Family Law Blog

Religious Conservatism Contributes to Higher Divorce Risks

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Traditionally, religion has been found to act as a buffer for divorce risks because most religions tend to discourage divorce and encourage spouses to stay together. However, in many of those states that are very heavily religious, like Southern States, divorce rates are actually much higher than they are in the liberal states, like California and Massachusetts. For years, researchers have believed that the harder socio-economic conditions in the southern states possibly contribute to a higher risk of divorce for people who live in these states. However, research sheds new light on the matter.

According to a study that will soon be published in the American Journal of Sociology, persons living in so-called “red” states that are traditionally conservative by nature, seem to have higher divorce rates. What is surprising is that you don't necessarily have to be hard-core religious to have a higher divorce risk in these red states. Even non-religious people here seem to be at a higher risk for divorce.

According to the research, the answer to this mystery lies in the fact that such religious conservatism often forces young people to get married early. Many young persons in these societies are pressured to get married early, through lack of access to emergency contraception, a focus on abstinence, and frowning upon premarital relations. Even nonreligious people may feel the pressure to get married quickly, because the most desirable catches disappear quickly from the market.

In such situations, younger people may end up getting married much before they are psychologically prepared for the huge life change that marriage is. At this age, they may not be ready to shoulder the responsibilities of married life as well as children in the family.

Not surprisingly, many of them find themselves in a divorce court just a few years down the line. It is this pressure on young persons to get married quickly, that could be at the core of the higher divorce rates in the Bible belt.