Child Trends Data Related to Marriage and Parenting

Child Trends collects and organizes lots of data about children and families.  Below are some the indicators that apply to marriage and parenting.


What Religious Group Has the Highest Divorce Rate in the US?

There are numerous debates about whether there are different divorce rates among the various religions.  Too often these discussions are based on data that has been collected on limited samples or by organizations that have a partisan orientation.  In one of the recent US Census reports, based on the National Survey of Family Growth, there is the most reliable data to date about the probability of divorce among US citizens based on their religious background.

Those individuals that express no religion or religious preference have the highest likelihood of divorce, next is Protestant, followed by Catholics with other religions having the most least likelihood of divorce over the 20 year time period.   Only 43% of the non-religious group is likely to be married for 20 years, while 65% of the “other religious” group is likely to be married.  Protestant (50%) and Catholics (53%) are in between.  Although this information is interesting, it is much more important to ask questions about people’s engagement and/or practice of their religious faith such as church attendance, participation in religious service and so forth.  These activities are likely to be much more influential on marriage and family life than the mere “religious affiliation” tag of “Protestant,” “Catholic,” etc.

More about Religion and Divorce

Note:  The Census category of “other” religions is composed of a wide variety of beliefs including Judaism, Latter Day Saints (Mormon), Hindus, Muslims, Seventh Day Adventist, Neopagan beliefs and more. 

Does Religion help or hurt divorce adjustment?

There has been much study of the factors that contribute to divorce adjustment, but in general most scientists have overlooked the religious aspects of divorce.  This is surprising considering that most Americans report believing in God and many regularly attend religious services.  Kumrei and colleagues recently correct for this oversight and report on a study that explores the spiritual stress and coping experiences of divorcing individuals.

The scientists tested a theoretical model of how religious ideas and spiritual strategies may influence divorce outcomes.  Based on previous theories of stress and coping, the researchers began with the idea that divorcing individuals’ views of divorce may be viewed from a religious perspective.  In particular, divorce may be interpreted as a sacred loss and desecration.  Kurmrei and colleagues suggest that when people view divorce initially in negative terms, this belief is likely to lead to more divorce adjustment problems.  Additionally, the scientists suggest there are both positive and negative forms of religious coping with divorce.  The positive forms such as relying on prayer, private religious rituals or worship to overcome feelings of anger, hurt and fear will lead to better adjustment.  On the other hand, negative forms of religious coping such as viewing divorce as a punishment from God, experiencing tension with one’s religious community or spiritual guilt would contribute to more difficulties in adjusting to divorce.

As might be expected those individuals who viewed divorce as a sacred loss were more depressed and were more likely to use poor conflict resolution strategies.  The more negative religious coping a person used the more likely they were to be depressed one year following divorce and the more positive religious coping they used predicted more growth a year later.  These findings remained important even when other forms of non-religious positive coping such as problem-solving, use of humor, planning, and acceptance were taken into account.

For more see Huffington Post summary…..

Divorce Status & Religion in Britain

One of the most notoriously inaccurate statistics regarding divorce is the marital status of various religious groups.  There are few reliable large scale studies that ask both about religion and marital status.

Using the British Social Attitudes Study, Leslie Francis and colleagues compared the marital status of  adults who practice Buddhisms, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, or no religious affiliation over the years between 1983 and 2005. 

Although the number of adults in the samples who practice Buddhism, Hinduism Islam, Judaism and Sikhism is probably too small to be confident about the broad pattern over the years looks similar across almost all the groups with the divorce rate increasing over time.  For Christians, only 8% were divorced in the decade of 1983-1995 and 12% were divorced in the decade from 1996-2005.  Among those with no religion, 9% were divorced in the first decade and 13% were divorced in the second decade.  In the surveys conducted between 1986-1995, 7% of Muslims were divorced and in the years 1996-2005, 12% were divorced.  Hindus, Jews, and Sikhs had smaller percentages who were divorced in each decade, but their rates over the two decades indicated that the percentage of divorced adults almost doubled.