Conservative Christians divorce more, study says

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Divorce is more common among conservative Christians and young people, according to a recent study.

University of Iowa sociology professor Jennifer Glass presented her study on skyrocketing divorce rates in regions highly populated with conservative Christians to an overflowing crowd in Burdine Hall on Friday.

“Politically and religiously conservative states, especially in the Deep South, exhibit higher divorce rates than politically and religiously liberal states in the Northeast and Midwest,” Glass wrote in her study.

The average divorce rate in the United States is 47.9 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

She said the paradox can be explained by the accelerated transition into adulthood and early marriages that young conservative Protestants practice.

Factors that lead to high rates of divorce among Christians are the prohibition of sex before marriage leading to marriage at an earlier age and teachings against abortion and birth control, which lead to “shotgun weddings,” she said.

The average age of marriage for American women is 27, she said.
Young married couples may also experience financial problems because of lower degrees of education and increased unemployment, which are risk factors for divorce, she said.

“You’ve got a local religious culture that involves everyone — whether they share that religion or not — to behave in particular ways,” Glass said.

A woman brought up in an agnostic household in a conservative Christian area may also marry at a young age in response to society. Because many men marry at a young age, some young women feel like they have to marry earlier in order to secure a quality husband,
Glass said.

Another reason divorce rates are higher in conservative Christian regions is because residents of less religious and more liberal areas are more likely to live together for extended periods of time, she said.

Journalism graduate student Mark Coddington got married at age 22 and has been married for four years. He said his Nebraska hometown exemplifies the conservative Christian culture of Glass’s study.

“I have been around that culture, so I really understand why more and more marriages end the way they do,” Coddington said.

University Catholic Center director and priest Ed Nowak said his church requires couples to take marriage preparation courses that build communication skills and give couples realistic ideas about what to expect in marriage in an effort to limit divorce.