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ISSUE 117 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/26/2003

Undergrads tie the knot ... not

By Brenna Bray
Contributing Writer


Friday, September 26, 2003

Marriage is commonly accepted as one of the most highly prized of all human relationships and as a primary life goal for most Americans. The desire to marry begins during childhood (perhaps learned from parents). As a child grows, so too does the inclination towards matrimony.

Currently, researchers are noticing a trend toward marrying later in life. In the United States, the median age for first marriages is currently about 27 for males and 25 for females. These ages have gradually risen since the late 1940s, but recently, the slope has risen exponentially. According to the “Digest of Education Statistics,” 24% of undergraduate students in 1996 reported that they were married.

The percentage of married undergraduates has decreased significantly within the past seven years. Rather than marrying during college, today’s average student chooses to use his or her college years as mental and emotional preparation for marriage at a later stage in life.

St. Olaf’s mission statement says that, “Students in particular are at crucial junctures in their lives, shaping their vision of the world and their places within it, and making decisions about values, marriage and occupation.” The quest for vocation at St. Olaf is intended to be guided but natural. Does society’s tendency to associate college and marriage, paired with St. Olaf’s emphasis on lifelong goals may place pressure on many students to rush into marriage?

During an inter-gender function last weekend, in which members of the St. Olaf women’s cross country team invited dates to a night of dancing on the Mississippi River, many girls considered the prospect of marriage when eyeing their dates. Although such considerations may seem over-the-top, they were grounded in the team members’ knowledge that their senior captain Marit Grorud ‘04 was recently engaged to a boy she met on her freshman inter-gender function.

One approach to college-aged marriages suggests that strong bonds form during the college years. One statistic shows that many relationships that lead to marriage form between the ages of 18 and 25, during the college years. Many attribute the high college-aged marital rate to students’ impatience and immaturity.

Some research, however, indicates that successful marriages are not necessarily reliant upon age or the wisdom brought on by years of life experience. Instead, the success of a marriage often depends on the combined income and respective religious beliefs of the couple.

A recent study by Bramlett & Mosher shows that college graduates and couples with high incomes are less likely to end their marriages than those with less education and lower incomes. The same study posits that people with strong religious beliefs are less likely to experience marital dissolution. According to this study, the high family incomes and religious attachments of so many St. Olaf students would make St. Olaf a favorable institution for the production of lasting marriages.

Another study, located at http://www.marriage.Rutgers.edu/Publications.html, suggests that later marriages (i.e., over age 30) may be of lower quality than marriages begun when couples are in their mid-twenties. This study may justify the young ages at which many St. Olaf students are getting married.

Although recent trends show a shift towards later, post-graduate marriages, marriage remains an important college-related issue. Furthermore, although college marriages are becoming less common, they still exist. Some unmarried students perceive this existence as stressful, pressuring the fulfillment of marital desires. However, private religious colleges (like St. Olaf) seem to provide environments conducive to strong marriages. Therefore, responsible couples who chose to marry during college could provide leadership rather than pressure to singles searching for spouses.





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