Thank you to everyone who sounded off on Talk Tuesday! The discussion kicked off a little late and ran well into Wednesday morning. (Scribbles into calendar not to schedule opposite the State of the Union address next year. Rethinks Super Tuesday as well.) For the first part of this series, we are going to begin in the middle. Novel, eh? Consider it a page torn from George Lucas.
The Burning Question
Up for debate were the supports to the statistics claiming second marriage the most successful.
A Slight Detour Into Under the Bridge
As luck would have it, a troll came along and posted a link to a Psychology Today reference on a blog selling Save Your Marriage secrets claiming my university-based and NCHS-based (30-year study) research could not possibly be correct.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did not ignore him. I did, however, send him a little note, which read, in pertinent part:
I would not be quoting a blog selling marriage saving secrets who references Psychology Today as a reference. Marriage statistics do not support his 30/60 mix without biasing. The closest you can come to his 30% is to cut the pool into non-Hispanic, non-college grad, under 26, and then it still would have to be rounded up a few percentage points.
The only way to get to the 60% your huckster is touting for second marriage divorce rate is to take all of the numbers (first and second) add them and subtract 13%. That is not a sustainable algorithm by any standard known to research. Second marriages last longer and are considered more successful.
You need to be able to read the numbers and do the math to understand.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
The definition of success was slightly ironic. Divorce was not a factor in determining success of the second marriage, as much as avoiding divorce was. Huh? Non-statistician terms, please?
Obviously, the first marriage was dissolved. (We will use the term “divorce” to include divorce, dissolution and annulment.) The comparison is which one lasted longer. The divorce rate statistics we will use have been being compiled since 1973 on first and second marriages beginning from 1950.
At the 5-year bench mark, nearly 16% of all first marriages have ended in divorce. In second marriages, almost 15% failed to make it to the 5-year mark. The majority of these marriages in both groups failed before they got to the 3-year mark.
The level of error is carried by the number of women who separate, but never divorce, from the first marriage. Approximately, 9% of all first marriages end in a separation which never results in divorce.
What is the difference?
The following documented, quantifiable factors affect the successful outcomes of marriage:
- Economic status
- Employment status
- Violence (specifically premarital rape)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Region and population density
- Age difference between spouses
- Crime rate
- Number children (unwanted and wanted)
- Timing of child’s birth
- Familial history of divorce
- Difference in race between spouses
- Cohabitation before marriage
The Talk Tuesday audience touched on many of these factors. Without fail, the most decisive of the contributing factors in divorce of first marriages are the top five on the list. For second marriages, number and timing of children replace economic and employment status.
The characteristic which is not stagnant is age. Necessarily, we age whilst waiting for divorce, building a new relationship, operating in a second marriage, whether or not it also ends in divorce. Being older at the time of marriage, especially over the age of 25, translates into longer marriages.
Try It Before You Buy It
You would never consider buying a car without test driving it first. Ironically, more than 17% of couples marry the first time without living together. This number drops to around 4% for second marriages.
The More, The Merrier
Second marriages which begin with children from a prior relationship dissolve at an astounding 41% rate. For second marriages which introduce another child within seven months of marriage, the number jumps another 11%. Children complicate marriage, first and second.
Swimming in Numbers
With hundreds of pages of statistics, this post could become a thesis replete with charts and graphs. Instead, we are going to forego any further numbers in favor of the why’s and wherefore’s of how we get all these numbers.
Things to Think About
Some of the reasons topping the divorce Why? list are:
- Job Loss/Economic Hardship
- Ignorance (of the state of marriage)
- Sexual Issues
- Belief Systems
While this list is not exhaustive, by any means, it is the basis of the remainder of this series. Where yesterday, the topic was why do second marriages last longer, we need to look more closely at why first marriages fail.
Were there some surprises in the numbers? How about surprises in the reasons? Did you find some factors you did not consider? How do you see children as a complicating factor for first marriages? How important is the low rate of premarital cohabitation?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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