more likely end in “divorce” or separation. In some circles it is now acceptable for unmarried people to have sex and live together – both of which used to be the exclusive realm of the married. Even the Lutheran Church agrees to a prospective husband moving into the home of his female friend’s parents and sharing a bedroom with her for a year or two to see if they are compatible. I guess they figure kids will sneak around and have sex anyway, so they might as well endorse it as long as the sex occurs with the knowledge and permission of both set of parents. But research shows that, though we don’t call these breakups divorce, the incidence of these couples breaking up is equal to the divorce rate. But at least the split is less traumatic for all involved, coming without the legal and social stigma and difficult entanglements of divorce.
While marrying before 20 is generally rejected as an “ideal” norm, is there really an age that will “help” marriages survive? Or are there other, more dominant factors that play a role and eclipse the difference between marrying at 23 and marrying at 31? It’s too bad that USA Today didn’t ask the various sociologists and psychologists it interviewed about whether divorce would decline if income improved, if people had more college education, or if people dated for a specified period of time first. Of the many, many factors that impact the success of a marriage, age is at best a rough correlate with the real deal. And it’s almost impossible to decipher whether certain ages could improve relationships, or whether we can “help marriages survive” by addressing other, underlying problems with marriages that fail. But getting married because it’s the “ideal time” is a disaster in the making.
One of the reasons that research is so difficult in this field is that those who get married at 20 or earlier are not the same as those who get married at 30, even after controlling for obvious confounding factors like education level. One of the quoted researchers on the issue (Norval Glenn of the University of Texas-Austin) claimed to have found that those who marry in their early 20s are happier and more satisfied with their partners than those in their 30s. But it could be that those in their 30s are pickier people — which is why they didn’t marry in their 20s to begin with.
When are people in other nations marrying? Information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriageable_age
· Nearly half of Indian people get married before 18.
· Legal marriage age in Russia is 16, and in some parts it is 14. Average age of marriage for men is 24, for women 22.
· In Vietnam legal marrying age is 18, but there are exceptions. In mountain or rural areas, 8 percent of women are married, divorced or widowed between age 15 and 19.
· Taiwan, 18, male and 16, female, with parental consent. Otherwise, 20, the age of majority.
· Hong Kong, 21, 16 with parental consent.
· Estonia 18, 15 with parental or court consent.
· Denmark 18, 15 with parental and Queen consent.
· Germany 18, 16 with court consent. Partner must be 18 or over.
· Iran 18, 15 with parental consent.
· Afghanistan: 18 for males and 14 for females, more than half of marriages involve females under 16.
- Alabama: 18, 16 with parental consent. (statute).
- Alaska: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Arizona: no statutory minimum, under 18 with parental consent, under 16 with approval of a superior court judge and parental consent. (statute)
- Arkansas: 18, 16 for females and 17 for males with parental consent.
- California: no statutory minimum, those under 18 must receive approval of a superior court judge, or parental consent.
- Colorado: 18, 16 with parental consent, no minimum with judicial approval.
- Connecticut: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- District of Columbia: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Delaware: 18, 16 for females with parental consent.
- Florida: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Georgia: 18, 15 with parental consent, 16 without parental consent if pregnant.
- Hawaii: 18, 15 with parental consent.
- Idaho: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Illinois: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Indiana: 18, 17 with parental consent, 15 in the case of pregnancy with both parental and judicial consent.
- Iowa: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Kansas: 18, no minimum with parental consent.
- Kentucky: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Louisiana: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Maine: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Massachusetts: 18 for first marriage, 16 with parental and judicial consent .
- Maryland: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Michigan: 18, 16 with parental consent, 15 and under with parental consent and probate judge approval.
- Minnesota: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Mississippi: 21, 17 for males, 15 for females, with parental consent.
- Missouri: 18, 15 with parental consent.
- Montana: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Nebraska: 19, 17 with parental consent.
- Nevada: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- New Hampshire: 18, 14 for males and 13 for females, in cases of “special cause” with parental consent and court permission.
- New Jersey: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- New Mexico: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- New York: 18, 16 with parental consent, 14 with parental and judicial consent. .
- North Carolina: 18, 16 with parental consent, unlimited in case of pregnancy or birth of child with parental consent.
- North Dakota: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Ohio: 18 for males, 16 for females, less with parental consent.
- Oklahoma: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Oregon: 18, 17 with parental consent. The consenting parent or guardian must accompany the applicant when applying for the marriage license.
- Pennsylvania: 18, 16 with Birth Certificate and written consent of parent or guardian, under 16 with parental consent and under 14 with the approval of a Judge of the Orphans Court.
- Rhode Island: 18, 16 for females with parental consent.
- South Carolina: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- South Dakota: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Tennessee: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Texas: 18, 16 with parental consent. 14 with judicial consent or if person under 18 had previously married and divorced.
- Utah: 18 for first marriage, 16 with parental consent, 15 with court approval.
- Vermont: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Virginia: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Washington: 18, 17 with parental consent. May be waived by superior court judge.(statute)
- West Virginia: 18, 16 with parental consent, under 16 (unspecified limit) with parental and judicial consent
- Wisconsin: 18, 16 with parental consent.
- Wyoming: 18, 16 with parental consent.
What great people married “early”? Scottish king and emancipator Robert de Bruce was only 16 in the thirteenth century when he married Elizabeth de Burgh who was 12.
George Washington and Martha were both 27 when they married.
Twenty-six-year-old Edgar Allan Poe married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia.
In eighteenth and nineteenth century France the daughter who married young was often well-born and literate. Her husband was also young and had grown up not far away from her. She had a mother and a mother-in-law who had been young brides and at least one sister who had married young. As the youngest of a large family, she often had lost her father.
In Ancient Rome, people didn’t marry because they were in love. Folks married to carry on the family bloodline and for economical or political reasons. Women were under the jurisdiction of their fathers and young girls were often married off when they were between the ages of twelve and fourteen. Some young men married at fourteen also.
During the Middle Ages the practice of youthful marriages continued and women married as early as fourteen. Men generally waited until they were more established in life which was usually when they were in their twenties or early thirties. In 1371, due to the plague, the average age at marriage for men was 24 and for women it was 16. By 1427, the average male of all classes did not wed until he was in his mid-30’s, usually choosing a bride about half his age. Rich girls seemed to marry at a younger age than poor girls.
It is obvious from a historical perspective that marriages of teenagers (at least teenage girls) were quite common. However, that trend has changed in most countries of the world. Today, young love is neither encouraged nor readily accepted by society.
The Center for Law and Social Policy reports that “Compared to girls who marry later, teenage brides have less schooling, less independence, and less experience of life and work.” Teen brides are also at more risk for being abused and living at poverty levels.
While marrying your 13-year-old cousin may have been somewhat standard in the 1800s, it was certainly not acceptable in 1957, when rock ‘n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin Myra, 13. It understandably caused an uproar and radio stations refused to play his music. It almost ended his career, but he later found a niche in country music. Myra and Jerry Lee had two children, one of which (Steve Allen Lewis) died at age three. The other, Phoebe, helps manage Jerry Lee’s career today. Jerry and Myra were divorced in 1970.
“In Iraq,… nearly half of all married couples are first or second cousins.…
A 1986 study of 4,500 married hospital patients and staff in Baghdad found that 46% were wed to a first or second cousin, while a smaller 1989 survey found 53% were “consanguineously” married (having common lineage). The most prominent example of an Iraqi first cousin marriage is that of Saddam Hussein and his first wife Sajida.”
(Versus less than 1% of European marriages, and even fewer,
less than 1/5th of 1% of American marriages are to first cousins.)
Full article (opens in new window)
India introduced laws against child marriage in 1929 and set the legal age for marriage at 12 years. The legal age for marriage was increased to 18 years in 1978.
Unicef recently said that child marriage was increasing India’s maternal and infant deaths. Girls who give birth before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. If a mother is under the age of 18, her infant’s risk of dying in its first year of life is 60% greater than that of an infant born to a mother older than 19.
“More than 40% of the world’s child marriages take place in India. Worldwide, more than 60 million women between 20-24 were married before they were 18. Child brides become mothers much before their bodies are physically mature for pregnancy,” UNICEF’s Karin Hulshof said. She added that child marriage prevented many girls from continuing their education and were also less likely to seek
and immunize their babies.
Dr. No believes that if school at age four and marriage at 16 were the norms, children would live by those norms and would be better focused to learn everything faster and better, especially in the home where primary learning should take place. If parents wanted to home-school their children, they could do that with impunity and with the praise of society. So, says No, you kill two ugly birds with one stone: no more sex perverts, no more gay and lesbian movement, no more time off to think about anything but school and fast approaching married life, that is legalized sex early in life with all of the accompanying responsibilities and hard-work ethic requirements.
“Oh, there will be those who cry foul,” he says “ – you haven’t let my little “Suzie grow up properly.” Or “What about boy scouts and little league football and baseball?’ To that I say, those were bygone frills that in our accelerated society we can no longer fritter our time on.”
“Then how will they learn the lessons of teamwork, honesty, the golden rule?”
“They’ll have Saturday and Sunday to learn those lessons in church which this program should encourage not forget. “Separate church and state” doesn’t mean secularism. God forbid. We need God and the church, more today than ever. Strong American family values should be based on strong Christian/Judeo beliefs. And if a person wants to be a Muslim and study Islam or any other real religion, that’s fine too. But in my book, atheism is not religion because it discounts the existence of God or that he had any part in the creation of mankind or in his continued happiness and peace.”
No’s plan will work only among God-fearing people. That’s what John Adams said about democracy. Adam Smith said religion is necessary to sustain community based on a shared notion of the virtues. (Democracy, Equality, and Justice, John E. Hill). John Adams believed that, and also that democracy wouldn’t work in a totalitarian, sectarian society. That is because it takes high personal morals to “do what is right” and to live a moral code taught in the Bible by the prophets – and when a leader has no religion, or has abandoned it like Barak Obama, it throws off his judgment.
The entire societal changes No suggest will work, but must be preceded by an educational commitment by all Americans, and long periods of guidance, conditioning, and training to allay fears that this could be a Godless perversion and a selling short of our most highly loved and cherished ideals, the love of our children. If that happened it would be tragedy, says No, for exactly the opposite is intended – along with the saving of a nation. It is aimed at preventing America from further floundering in mediocrity and wasting away intellectually and spiritually due to wicked and perverse anti-social pressures and people that children in our current hi-tech society must confront daily at school and on the streets — people with lower personal standards, and even some of those whom they may consider good friends.
There is no doubt in my mind about the importance of rearing our children in 12 years as opposed to the current 18. The lie of Obama mania has made it necessary, like it or not.
But why is “early” marriage necessary or right? Marriage is ordained of God. He did not place restrictions as to when people should link their lives together as married couples and families, but said that we should use wisdom in all things. Late marriage is a modern trend, not God’s will. It has only been in our century and the last that people did not tie the knot soon after puberty. Civilization would not have survived through the diseased past which was typified with short life spans had men and women not married as soon as hormones coursed through their bodies. It was only when life expectancy exceeded fifty years that people began deferring marriage. Had they waited to marry, today there would be scant few of us peopling the earth.
Age twelve is universally recognized as the age when children become adult-like in hormones and sexual functions. Puberty is a period of several years in which rapid physical growth and psychological changes occur, culminating in sexual maturity. The average onset of puberty is at 10 for girls and age 12 for boys. Every person’s individual timetable for puberty is influenced primarily by heredity, although environmental factors, such as diet and exercise, also exert some influence.
Puberty begins with a surge in hormone production, which in turn, causes a number of physical changes. It is also the stage of the lifespan in which a child develops secondary sex characteristics (for example, a deeper voice and larger adam’s apple in boys, and development of breasts and more curved and prominent hips in girls) as his or her hormonal balance shifts strongly towards an adult state. This is triggered by the pituitary gland, which secretes a surge of hormones, such as testosterone (boys) or estrogen and progesterone (girls) into the blood stream and begins the rapid maturation of the gonads: the girl’s ovaries and the boy’s testicles. Some boys may develop gynecomastia due to an imbalance of sex hormones, tissue responsiveness or obesity. Put simply, puberty is the time when a child’s body starts changing into an adult’s body.
Facial hair in males normally appears in a specific order during puberty: The first facial hair to appear tends to grow at the corners of the upper lip, typically between 14 to 16 years of age. It then spreads to form a moustache over the entire upper lip. This is followed by the appearance of hair on the upper part of the cheeks, and the area under the lower lip. The hair eventually spreads to the sides and lower border of the chin, and the rest of the lower face to form a full beard. As with most human biological processes, this specific order may vary among some individuals. Facial hair is often present in late adolescence, around ages 17 and 18, but may not appear until significantly later. Some men do not develop full facial hair for 10 years after puberty. Facial hair will continue to get coarser, darker and thicker for another 2-4 years after puberty.
The major landmark of puberty for males is the first ejaculation, which occurs, on average, at age 13. For females, it is menarche, the onset of menstruation, which occurs, on average, between ages 12 and 13. The age of menarche is influenced by heredity, but a girl’s diet and lifestyle contribute as well. Regardless of genes, a girl must have certain proportion of body fat to attain menarche. Consequently, girls who eat high-fat diet and who are not physically active begin menstruating earlier, on average, than girls whose diet contains less fat and whose activities involve fat reducing exercise (e.g. ballet and gymnastics). Girls who experience malnutrition or in societies in which children are expected to perform physical labor also begin menstruating at later ages.
The timing of puberty can have important psychological and social consequences. Early maturing boys are usually taller and stronger than their friends. They have the advantage in capturing the attention of girls and in becoming hand-picked for sports. Pubescent boys often tend to have a good body image, are more confident, secure, and more independent. Late maturing boys can be less confident because of poor body image when comparing themselves to already developed friends and peers. However, early puberty is not always positive for boys; early sexual maturation in boys can be accompanied by increased aggressiveness due to the surge of hormones that affect them. Because they appear older than their peers, pubescent boys may face increased social pressure to conform to adult norms; society may view them as more emotionally advanced, despite the fact that their cognitive and social development may lag behind their appearance. Studies have shown that early maturing boys are more likely to be sexually active and are more likely to participate in risky behaviors.
Mumbai: Despite all tall claims about women’s empowerment and a three-decade old legislation defining marriageable age, the evil of child marriage continues to haunt both rural and urban India.
According to India Info.com, http://lifestyle.indiainfo.com/article/0903140742_44/320391.htmlan astonishing 44.5% of girls surveyed when they were between 20 and 24, were married before their reached their 18th year, concluded a study on ‘Prevalence of Child Marriage and its Effect on and Fertility-control Outcomes of Young Women in India’, published in the Lancet, on March 10. It also stated that out of the sample size of 22,807 women, 22.6% were married before they were 16, and 2.6% before 13.
Though here are some boys who find other boys cute and more compatible and appealing than those of the opposite sex, and some girls who are attracted to others of like sex, most people are attracted to the opposite sex in a way that is not illicit, but ordained of God.
There are some religions now that recognize same-sex marriage, and three or four states in America in which men can marry men and women marry women and use the name of that union “marriage.” It is an issue that has ignited and polarized public sentiment.
United Church Of Christ (1.3 million members): The 25th biennial General Synod in July 2005 approved an “equal marriage rights for all” resolution, making it the first mainline Christian denomination to endorse gay marriage.
• Unitarian Universalist Association (158,000 members): It passed a resolution in 1996 supporting the legal right to same-sex marriage and urging UUA congregations to bless such marriages. Read a 2004 update from the denomination.
• Metropolitan Community Church: The church, whose motto is “sexuality and spirituality rejoined,” welcomes gays, lesbians, transgendered people and bisexuals and encourages the blessing of same-sex marriages.
Episcopal Church (2.4 million): The denomination has been in turmoil since Gene Robinson was elected as its first openly gay bishop two years ago. Read an update in an Oct. 14, 2005, But a Boston Globe story points out how controversial this issue is for Episcopal Church members who are very split on the issue, trending toward not accepting gay marriage. Its constitution defines marriage as “a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong.” Read a March 2, 2004, news release from the Episcopal News Service in which Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold urged Americans to proceed carefully and thoughtfully in considering a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution.
• Roman Catholic Church: ( 63 million U.S. members): In the document “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons,” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Roman Catholic Church in 2003 reiterated its position that “No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman.”
•Reform Judaism (1.5 million members): Reform Judaism, the largest of the three main branches of Judaism in America, is the only one to officially allow same-sex commitment ceremonies. In 2000 the Central Conference of American Rabbis approved a “Resolution On Same Gender Officiation” allowing rabbis to officiate at gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies. Read a March 29, 2000, press release posted by Beliefnet.
• Islam prohibits same-sex marriage.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (14.5 million members) Mormons prohibit same sex marriage.