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As the national marriage rate continues to decline, a look at some young people’s decisions to tie the knot despite criticisms




A couples shows their wedding rings during their ceremony.
A couples shows their wedding rings during their ceremony.
File photo by JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images

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In 2015, about one in ten marriages in the United States had both bride and groom under age 25, according to data from the National Center for Marriage and Family Research at Bowling Green State University.

Though a 3 percent decline from 2008, it means young couples still make up a decent portion of U.S. marriages. A number of studies have questioned the wisdom of getting married young, and anecdotally at least, young brides say they’ve often felt judged for their decisions.

Stephanie Coontz, the director of research and public education at University of Texas, Austin’s Council on Contemporary Families, says that while this outside concern is not completely unfounded, it’s unfair to use a couple’s age to pass judgment on a marriage’s capacity for success.

Stephanie: On average, people who marry later are less likely to divorce – but those averages disguise lots of variations and I think it’s a real shame when people start making these judgments. And I think that it’s partly because we women are under so much pressure. If you marry early, it might raise your chance of divorce, but if you marry later, you might not be able to have a baby. So we’re always feeling guilty and I think defensive about the choices we make. 

One caller, Iswaria in Pasadena, got married 10 years ago, when she and her husband were 25 and 26. She recalls how hard it was to stay home with her young kids while her friends posted about traveling or going out to bars on Facebook, which was just taking off in popularity.

Iswaria: We were really struggling just to make ends meet, and there was really no one in our peer group who was in the same position. Fast forward 10 years later, a lot of our friends now have young children and we’re kind of enjoying life with an eight-year-old and a nine-year-old. It did take us 10 years to buy a house and 10 years to kind of settle down in our careers, but we did it together and at the end of the day, that has made us as a family a lot stronger.

Jolene in Long Beach is celebrating her 11-year anniversary with her husband, who she married when she was 21 and he was 22. Right after they got married, they went into the Peace Corps together, which her husband said he wouldn’t have done without her. More than a decade later, Jolene says their marriage is still a strength in reaching their goals.

Jolene: We are both now in Ph.D. programs... and are raising kids while doing that and also having careers on the side. The support that we’ve found in the relationship I think is something that really allowed us to go as far as we have in pursuing these different paths.

Guests:

Wendy Manning, director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research and co-director of the National Center for Marriage and Family Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio; she is also a sociology professor at Bowling Green

Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families, a research non-profit at the University of Texas, Austin, that focuses on matters related to American families; she also teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.