Featured News 2012 Then and Now: Marriage in 2012

Then and Now: Marriage in 2012

Marriage was once viewed as a lifetime commitment, and people who married were considered partners until they perished. In the early 1900s, 97 percent of all marriages lasted until one spouse passed away. But 110 years later, our perspective on marriage has changed drastically. Americans now marry older, and get divorced quicker. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most women get married at age 26, and men are normally over 28 when they tie the knot.

This is partially because society has changed the standards for morality. In the early 1900s, couples married early because there was a social pressure to do so. "Shacking up" or moving in with your significant other was an unheard of concept, and sexual relations between unmarried individuals was considered sinful. It was, in essence, the time of Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and all of society held those same standards. It wasn't until the Sexual Revolution that Americans slowly become more accustomed to the idea of physical involvement without a marriage license to justify it.

Along with changing views on morality, America also shifted their opinion on divorce. Annulling a marriage was a scandal in the early 1900s, and many people would stay together because of social pressures. Even if love had died, parents would refuse divorce because of their children, or to honor their parents. They would also stay together because of financial stability. This was a time when women were expected to stay at home, and needed the financial support that a husband could bring. The Feminist movement radically changed this attitude, and made it possible for women to work full-time and support themselves.

The divorce rate in 1900 was 3 percent. Currently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that there is only a 52 percent that a marriage will survive for 20 years. The CDC admits that men are slightly more successful than women when it comes to this situation. They have a 56 percent chance of lasting 20 years with the same spouse. According to NBC News, people aren't avoiding relationships. They are simply choosing to live together instead of marrying officially. Marriage is contractually binding, and some couples would rather experience the benefits of a marriage without the imposition to stay together when things get tough.

Couples are even choosing to start a family out of marriage- a concept unheard of in previous generations. As recently as the 1940s and 1950s, parents who were unmarried were expected to have a wedding before the child was born. Now, children grow up with unmarried parents and don't think anything of it. When a couple is married, children may help their marriage last. In fact, in the CDC survey, 77 percent of all couples who had a child after marriage stayed together 20 years. The National Survey of Family Growth determined that there's been a rise in the prevalence of cohabitation nationwide. 11 percent of all women in the United States are cohabiting with a partner. In 1982, only 3 percent of all women were cohabiting with their partner rather than marrying him.

According to the CDC's study, highly educated people tended to get married later than those without degrees. This is in part because those who have worked so hard on their education want to spend time developing a career before settling down. Not only do higher educated people marry later, but they stay married longer. In fact, in a controlled survey 78 percent of all women with at least a bachelor's degree made it to their 20th anniversary. Only 41 percent of all women with a high school diploma lasted that long. For men, 65 percent of higher educated people lasted 20 years of marriage, and only 47 percent of the men who hadn't pursued education after high school stayed married that long. People are more likely to marry when they feel economically stable, and research shows that white collar workers are more likely to get married than their blue collared counterparts.

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