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Marriage and Divorce...the latest findings

The foundation of the home is marriage. A strong family is grounded in a strong marriage. The greatest parenting tool is a great marriage.

Let's take a look at the latest findings about marriage and divorce.

While divorce is becoming less common for younger adults, "gray divorce" is on the rise. Among adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has doubled since the 1990's.

  • In 2015, for every 1,000 married persons ages 50 and older, 10 got divorced. This is up from 5 in 1990.

  • Among those 65 and older, the divorce rate has tripled since 1990, reaching six people per 1,000 married persons in 2015.

This rise in divorce among older adults is linked in part to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. They are ages 51 to 69 and make up the bulk of this age group.

The divorce rate for those younger than 50 is twice as high as it is for adults 50 and older.

  • 21 adults ages 40 to 49 get divorced per 1,000 married persons. This is up from 18 in 1990.

  • The divorce rate for adults ages 25 to 39 has fallen from 30 persons per 1,000 married persons in 1990 to 24 in 2015. This decline is attributed in part to younger generations putting off marriage until they are older and couples living together unmarried.

  • The media age for marriage in 2016 was 29.5 and for women it was 27.4. This is up from 26.1 and 23.9 in 1990.

Adults who are in their second marriage are more likely to divorce. During their young adulthood, the Baby Boomers had unprecedented levels of divorce. Now most adults in this age group who have been married less than 20 years are in their second or higher marriage. This is contributing to their rising divorce rate now since remarriages tend to be less stable than first marriages.

  • The divorce rate for adults ages 50 and older in remarriages is double the rate of those who have only been married once (16 vs. 8 per 1,000 married persons).

  • Among all adults 50 and older who divorced in 2015, 48% had been in their second or higher marriage.

I've often said, "we don't need more children's ministry in the church, we need more parent ministry." I believe this is truer than ever. If we are going to see children be spiritually healthy, then we must first help their parents have spiritually healthy marriages. When parents have a healthy marriage, it creates an atmosphere where children's faith can flourish.

For far too long, children's ministries have relied upon "adult ministry" to equip parents to have healthy marriages. In many cases, it simply doesn't happen. I believe it's time for children's ministries to take the lead on helping parents have strong marriages. It's time children's ministry directors start teaching parenting classes. It's time children's ministries intertwine teaching about marriage into their baby dedication classes. It's time "family ministries" focus on the heart of every family...marriage.

We must help parents see that their first commitment is to each other...even before their commitment to their kids. The rise in divorce among couples age 50 and over shows that many married couples were only staying together because of their kids. Once their kids were grown and out of the house, they had nothing left to sustain their marriage. I heard the story of a couple who had a grandfather clock in their house. Once their kids were grown and out of the house, they had to get rid of it. Why? The constant ticking about drove them nuts. They had never noticed it when their house was filled with the noise of their children. But now with the kids gone, the ticking dominated the silence. We must help parents develop a deep love and commitment to each other that will continue to thrive even when they are sitting in the silence of an empty house one day.

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