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National Marriage Project: Can Marrying Later Always Offer a Better Marriage? New Study Challenges Assumption

A recent report, “The State of Our Unions 2022,” provides little substantiation for the idea that marriages formed after the age of 25 are inherently stronger than those entered into during one’s early 20s.

Conventional wisdom has often held that the most successful marriages involve partners who have pursued education, established stable careers, achieved financial security, and matured through a comprehensive period of single life. Conversely, prevailing cultural narratives suggest that individuals who marry at a young age, before reaching these milestones, are more likely to encounter relationship challenges and a higher potential for divorce. However, a novel study counters this viewpoint, revealing a lack of empirical evidence to support the favoring of later “capstone marriages” (formed after age 25) over “cornerstone marriages” (taking place between ages 20-24).

“The State of Our Unions 2022” report, a collaborative effort between the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the Wheatley Institution, and BYU’s School of Family Life, scrutinized three recently compiled datasets containing extensive, nationally representative samples. The objective was to evaluate marital outcomes for both cornerstone and capstone marriages. The findings indicate a dearth of compelling evidence substantiating the notion that capstone marriages are inherently more enduring than cornerstone marriages. Additionally, the report suggests that, on average, cornerstone marriages—established at a younger age—may even experience slightly higher levels of relationship quality in comparison to capstone marriages.

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