The number of married teens grew nearly 50 percent in the past decade, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau figures.
Although marriages among 15- to 19-year-olds is still fairly uncommon—only about 4.5 percent of teens are married—the increase in teen unions has surprised researchers.
The increase in teen marriages runs counter to marriage trends of most Americans, who generally are waiting longer to get married.
“For men, the median age of first marriage was 26.8 in 2000, up from 26.1 in 1990 and 22.8 in 1950. Among women, the median age was 25.1 in 2000, up from 23.9 in 1990 and 20.3 in 1950,” reported ABCNEWS.com.
David Popenoe of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University offered various reasons why more teens are marrying.
“There’s been a slight trend toward conservatism among teens, less premarital sex, more fear of disease,” Popenoe told Associated Press. “It could conceivably have something to do with welfare reform. But it’s a surprise.”
Also, this generation of teens is the first to live their whole lives with AIDS as a major public health concern. Some counselors suggested wedded teens are taking to heart the “abstinence until marriage” theme projected by some sex education classes, according to AP.
Others attribute the surge in teen marriages to “an influx of immigrants,” ABCNEWS.com reported. “Many came from areas where marriage is more common among teens—Latin America, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.”
Just because some young people are starting their married lives sooner doesn’t mean they are successful at it.
Nearly half of all marriages in which the bride is 18 years old or younger end in separation or divorce within 10 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. When the brides were 25 years old and older, the number of break-ups was spilt in half.
According to the Census Bureau, almost two-thirds of married teens don’t even live with their spouses.
Why? One may be in jail, away at college or remaining in the homeland.
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.