It is wisely assumed that everyone entering marriage wants their marriage to last for life. That, after all, is what marriage is about, “till death do us part.”

Many, however, assume that marrying later will boost one’s chances of marital success and quality. “Better to have one’s education and career established before walking down the aisle,” many assume.

But is this really true?

New research conducted at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life and featured by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) investigates this question. Examining 16 different measures of marital quality and employing important statistical controls, they found there are very few substantial links between age at marriage and martial quality for both men and women.

Anne Marie Wright Jones, the principal investigator of this study, explains, “When statistically significant relationships emerged [between relational qualities and age at marriage], they were relatively weak.” She explains, “while most men and women were happy in their marriage, age at marriage did not significantly influence their marital happiness.” The trend lines and age comparisons are demonstrated in this chart.

Wright Jones adds,

With this study, I found that age at first marriage in a nationally representative cohort of recent marriages had weak to no influence on marital quality.

She notes as well,

In this research, I found little support for the widely-accepted idea that marrying in your early 20s produces lower quality marriages.

This research also found “little evidence” supporting the “general belief that early marriages are at greater risk for breakup.”

Additional research conducted by IFS scholars published in 2021 found “evidence suggesting that religious Americans are less likely to divorce even as they are more likely to marry younger than 30.”

Examining data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), they report their “results suggest delaying marriage doesn’t always make it more stable.” They explain, “If marriage is delayed by cohabiting instead, divorce risks are higher.” They continue, “Our results suggest there may be a ‘sweet spot’ for marriage in the 20s: early 20s for direct-marriers, and late-20s for cohabiters. Postponement beyond that age does little for marital stability, judging by the NSFG data.”

These researchers conclude, “Our results also suggest that religion fosters relationship stability by pushing young adults away from cohabitation, which is highly unstable, and towards marriage, which is much more stable.”

So young couples and their parents should not assume that delaying marriage until the late 20s or early 30s translates into stronger marriages and less risk of divorce. Careful research indicates marrying early does not carry the risk most people mistakenly assume.

Wright Jones ends her research explanation with this wise advice,

Instead of focusing on age, parents can encourage their children to develop good communication and other relationship skills. And when children in their early 20s fall in love and want to build a life together with someone, parents (and friends) can be supportive of a young adult’s choice to marry rather than withholding support or encouraging them to delay tying the knot. Maybe this kind of support can help stem the trend of decreasing marriage rates because sometimes marriage delayed is marriage foregone.


Image from Shutterstock.