We’ve been told that waiting to get hitched until you’ve got your sh*t together—your own place, steady finances, a job, a firm grasp on your independence—is the key to a successful marriage, but it turns out that might not be the case if you’re looking to stay hitched: A new study finds people who get married after the age of 32 are more likely to get divorced than those who wed in their mid-to-late twenties.
University of Utah sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth from 2006 to 2010, and concluded that folks tying the knot at age 20 are 50 percent more likely to get divorced than someone who gets married at 25, and each additional year you wait reduces the odds of divorce by 11 percent—until you turn 32, at which point the odds of divorce increase by 5 percent each year.
Translation: Getting married at 20 is too young, but getting married between 25 and 32 means you’ll have greater success at avoiding divorce. A magic window, if you will.
However, this wasn’t always the case. In his analysis, Wolfinger says that it’s only recently thirty-something marriage started to incur a higher divorce risk. “It appears to be a trend that’s gradually developed over the past twenty years: a study based on 2002 data observed that the divorce risk for people who married in their thirties was flattening out, rather than continuing to decline through that decade of life as it previously had.”
So, why is this the case? Wolfinger isn’t certain, but theorizes it could have something to do with a “selection effect,” writing that the types of people who wait till their thirties to get married may be the kinds of people who aren’t predisposed to marriage at all.
“For instance, some people seem to be congenitally cantankerous,” Wolfinger writes (yep, some people can be cranks from birth.) “Such people naturally have trouble with interpersonal relationships. Consequently they delay marriage, often because they can’t find anyone willing to marry them. When they do tie the knot, their marriages are automatically at high risk for divorce. More generally, perhaps people who marry later face a pool of potential spouses that has been winnowed down to exclude the individuals most predisposed to succeed at matrimony.”
The good news: This is just a study, based on a selection of people—not a set-in-stone fact. Plenty of people who wed over the age the 32 are happily married (well, maybe not all—Ben Affleck was almost 33 when he married Jennifer Garner, who was 33 at the time) so we suggest not stressing, but rather making sure if you are of a certain age, you’re getting married for the right reasons—not because you want a big wedding, a giant rock, or simply feel societal pressure.
To read more—and you really should, Wolfinger’s paper is super-compelling—head over to the The Institute of Family Studies now.