Age at First Marriage and Marital Success

Smartmarriages smartmarriages at
Fri Aug 21 15:38:41 EDT 2009


> the findings do suggest that most persons have little or nothing to gain in
> the way of marital success by deliberately postponing marriage beyond the mid
> twenties. 

As you know, I've been playing with data on age at first marriage and
marital outcomes for a long time. I've finally put together an academic
paper on the topic with the help of a couple
of graduate students. It was presented at the meetings of the American
Sociological Association in San Francisco last week in
a session honoring the late Steve Nock. Here is the abstract. I can send the
complete paper to anyone who is interested. Ask them to email me at
ndglenn at
Norval Glenn

Norval D. Glenn*
Jeremy Uecker
Robert Love
University of Texas at Austin
*Direct correspondence to Norval Glenn at ndglenn at
Presented at the Annual Meetings of the American Sociological Association,
Francisco, August 10, 2009

Abstract: The research reported here used measures of marital success based
on both marital survival and marital quality to assess how well first
marriages entered at relatively late ages fare in comparison with those
entered younger. Analysis of data from five American data sets indicated
that the later marriages fare very well in survival but rather poorly in
quality, with the greatest likelihood of being in an intact marriage of the
highest quality being among those who married at ages 22-25, net of the
estimated effects of time since first marriage and several variables that
might commonly affect age at marriage and marital outcomes. Age at first
marriage bears a strong positive relationship to marital survival but a
strong, though somewhat weaker, negative relationship to marital quality.
These two relationships considered together are clear evidence that the
proclivity to divorce varies inversely with age at marriage at each level of
marital quality below the highest. The indicated up-down pattern of marital
success is more pronounced among respondents who married in 1980 or later
than among those who married earlier, and thus there is no evidence that it
has tended to disappear as the average age at first marriage has increased.
The data show the highest marital success for the 22-25 age range among both
college graduates and those with less education and for both males and
females. The negative relationship beyond the early to mid twenties between
age at marriage and marital success is likely to be at least partially
spurious, and thus it would be premature to conclude that the optimal time
for first marriage for most persons is ages 22-25. However, the findings do
suggest that most persons have little or nothing to gain in the way of
marital success by deliberately postponing marriage beyond the mid twenties.


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