Research Challenges “50 Percent” Divorce Statistics for Christians

By:  Dave Bohon
Research Challenges “50 Percent” Divorce Statistics for Christians

A new book by a Harvard-trained researcher is challenging the notion that up to half of all Christian marriages end in divorce.

Shaunti Feldhahn, a researcher who authors Christian-based books on marriage, said the oft-quoted statistic that half of all marriages in America end in divorce — including among Christian couples — is just plain false. Feldhahn, who conducted eight years of research on the issue, said the truth is that just over 30 percent of all marriages in America end in divorce, and for couples who regularly attend church the rate plummets to between 15 and 20 percent — still troubling numbers, but much better than the discouraging statistics that have been quoted for the past several years.

Feldhahn, whose research on the subject is contained in her book The Good News About Marriage, admitted to CBN News that she was guilty of spouting the “50 percent” statistic until she began to wonder where the figure actually came from. When she and assistant Tally Whitehead began digging into the research, they realized that “there is no such thing as a 50 percent divorce rate. It’s never been close.” She said that present statistics indicate that “72 percent of people are still married to their first spouse — that’s Census Bureau data.”

Feldhahn speculates that the “50 percent” statistic came from a number of predictions made by researchers and experts based on the trajectory of past divorce rates. But the projections were “too pessimistic,” she said. “Starting in the 1970s — that’s when those projections started — when no-fault divorce started, the divorce rate skyrocketed. Suddenly there was this explosion in divorce.” But it is a rate that has steadily fallen over the years.

Some experts argue that the pessimistic numbers concerning marriage may have contributed to a “why try” fatalistic attitude that has had some couples projecting that their marriage will fail, and assuming that not even a strong Christian faith will help. According to one Christian counselor, Angel Davis, the negative numbers almost serve as permission for couples to give up. “When you have a statistic like 50 percent, it gives you the option,” Davis told CBN News. “It becomes an option in your mind.”

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