It’s the age-old question: What is the best age to get married? Up to now, research has supported a linear relationship between the age a person marries and the age at which a person divorces. In other words, the older a person was when they married, the less likely they were to divorce.
According to a recent study conducted by University of Utah professor Nicholas Wolfinger, all of that has recently changed. Wolfinger’s research, which was collected from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) between the years of 2006 and 2010, now shows that people who marry after age 32 are more likely to divorce than those who marry during their late twenties.
The findings reveal that before reaching the age of 32, every additional year a person delays marrying reduces the risk of divorce by 11% per year; those who marry after age 32, however, experience a 5% per year increase in the risk of divorce.
According to Wolfinger, this is a trend that has been developing over the past 20 years, but only recently have divorce rates increased for those marrying in their early thirties and older. A study conducted in 2002 suggested that the risk of divorce for those marrying around age 32 or older was first beginning to flatten rather than decline with age as it had in the past.
In his research, Wolfinger was careful to adjust for various social and demographic differences between all those who participated in the survey, including respondents’ sex, race, family structure, age, education level, religious affiliation, frequency of religious worship, sexual history, and hometown size. The results remained consistent.
Wolfinger points to a “selection effect” that may be at play as the most likely reason for the recent rise in divorce rates among those in their early thirties and older, suggesting that those who marry later do so because they have all the makings of people who consistently fail at relationships and will continue to for the simple reason they already have. Wolfinger’s theory is essentially reverse Darwinism where only the un-fittest for marriage survive and then pair off with one another because no one else is left.
Regardless of the explanation, which Wolfinger admits is conjecture without further research, the findings make a strong case for marrying before age 32.