Family Ties: Marrying Young and Divorce

Family Ties: Marrying Young and Divorce

Parenting: Is 19-Year-Old Daughter too Young to Get Married to her Boyfriend?

Q: My daughter is 19 years old and is attending hairdressing school. She and her boyfriend, Jason, have been dating for about a year and a half and just announced that they are engaged and want to plan a wedding this coming summer. Jason seems like a very nice person and they seem happy together. He has a job working in a bank and earns enough to support them until my daughter finishes school. But I think they are just too young to get married. Are people who marry young more likely to divorce than people who wait until they are at least in their mid-twenties?

A: Research suggests that, in general, the higher age is when getting married, the lower the rate of divorce is.  So marrying at a young age does increase the statistical chance of a later divorce.

Marrying at a young age is only one risk factor associated with divorce. Other risk factors include dating for less than two years; having low levels of education and income; and having differences in race, religion, social class, age, education, and/or values. In addition to being relatively young, your daughter has at least one other risk factor: dating less than two years.

It is appropriate for you to express your concern to your daughter about marrying at a young age, but recognize that she is an adult and can and will make her own decisions. One way to get your daughter to think about whether she is ready for marriage is to ask her to think about who she was five years ago in terms of her self-concept, values, and priorities, and to compare herself today with the person she was five years ago. Is there a significant difference? The answer is likely yes.”

Then suggest that she may undergo just as much change in the next five years as she has in the last five years. At some point, most adults reach a level of stability in their self-concepts, values, and priorities so that there is not a drastic change over a five-year period. A good rule of thumb is that if a person can look back over the last five years and feel that they are essentially the same person as they are today (in terms of self-concept, values, and priorities), then they are ready for a marital commitment.

Another approach you can take with your daughter is to suggest that she and Jason participate in some type of premarital counseling to assess their readiness for marriage. If your daughter is resolved to get married despite your concerns that she is too young, it is important that you remain supportive of her. If she feels you disapprove of her, she may be less likely to seek your guidance or confide in you if she does experience relationship difficulties in the future.

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