Americans down on marriage and divorce

Divorce|March 17th 2016

The popularity of both marriage and divorce has dropped in the United States over the last few years.

The finding comes in a new analysis of data from the US Department of Health and Human Services taken between 2011 and 2013 for the National Survey of Family Growth, a study of thousands of Americans about marriage, divorce, family life and other similar matters.

The government researchers found that people were increasingly at ease with the idea of unmarried couples living together and raising children. Young people saw cohabitation as a ‘trial run’ before marriage. Almost two thirds of women – 64 per cent – and 68 per cent of men between 25 and 34 believed that cohabitation before marriage would help prevent divorce.

At the same time, the number of people with a negative view of divorce has increased. As many as 47 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men questioned in 2002 said divorce was “usually the best option” for struggling couples. Those numbers have since dropped to 38 per cent and 39 per cent respectively.

Peter Sprigg is the senior fellow for policy studies at conservative campaign organisation the Family Research Council. He suggested that changing views on divorce could be the result of people growing up in families affected by it. Americans have seen “the wreckage of families that have been devastated by divorce and the lie that this is somehow better for adults and their children”, he claimed.

Meanwhile, acceptance of gay relationships increased over the same time period. A majority of women – 60 per cent – said they approved of same sex marriage and 75 per cent supported gay people’s right to adopt a child. These are significant increases from 2002 when only 42 per cent approved of marriage and 55 per cent supported adoption.

Among American men, gay marriage was only backed by 49 per cent, but 68 per cent supported same sex adoption.

The director of family law for the National Center for Lesbian Rights credited the increase to an increased focus on gay families in the media. This “has allowed people to see same-sex parents and their children like any other”, said Cathy Sakimura.

Photo by Eivind Barstad Waaler via Flickr

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