Real Talk: Marriage and baby making

Two years ago posts about marriage, engagement, and babies started trickling into my Facebook newsfeed and, before I knew it, it turned torrential.  From the odd post or two, spaced a few months apart, I now can’t go a day without seeing someone mention a rock, a white dress, or a little human.

While I no longer feel the need to MESSAGE SOMEONE IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I CAN’T BELIEVE SOMEONE’S GOT A ROCK AND SOMEONE ELSE’S GOT A BUMP, I still cannot get used to seeing such posts and wondering why.

Why would you want to sire offspring? Why would you want to commit to a lifelong union? Why now? At our age? There’s so much to do and so much to see! Who is stable enough to be married right now, anyway? And who know’s enough about their own life’s direction to be able to help someone else navigate theirs?

All these questions drove me to do the only natural thing: Google.

I had opinions of my own about marriage at my age and I was confident I’d find a good amount of resources supporting what I thought. But in the name of research, I tried to be as ambiguous in my search terms as possible:

marrying mid-20s and economic impact

long-term effects of marrying in 20s

marrying 20s income

millennials and marriage

Excluding arbitrary lists about why you “Should NEVER get married in your 20s!” and “The perks of marrying young <3”, the results weren’t exactly what I thought they’d be.

In my head, I thought that the older you were, the more chances your marriage was going to be successful. I figured that people should first pull themselves together (financially, emotionally, et cetera) so that there won’t be a lot of excess issues causing problems.

Turns out, I was right, but only to an extent.

Marrying too young ups the probability of divorce quite dramatically, which is what I thought in the first place. But the definition of “too young” turns out to be any age under 25.

So 25 to infinity and beyond should mean a higher chance of marital bliss, right?

Not exactly. Apparently, divorce rates are the lowest between the ages of 25 to 34, and after 35, the divorce rates increase again.

20-family-studies-age-at-first-marriage-divorce-chart-1995-2006-w529-h352
Taken from “Get Married in Your Late 20s if You’d Rather Not Get Divorced” by NyMag’s Melissa Dahl. (Click the image to see her entire article)

According to sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger, the rate of divorce doesn’t start to increase only at 35; for every year after the age of 32, the rate increases by 5%.

Norval Glenn, another sociologist, also found that couples that put off marrying until their 30s were usually richer but tended to be less happy than those who tied the knot in their mid-20s.

But even without knowing these statistics, in recent years most people have been getting married later than ever before at 27 for women, and 29 for men. This turns out to be a great thing for women, especially those with college educations, because this means a longer time to further their careers and basically be awesome on their own.

(Men also have a longer time to be awesome, but I wanted to put the focus on women because a woman with a career is still something some people are trying to wrap their heads around.)

 The only downside to this trend is that while getting a ring on it is coming at a later date for many people, getting a baby isn’t; a big chunk of the female population will have their first child by the age of 25, which implies a rise in the number of out of wedlock children and single parent homes. Coming from this kind of background, I can tell you for a fact that this is a less than ideal set-up which come with its own range of challenges.

But for the women who do wait until after marriage, putting off getting wed creates one other particular problem: increased difficulty having children.

Socially, having a child later on in life is fine, but biology doesn’t exactly agree with this. Statistically, the mothers who have the least number of pregnancy-related complications and children without birth defects are at the not-yet-so ripe age of 26. Also, generally, women are at their reproductive peaks in their 20s, and see a decline in fertility beginning at age 30.

This decline seems to have a great effect on the children’s development, too; there is growing evidence that links the development of cognitive issues (anything from mild autism to schizophrenia) and a parent/parents having sired the child in their 30s.

So based on everything I’ve just written down, it’s beginning to look like the sweet spot for nuptials and childrearing is between the ages of 25 to around 30-ish. Except the child bearing, I was thinking the ideal was about 30-ish to, I don’t know, 40?

While the facts have surprised me, I still don’t feel strongly compelled to find someone to get hitched to tomorrow, or even the next few years. After all, these are just numbers and statistics; though they are great predictive tools, they don’t dictate what (or when) my love life should be, and they shouldn’t dictate yours either.

SOURCES:

Getting Marriage Past This Age Increases Your Risk of Divorce, Research Suggests

True Love Need Not Wait

Late Marriage and Its Consequences

Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America

The Case for Getting Married Young

What’s the Best Age to Have a Baby?

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