Divorce rate stays steady, study shows - 2/10/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Thu Feb 14 20:16:43 EST 2002
subject: Divorce rate stays steady, study shows - 2/10/02
from: Smart Marriages
Look at this strange headline....and realize that the Oklahoma PLANNING
grant was funded only 1 year ago; the the first money to train trainers
became available only 6 months ago; that the baseline study was just
completed this week; and the the first marriage education classes for
couples were begun in Jan and Feb 2002. So, of course, the "divorce rate
stays steady"! The researchers predict that measurable change will take 3 -
5 years. It takes time to shift a culture. But it's interesting that
everyone WANTS change - and WANTS it NOW. - diane
Divorce rate stays steady, study shows
Bobby Ross Jr.
The Daily Oklahoman
Three years after Gov. Frank Keating declared war on the state's
No. 2-in-the-nation divorce rate, the enemy shows little sign of
Oklahoma's number of failed marriages - about 20,000 a year -
has remained fairly steady, state records show.
For every 100 marriage licenses issued in 2001, the state
granted 76 divorce petitions.
Nevertheless, Keating and advocates of the $10 million Oklahoma
Marriage Initiative point to progress that they hope will help
reduce the state's divorce rate by one-third by 2010.
"Divorce is so imbedded in the culture, it's going to be years
before we turn it around," Keating said.
Spousal abuse, adultery and abandonment constitute legitimate
grounds for divorce, the governor said.
"But most marriages end because one party or the other is simply
bored or decides that they want to have a new Jaguar," he said.
Among the progress cited:
- About 750 clergy members statewide have signed the Oklahoma
Marriage Covenant, agreeing to require a four- to six-month
preparation period before presiding over a wedding.
The covenant is important because an estimated 75 percent of
first marriages occur in churches, synagogues or mosques, religious
Too often, Oklahoma churches have served not as promoters of
lifelong marriages but as "wedding factories," said the Rev. Kent
Choate, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's family
- About 200 people from state government, the religious
community, private counseling agencies and other sectors have
trained to teach the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement
Program, or PREP. An additional 100 to 300 people are expected
to be trained by year's end.
PREP was developed by Scott Stanley and Howard Markman, who
direct the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University
of Denver. The program, they say, is a "research-based, skills-
building curriculum designed to help partners say what they need to
say, get to the heart of problems, avoid standoffs and connect with
each other instead of pushing each other away."
- Creation of a "statewide delivery system" to provide marriage
education seminars and resources has begun, and the state is
launching a Web site at www.okmarriage.org.
- Oklahoma State University's Bureau of Social Research has
finished surveying 2,000 Oklahoma adults in an effort to explain
the state's divorce rate and build a foundation for assessing
the marriage initiative's long-term impact. A thousand adults
also were questioned in Texas, Kansas and Arkansas to form a
While the complete survey report won't be released until June,
preliminary findings indicate most Oklahomans share Keating's
Ninety percent of those surveyed said many couples rush into
marriage, and 82 percent described a statewide initiative to
promote marriage and reduce divorce as a good or very good idea.
Sixty-nine percent called divorce a very serious national
"It's interesting that over two-thirds of Oklahomans think
divorce is a very serious problem," said Christine Johnson, the OSU
researcher overseeing the survey project. "Now, maybe we're really
poised to give Oklahomans some skills to make their relationships
Thirty-three percent of the respondents had been divorced at
least once. Of the divorcees, 86 percent cited a lack of commitment
as a major contributing factor.
"That is something where the marriage initiative could make a
difference," Johnson said. "The notion of commitment is
definitely... a component of the curriculum that they've chosen
to use across the state."
Eyes on Oklahoma
Experts cite the state's low per-capita income - which ranks
43rd in the nation - and a tendency of Bible Belt couples to
marry young as reasons many marriages fail.
In recent years, various studies have ranked Oklahoma's divorce
rate among the highest nationally. A 1998 Family Research Council
report said only Arkansas had a higher divorce rate, if you
discount Nevada, where couples from across the nation flock for
The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative has put the state at the
forefront of a developing national debate over government-sponsored
In Washington, four think tanks - the liberal Urban Institute
and Brookings Institution and the conservative Heritage Foundation
and American Enterprise Institute - all have agreed that marriage
should be supported and encouraged in public policy, Karen Woods said.
"That is a 180 from the public debate just one year ago and a
significantly important fact," said Woods, the Empowerment
Network's vice president for state initiatives. She is a graduate
of Seminole High School and Oklahoma State University.
The Empowerment Network, chaired by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.,
and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., is made up of elected officials
and grassroots groups that hope to promote families and improve
poorer communities. Keating is among the organization's honorary
In the White House budget plan sent to Congress last week, the
Bush administration offered no new money to encourage job
advancement. However, it proposed more than $100 million for
experimental programs aimed at encouraging women on welfare to get
married, The Associated Press reported.
Two years ago, Keating became the first governor in the nation
to set aside Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to
strengthen marriages and reduce the divorce rate. Those funds are
block grants provided to each state through the 1996 welfare reform
Fortifying marriages was a major goal of welfare reform, but few
states have acted on it, said Ron Haskins, senior fellow at the
Brookings Institution and former staff director of the U.S. House
Ways and Means welfare subcommittee.
"Nobody has done as much as publicly and conspicuously as
Oklahoma has," Haskins said.
Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and
Couples Education in Washington, said, "All eyes are on
Oklahoma, that's for sure."
Praise for Oklahoma
Now, it appears that President Bush would like other states to
follow Oklahoma's lead.
"I think it's quite exciting," administration official Wade Horn
said of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. "I think Governor Keating
has shown real leadership and creativity on this issue, and we're
looking forward to seeing the results."
Horn, former president of the National Fatherhood Initiative,
spoke at the Oklahoma conference on marriage hosted by the governor
and First Lady Cathy Keating in March 1999. As assistant secretary
for children and families in the U.S. Health and Human Services
Department, he's a key figure in efforts to broaden the focus of
welfare to endeavors that foster marriage, abstinence and
"It's not about mandating marriage. It's not about running a
federal dating service or a matchmaking business," Horn told The
Oklahoman. "It's about helping couples who choose marriage for
themselves to form and sustain healthy marriages."
Testifying last year before a congressional subcommittee, Jerry
Regier, Keating's former health and human services secretary, said
Oklahoma spends millions on foster care, child abuse and neglect
investigations, adoption, out-of-wedlock births, juvenile
delinquency and many other problems. Regier characterized those
problems as "primarily... the result of either families not forming
through marriage in the first place or because of absent parents
due to divorce."
A 2000 Heritage Foundation study, "The Effects of Divorce in
America," reported that state and federal governments spend $150
billion a year to subsidize and sustain single-parent families, but
only $150 million - one-thousandth as much - to strengthen marriages.
But others say welfare money should be reserved for programs
that pay for job training, transportation, child care and increased
"I'm really worried about taking money away from poor people and
using it for marriage education and marriage promotion," said
Dorian Solot, executive director of the Boston-based Alternatives
to Marriage Project.
Critics question whether government officials and taxpayer
dollars belong in decisions so personal as marriage and divorce.
Some also suggest that abused women may be urged to lock
themselves in dangerous relationships. Advocates deny that.
"I'm less skeptical than I was," said Marcia Smith, executive
director of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and
Sexual Assault. "I think Oklahoma has done a fair job of
addressing that issue."
Pros and cons
After Keating launched the marriage initiative, the state began
calculating the incomes of both individuals in a cohabiting
couple when determining welfare eligibility. That removed a
financial incentive for couples to live together outside marriage.
Also, the Legislature passed a bill lowering the price of
marriage licenses for couples submitting to premarital counseling.
But so far, lawmakers have rejected Keating's calls to enact a
covenant marriage law and outlaw no-fault divorce.
At the same time, Keating has faced criticism from a few
Democratic senators over a $400,000 contract awarded to Public
Strategies Inc., the Oklahoma City company hired to manage the
marriage initiative. The company's president, Mary Myrick, is a
former Republican political consultant.
Sen. Kevin Easley, D-Broken Arrow, complained last year that
Myrick's company was paid for reading books, viewing videos and
performing various public relations tasks tied to the governor's
Myrick said of Easley, "With better information, I believe he
wouldn't be a critic. He has focused on our contract and not on
the marriage initiative. He actually criticized some of our
expenses, which was a very, very tiny portion of what we did."
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