From England's The Telegraph:
Young couples shun marriage over divorce fears
Young adults avoid getting married because they fear it will end in divorce, research suggests.
Interviews about marriage with couples who were living together found that two-thirds were worried about the “legal, emotional and economic consequences” of splitting up later.
Many expressed concerns about the “hassle” of divorce lawyers or arranging child support payments, while others had painful memories of their parents divorcing.
However most respondents insisted they did still want to get married one day, but only once they had met “the one” and were emotionally and financially ready for such a commitment.
Experts say the findings, published in the journal Family Relations, disprove the common belief that the marriage rate is declining because young people do not respect the institution of matrimony.
The paper, by Sharon Sassler and Dela Kusi-Appouh at Cornell University and Amanda Miller and the University of Central Oklahoma, states: “More than two-third of those in our sample expressed views about divorce that were in some way connected to their sentiments regarding marriage.
“There were numerous ways that the issue of divorce was discussed, though most raised at least one of four possible concerns with regards to marital dissolution.
“Respondents most frequently mentioned a reluctance to marry because of their desire to ‘do it right’, which they defined as marrying only once, to the ideal partner.
“The belief that marriage was difficult to exit was referenced nearly as frequently. Next, respondents expressed concerns that the rewards of marriage were not worth the risk of what might occur (namely, divorce).
“Finally, a small group of the respondents referenced past experiences with divorce as a reason to be leery of marriage.”
The research was carried out among 61 young cohabiting couples in Ohio, but living arrangements in Britain are closer to those in the US than in previous decades.
One in six people are now cohabiting in Britain while married couples now make up less than half the population, and the average age at which a woman gets married for the first time has reached 30.
Divorce rates have also fallen in recent years – as there are fewer spouses who can separate – but the new research suggests that fear of it colours people’s perceptions of marriage.
In-depth interviews about marriage with the couples found that 81 of the 122 respondents mentioned the “spectre” of divorce.
Most of them said they wanted to “prepare themselves personally, financially and emotionally” for tying the knot, so they would “get it right” and so avoid splitting up, although some also had strong religious beliefs against divorce.
Many also said that marriage was “hard to exit” and so they wanted to avoid a “painful” end to a relationship, particularly if they had children.
Some told researchers that the institution of marriage was “doomed” and was not taken seriously enough in society, and even that walking down the aisle might “jinx” a happy but less formalised relationship.
Although a few believed that marriage was “just a piece of paper” and so no different to living together, most couples believed there were some benefits even if they were only making their parents happy or gaining better legal rights.
However some interviewees, particularly women, saw marriage as a “trap” that would burden them with greater expectations and prove difficult to get out of.
“This flies in the face of the idea that men are the ones who must be dragged to the altar.”
Anastasia de Waal, head of family and education at the think-tank Civitas, commented: “This fear of ‘breaking’ a marriage strongly indicates the reverence that people have for it today.
“Non-marriage is often interpreted as indicative of marriage not being valued, whereas research shows us that not marrying is often down to the fact that it is valued to the point of becoming ‘unachievable’.
“This attitude is mirrored in people’s expectations around the position that they must be in when they get married – in the perfect relationship and financial situation. In short, couples are worried about entering marriage, commonly perceived as the ideal relationship, in case they don’t live up to that ideal.”