Some freshman students believe an early age is appropriate for marriage, while research shows that marriage timing is crucial for the life-changing decision.
Utah holds the record for lowest median age of marriage for brides at 23.5 in the United States. The national average is 27. For BYU students, the marriage age is something much different. In fact, the concept doesn’t really exist.
“I think that the person you’re supposed to be with makes you ready,” said Aubrey Brennan, an unmarried junior. “For some of my friends that meant 18 or even 17; for others it was 26 — who can say what’s really right for anyone?”
“How soon is too soon?” is the question many freshmen have struggled with as their ward members seemingly disappear from Helaman Halls student wards.
“She zoomed out of here,” said Megan Baker, a freshman recalling a recent ward member who just got engaged. “One minute she was in our ward, and then we never saw her and we found out on Facebook she’s getting married. It’s crazy.”
Whether some feel that any time is the right time for marriage and others feel the need to wait, research shows that both opinions might be wrong. Marriages that wait long may do fairly well with survival but may end up in “poor quality.”
Norval D. Glenn, a sociology professor at the University of Texas in Austin, said, “The greatest indicated likelihood of being in an intact marriage of the highest quality is among those who married at ages 22–25,” in the “Later First Marriage and Marital Success” study.
Although women who marry later generally do experience greater career and financial success, studies show that overall relationship satisfaction and health point toward lower marriage ages than the national average.
The rising marriage age across the nation and BYU culture brings concern for those looking into social demographics.
As part of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, BYU professors such as Jason Carroll, from the Department of Family Life, believe America is going through “The Great Crossover.”
“Indeed, in the United States, 48 percent of all first births are now to unmarried women,” Carroll said in the study “Knot Yet.” “Thus, the nation is at a tipping point, on the verge of moving into a new demographic reality where the majority of first births in the United States precede marriage.”
Currently, Utah is eighth in the nation for the most teen pregnancies. Census reports do not specify whether this rise is attributed to early marriage ages, such as freshmen at BYU and among the LDS culture, or trends found throughout the U.S.
The debate between popular lifestyle trends and studies shown above are focusing on the immediate versus long-term effect in society.