Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Debunking an urban legend

Maggie Gallagher

True or False: Religion has no effect on divorce rates.

False, false, false. Mere religious affiliation may not reduce divorce, but religious practice clearly does. One longitudinal analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth found that couples who attended church as often as once a month had divorce rates less than half that of couples who attended church once a year or less. Similarly, a recent study of the National Survey of Families and Households found that marriage in which both couples attend church regularly have the lowest divorce risk (David B. Larson and James P. Swyers, 2002, "Does Religion and Spirituality Contribute to Marital and Individual Health?" in John Wall et al (eds.) Marriage, Health and the Professions).



  1. Most people would infer that if a couple does anything together regularly where they spend a few hours in close contact in a comfortable atmosphere, it is a sign of an already stable marriage.

    That is, dual church attendance doesn't cause a happy marriage, but many people in happy marriages attend church together (and do lots of other activities together) precisely because they're happy.

    cum hoc, ergo propter hoc

  2. Well, for the last part, yes. But what about the earlier parts of the article. Clearly a couple where both parties do lots of activities together are clearly comfortable in each other's presence. A good sign. Had the quotation made only that point, it would have been a truism.

    But the article did not only make that point.

    Further, it's nice to see the difference between nominal afilitaion and commitment made. Too often this is not taken into account in studies. For example here in Britain at the last census 76% of the population declared that they were Christian, although only about 10% of the population actually attend a church or chapel regularly. A study of that 76% would look very different from a study of the 10%, I hazard.