Red State Divorce

For decades the higher divorce rates across the Bible Belt have been a puzzling phenomenon. Researchers used to assume that the problem related to poverty, but as the region has begun to close the income gap with the rest of the country that explanation has become less persuasive. Research at the University of Texas suggests conservative religion may be a direct factor.

From a summary in the Washington Post:

“Conservative Protestant community norms and the institutions they create seem to increase divorce risk,” researchers say in the study. For example, those who are struggling in their marriage may feel discouraged to find help in communities where marriage is idealized or marital failure is viewed as shameful, the researchers suggest.

“Generally, religion, religious belief and religious activities are thought to strengthen marriages,” said co-author Jennifer Glass a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “It appears that the cessation of education, early marriage and early parenthood, you’re set up for relationship conflict, financial stress and dissolution.”

It’s also worth noting that among religious groups, evangelical Christians generally have higher rates of divorce and Southern Baptists consistently have the highest rates. In “the family that prays together” someone may be quietly praying for a way out.

Here’s a link to the complete paper (as a pdf).

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Religion
52 comments on “Red State Divorce
  1. Tuttabella says:

    Having never been married, much less divorced, I’ve nothing to add to this scholarly thread, not even two cents. I look forward to the new blog entry.

  2. geoff1968 says:

    Then there’s the Haitian Divorce.

  3. flypusher says:

    One could reasonably question whether monogamy for life is a natural state for humans. We have all sorts of ancient instincts that don’t fit it well with the expectations/ conditions of our current society. Before anyone jumps in with some rant about libs just looking for excuses to justify any sort of bad behavior, chill and take a step back from the keyboard. Humans have instincts, but those marvelous big brains make it possible to override those instincts. But if you’re going to override an instinct that causes social problems (like the tendency to cheat, or the tendency to be hostile to someone too different), it’s a lot easier if you know that instinct is there.

    • GG says:

      Saw a very interesting program about this. The “seven year itch” was linked to our early ancestors urge to procreate with as many different females as possible, spreading their DNA far and wide, but females are not immune to it either. Monogamy is NOT natural for humans. They’ve even discovered that certain species who mate for life may stray when the other isn’t looking.

      • Texan5142 says:

        As a man I say any man who says he has not been aroused by another woman other than his wife is a liar.

      • flypusher says:

        Or he’s not getting out at all. Men (straight men) like to look at women. That’s their nature. If they aren’t touching, or looking so overtly as to be offensive, then their mates need to cut them some slack. Besides, they’d be lying if they denied checking out the good-looking guys.

    • GG says:

      One of the dumbest things I ever heard was on the radio when they were asking people who had very short marriages to call in. One was 1 week because the girl said her new husband was checking out some woman on their honeymoon and she got so bent out of shape that she filed for divorce. That is an unbelievably young, dumb and insecure girl there. That kind of thing does not bother me in the least but I suppose I’m older and more secure and I still like to look at young guys with nice bodies. The other morning I was out having coffee with the bf and saw him eyeing some young thing and I said “nice a&&, huh? At some point you have to realize that someone younger and prettier is always going to exist.

      • texan5142 says:

        My wife always says, I don’t care where you get your appetite, just as long as you come home to eat.

  4. DanMan says:

    I enjoyed perusing the 30 or so references of this study that reflects the polar opposite of my personal experience…

    “The Legacy of Lynching and Southern Homicide.”

    “The Impact of Concentrations of Religious Denominational Affiliations on the Rate of Currently Divorced in Counties in the United States.”

    “That they be keepers of the home: The effect of conservative religion on early and late transition into housewifery,”

    “Soft patriarchs, new men: How Christianity shapes fathers and husbands.”

    “The Impact of Protestant Fundamentalism on Educational Attainment.”

    Looks like the same tripe libs promote every day in every way. Y’all hate religion and worship at the alter of government. SSDD

    • desperado says:

      Also at the *altar* of spelling.

      • DanMan says:

        meh, happens to work in this instance, Obama has suspended enforcing laws as he sees fit, even ones he forced through. That’s an alteration of government we’ve never seen before.

      • GG says:

        Yes, Texas, I guess communing with nature is the closest thing to “spiritual” I can get.

    • Texan5142 says:

      I find religion fascinating, no hate, the mass delusion intrigues me like a magic trick where everyone in the room is subject to a slight of hand.

      • GG says:

        I’m the same. It amazes me that people have to believe so fervently in some higher being watching over them. Even when I was a kid being forced to go to Sunday school it seemed illogical and I’ve just never understood the need or had the desire to. I guess I don’t have a spiritual bone in my body.

      • John Galt says:

        I don’t have spiritual bones in my body either, but I think there’s a difference between some vague spiritualism and the explicit and detailed dogma of modern religions. How one goes from the notion of a higher power to the explicit depictions and rituals of today’s religions is beyond me, particularly in modern society in which the actual real answers to so many questions are right in front of one’s eyes.

      • flypusher says:

        You can count me among the spiritually tone deaf. I just don’t get it, and it wasn’t through lack of exposure or trying to understand. I get that for many people, faith can be a great comfort. For my part, I would rather KNOW than BELIEVE. That’s how I’m wired. Fortunately heretics like me are now free to be heretics.

      • Texan5142 says:

        “I guess I don’t have a spiritual bone in my body.”

        It depends on what one finds or defines spiritual. I believe that being spiritual about something has nothing to do with religion. A nice sunset on a boat fishing with a good friend is spiritual to me. So is drinking a fine beer, having a smoke, listening to John Denver Poems Prayers and Promises while watching the sun go down on a warm spring evening with some steaks on the pit………….that my friend is spiritual.

        ( I don’t smoke tobacco )

    • Crogged says:

      He’s the first moderate progressive to do what every President has done since you started paying attention to executive orders et al, hence, DICTATORSHIP! But this study, meh. People get divorced because they think they’ve found something better and like good ol’ Henry VIII, make a new religion if the old one won’t let them. If you get divorced in the North you might freeze to death.

      • flypusher says:

        Anyone all bent out of shape over Obama using Executive Orders might want to go look at Reagan’s record on those. That is if you’re actually interested in gaining a little perspective, rather than being a whiny partisan hack.

  5. objv says:

    From the link about Baptists above: while 25 percent of American adults have been divorced at least once, the divorce rate is even higher (27 percent) among self-identified “born again” Christians

    ————————————————————

    Wow – a whopping 2%! That’s really significant!

    • DFC says:

      Yes, dear, it is.

      John 8:7 (KJV)

      7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

      • objv says:

        DFC: You are right in saying that it is hypocritical for someone who is divorced to condemn someone else for divorcing. However, the premise being discussed here involves a correlation between higher divorce rates and living in “Bible Belt” states.

        I was merely pointing out that nationally divorce rates for evangelicals are nearly identical to rates in the population as a whole, therefore other factors must be in play.

        As far as my own life is concerned, I married my husband at 26. We had a long distance relationship before we married, so it was a shock to find out that we were not all that compatible once we were living with each other. The only thing that kept us from divorcing was the Bible’s stance on marriage.

        My husband and I could have easily found other partners, but we stayed together in large part because of our Christian beliefs.

        It’s not my job to condemn anyone – regardless of their faith. I realize that there are situations (especially involving abuse) where marriages should end.. My post was never intended to try to be judgmental and I’m sorry if it was taken that way.

      • objv says:

        I need to add that I’m glad we worked things out. Despite the initial bumps in the road, we’ve had a successful and happy marriage.

      • DanMan says:

        No need to apologize here objv, they are clinically shameless and pretend offense as a tool to burnish their victimhood.

      • GG says:

        Congrats Obj. That, however, is why I personally would never marry someone without living with them first. Same goes for waiting to have sex. You might end up with a total klutz in the sack.

      • Crogged says:

        “Victimhood” is pretending marriage or Christianity is under attack in the US.

      • DanMan says:

        libs are masters of pretending victimhood, that’s why I said it. Every policy your side forwards is to address some perceived grievance for the assorted tribal victims that populate your party

        poor women are victims because their boyfriends won’t pay for birth control so the Little Sisters of the Poor have to pay for them, gays are victims because voters don’t want to give them special privileges so their legislators and judges give them their new status of hasslers to small businesses that prefer not to participate in their affairs

  6. Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

    I think most surveys show that couples with traditional gender role assignments (e.g., wife at home and husband working) tend to report happier marriages (and more sex). This makes sense to me since there are fewer arguments over who is going to do what around the house and with childcare and there are fewer work schedules and commitments to juggle.

    I think it would be safe to say that you would find more traditional gender role assignments in red states and among religious folks.

    As conditions warrant more and more dual-income earners and with fewer social/cultural (fewer but many still exist) roadblocks to women’s education and employment, those traditional gender roles are going to get strained, causing new and more tension in relationships.

  7. John Galt says:

    “It appears that the cessation of education, early marriage and early parenthood, you’re set up for relationship conflict, financial stress and dissolution.”

    I think that’s the answer. Anything that encourages people who are young, stupid and sheltered to get married is going to increase divorce rates. I’m not sure conservative religious beliefs, per se, increase divorce rates, just that there is a larger population of religious conservatives than non-religious (or mainline adherents) who got married young, stupid and sheltered.

    • kabuzz61 says:

      I agree John. Since marriage can only survive through communication I would add today’s distractions FROM communicating with each other doesn’t help. Also the peer pressure is intense. Religion plays no part, even the author of the piece hedged her conclusion with ‘seem’. Only people interested in bashing religion, faith and/or conservatives would be gullible enough to fall for this tripe.

      • Houston-Stay-At-Homer says:

        Not to be one to bash religion, but I have a hunch folks would be less likely to bash religion if some religious folks would stop trying to stop gay people from destroying the sanctity of marriage, when those religious folks seem to be destroying it just fine on their own.

        There are many, many non-religious folks who sincerely have no care in the world about other people’s religions unless and until those religious beliefs are codified into law or used to justify different treatment of folks.

      • GG says:

        Very true Houston. Most people don’t give a rat’s ass until it starts encroaching into government and trying to pry into our bedrooms.

      • DanMan says:

        No, it wouldn’t matter. You’ll bash religion anyway.

    • John Galt says:

      I’m happy to bash religion. I could do it all day and it’s particularly easy to bash the preposterous literalism of conservative Protestant beliefs, the medieval ritualism of Catholicism, or the transparently contrived nonsense of Islam.

      But in this case, the effects of religion are likely convincing/compelling adherents to marry too young for a variety of reasons. Once married, that religion probably helps keep those couples together (relative to non-religious couples in similar circumstances) though, one wonders, how often staying together might be a bad thing.

  8. desperado says:

    Seems to me it might have something to do with conservative evangelical attitudes on contraception and abortion. Shotgun weddings forced on young people who are neither financially or emotionally capable of dealing with the responsibility of being a spouse or a parent. Those situations don’t generally make for stable, long-term marriages. Just my 2 cents.

    • DanMan says:

      inflation makes it as worthless as a liar

      true story, one of my brothers was married to a really crazy girl. They were something to see and they made for some hilarious stories. She ran off and he didn’t bother looking for her. Seven years later she called from Kentucky and asked him to sign divorce papers. I was sitting there when said “aww honey! why? everything’s going so well” we laughed about that for a long time.

      So he hadn’t seen her for another 10 years or so and she called our mom looking for him. She surprised him by showing up at a family reunion a week or so later and commenced to get so drunk the night before at the hotel bar she jumped up on a table and mooned the room. We took off never saw her again.

      Turns out she was looking for some place to live after her place got damaged in North Lake during Katrina.

  9. Tuttabella says:

    Something else to address besides just the frequency of divorce is the frequency of REMARRIAGE. It’s one thing to divorce and live one’s life alone, another is to divorce and then remarry.

  10. flypusher says:

    I have to wonder if one of the things holding those unhappy marriages together back in the “good ol days” was all the roadblocks against economic independence for women.

    • GG says:

      I would say that was a big factor in it. My maternal grandmother was married at 16 and never worked. She was literally barefoot and pregnant and depended on my grandfather for everything. She couldn’t drive and didn’t know how to write a check. All she knew how to do was pop out kids and wait on him hand and foot. You can imagine how her life changed when he left her for some floozy he met at work. She was devastated, emotionally and financially. He left her with 5 kids and no money.

    • Tuttabella says:

      Just for the record, that’s NOT Captain Sternn in the video, even though he is wearing a Superman T-shirt.

  11. Tuttabella says:

    Sorry, way off topic — not the first time, nor will it be the last — this actually goes back to the thread about about technology and “unemployment.” There was a book from the ’80s called the Four-Hour Work DAY — NOT the more recent book called the Four-Hour Work WEEK. That book talked of how having a shorter work day made workers more efficient, that they would prioritize better knowing they had only 4 hours to get things done, and having the other 4 hours of free, personal time to look forward to. And yes, they would be paid the equivalent of 8 hours.

    If we have 8 hours to get things done, we’re likely to stretch out our workload in order to fill those 8 hours, work that we might be able to accomplish in 4. Better to do whatever possible to get the work done in 4 hours, and then have the other 4 hours to devote to personal pursuits.

    The current situation of being hyper-connected and working 24/7 is not necessarily very efficient, because now we’re likely to waste time at work knowing we have “all the time in the world” to complete our tasks, to stretch out our workload even more, and that results in our never being able to truly rest and relax.

    This, of course, doesn’t apply to every type of job, not even to every type of office job, but I think it’s always helpful to draw a line between work and leisure time, in order to maximize the quality of both.

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