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Jim Liebelt Christian Blog and Commentary

Now, the Bad News on Teenage Marriage

  • Jim Liebelt
    Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
  • 2008 Sep 10
  • Comments

While the Bristol Palin (teen) pregnancy was thrust into the headlines recently, the notion that she intends to marry her boyfriend (and the baby's father) was given little ink. The New York Times ran an article recently that covers the issue of teen marriage and how that statistics show these marriages face significant challenges in surviving. Of particular note, however, is the notion that pregnant teens who marry, do better than being a single parent.

Bristol Palin's impending nuptials to Levi Johnston (no date has been given) did not stir up nearly the same hullabaloo as the revelation of her pregnancy, on the eve of the Republican convention. But it is teenage marriage today, not teenage pregnancy, that is the rarity. And, statistics show, teenage marriages tend not to endure.

The median marrying age for women in the late 1950s was about 19, according to David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University and an emeritus professor of sociology there. But a marriage between 19-year-olds — or even 17- or 18-year-olds — then would not have been described as a “teenage marriage,” he said. It was too routine to be given a special label.

Studies show that today teenage marriages are two to three times more likely to end in divorce than are marriages between people 25 years of age and older. The most comprehensive study on marriage and age that sociologists cite was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001, from 1995 data, and it found that 48 percent of those who marry before 18 are likely to divorce within 10 years, compared with 24 percent of those who marry after age 25.

“Most young women don’t fare very well when it comes to raising a family as a teenager, and those precious few who get married, the marriages are very short-lived,” said Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “I know and respect a lot of 17-year-olds, but I don’t think any of them are ready to be married and begin the lifelong task of raising a child.”

Sociologists say that what drives the failure of teenage marriages — and some also say the postwar young marriage boom may have contributed to the divorce explosion of the 1970s — is the complex condition of being an unformed adult.

“They may not know quite what they want in a lifetime partner,” Dr. Popenoe said. “They still often have years of education to complete, as well as getting settled in the work world, and those two things may change their outlook on life considerably.”

But even those who acknowledge that teenage marriage is a risky proposition say it is a healthier choice for a mother and her childhood than single parenthood, even at 17.

Source: New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/04/fashion/04marriage.html?

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