and Choosing a Marriage Partner
Helpful Facts for Young Adults
1. Marrying as a teenager is the highest known risk factor for
People who marry in their teens are two to three times more
likely to divorce than people who marry in their twenties or
2. The most likely way to find a future marriage partner is
through an introduction by family, friends, or acquaintances.
Despite the romantic notion that people meet and fall in love
through chance or fate, the evidence suggests that social
networks are important in bringing together individuals of
similar interests and backgrounds, especially when it comes to
selecting a marriage partner. According to a large-scale
national survey of sexuality, almost sixty percent of married
people were introduced by family, friends, co-workers or other
3. The more similar people are in their values, backgrounds and
life goals, the more likely they are to have a successful
Opposites may attract but they may not live together
harmoniously as married couples. People who share common
backgrounds and similar social networks are better suited as
marriage partners than people who are very different in their
backgrounds and networks.
4. Women have a significantly better chance of marrying if they
do not become single parents before marrying.
Having a child out of wedlock reduces the chances of ever
marrying. Despite the growing numbers of potential marriage
partners with children, one study noted, "having children is
still one of the least desirable characteristics a potential
marriage partner can possess." The only partner characteristic
men and women rank as even less desirable than having children
is the inability to hold a steady job.
5. Both women and men who are college educated are more likely
to marry, and less likely to divorce, than people with lower
levels of education.
Despite occasional news stories predicting lifelong singlehood
for college-educated women, these predictions have proven false.
Though the first generation of college educated women (those who
earned baccalaureate degrees in the 1920s) married less
frequently than their less well-educated peers, the reverse is
true today. College educated women's chances of marrying are
better than less well-educated women. However, the growing
gender gap in college education may make it more difficult for
college women to find similarly well-educated men in the future.
This is already a problem for African-American female college
graduates, who greatly outnumber African-American male college
6. Living together before marriage has not proved useful as a
People who have multiple cohabiting relationships before
marriage are more likely to experience marital conflict, marital
unhappiness and eventual divorce than people who do not cohabit
before marriage. Researchers attribute some but not all of these
differences to the differing characteristics of people who
cohabit, the so-called "selection effect," rather than to the
experience of cohabiting itself. It has been hypothesized that
the negative effects of cohabitation on future marital success
may diminish as living together becomes a common experience
among today's young adults. However, according to one recent
study of couples who were married between 1981 and 1997, the
negative effects persist among younger cohorts, supporting the
view that the cohabitation experience itself contributes to
problems in marriage.
7. Marriage helps people to generate income and wealth.
Compared to those who merely live together, people who marry
become economically better off. Men become more productive after
marriage; they earn between ten and forty percent more than do
single men with similar education and job histories. Marital
social norms that encourage healthy, productive behavior and
wealth accumulation play a role. Some of the greater wealth of
married couples results from their more efficient specialization
and pooling of resources, and because they save more. Married
people also receive more money from family members than the
unmarried (including cohabiting couples), probably because
families consider marriage more permanent and more binding than
a living-together union.
8. People who are married are more likely to have emotionally
and physically satisfying sex lives than single people or those
who just live together.
Contrary to the popular belief that married sex is boring and
infrequent, married people report higher levels of sexual
satisfaction than both sexually active singles and cohabiting
couples, according to the most comprehensive and recent survey
of sexuality. Forty-two percent of wives said that they found
sex extremely emotionally and physically satisfying, compared to
just 31 percent of single women who had a sex partner. And 48
percent of husbands said sex was extremely satisfying
emotionally, compared to just 37 percent of cohabiting men. The
higher level of commitment in marriage is probably the reason
for the high level of reported sexual satisfaction; marital
commitment contributes to a greater sense of trust and security,
less drug and alcohol-infused sex, and more mutual communication
between the couple.
9. People who grow up in a family broken by divorce are slightly
less likely to marry, and much more likely to divorce when they
According to one study the divorce risk nearly triples if one
marries someone who also comes from a broken home. The increased
risk is much lower, however, if the marital partner is someone
who grew up in a happy, intact family.
10. For large segments of the population, the risk of divorce is
far below fifty percent.
Although the overall divorce rate in America remains close to
fifty percent of all marriages, it has been dropping gradually
over the past two decades. Also, the risk of divorce is far
below fifty percent for educated people going into their first
marriage, and lower still for people who wait to marry at least
until their mid-twenties, haven't lived with many different
partners prior to marriage, or are strongly religious and marry
someone of the same faith.