The divorce rate is declining (figure 1. Trend in Crude Divorce Rate and the Probability of Dissolution). According to research conducted at the BYU Family Studies Center, an increase in the number of first marriages contracted over age 22 has made a major contribution to marital stability and thus the declining divorce rate (figure 2. Probability of Disruption by Age at Marriage). Most of the negative effects of marriage age occur in the teens and early twenties.
However, after age 22 the relationship between age at marriage and marital dissolution is not large. Thus, while increasing the age at marriage from 18 to 22 improves marital stability, increasing the age from 22 to 30 would not have much effect.
Research has also documented a second factor contributing to increased marital stability. Although not as a strong as the rising age at first marriage, improvements in education have also played a role.
A wife's education can have a positive impact on her marriage. A woman's improved educational status provides her with the tools to promote equality within the relationship and enhance her marriage.
Although her improved status may allow flexibility to leave an undesirable relationship, it may also assist her in avoiding such relationships altogether through greater confidence and wider options. More educated women may be better able to enter marriage under circumstances that promote stability.
Improved educational status promotes unity within a relationship, and recent evidence suggests that women's economic contributions can enhance marital stability.
While the rising age at first marriage, and to a lesser degree, improvements in education have played a role in decreasing the divorce rate, there are other factors working to pull the divorce rate in the opposite direction. In particular, initiation of sex before marriage, involuntary sex, premarital parenthood, higher rates of cohabitation as well...