Trends of Marriage, Divorce and Having Children

Over recent decades, the make-up of families has changed significantly in North America, Europe and the rest of the industrial world. The general trend is for people to marry, divorce and have children later than they did forty years ago. Here are some of the highlights of these trends:

Age of Marriage and Divorce: Between 1960 and 2000, the average age of marriage rose by four years for men and five years for women. The average age of first marriage was 30 for men and 28 for women in 2000, up from 26 and 23 respectively forty-years previous.

There have been fluctuations during these years, however. The average age for both genders dropped in the 1970s and 1980s but increased since. In 2000 the average age of a second marriage after a divorce was 45 for men and 42 for women; with the average age for those marrying for a second time after being widowed 61 and 55, respectively.

The older couples are when they marry the higher the age difference between them tends to be.

Average Length of a Marriage: The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce was between 11 and 12 years in 2004. In 1971 this was between 23 and 25 years, so it has roughly halved over this period.

Number of People Getting Married: The number of people getting married (whether in a relationship or not) is falling dramatically. It has fallen by a quarter over the last 15 years. About 15 percent of couples that live together are not married.

Having Children: Between 1971 and 2003 the average age for first time Mothers increased from 25 to 27, while the average age for first time Fathers increased from 29 to 33 with 40 percent of children currently born to parents not married and just over half of divorced couples are couples that have children.

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