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).