An overview of divorce statistics in the Church, with comparisons where available to the general population (prepared June, 2000).
World Divorce Rates-General Population
For a collection of world divorce statistics, visit this website: www.divorcereform.org/nonus. Statistics compiled at this website appear to be less documented than those available from official government sources.
World Divisions – Seventh-day Adventists
Adventist Family Study
General Conference Department of Family Ministries
1994 International Year of the Family
8,000+ respondents representing parts of 7 world divisions (results reported below do not include NAD)
Respondents were asked to report personal experience, if any, in 13 areas of at-risk life experience (i.e. marital conflict, parent-teen conflict, depression, divorce, premarital and extramarital sex, abuse, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation).
Marital conflict was the most common at-risk experience reported. Subjects indicating that marital conflict had been an issue in their lives during the last 3 years ranged from 23-58% (low-high across world divisions).
Subjects reporting having experienced divorce from their spouse ranged from 10-28% (low-high across world divisions).
Subjects reporting the divorce of their parents ranged from 10-32% (low-high across world divisions).
North America-General Population
Statistics as of June 1999, reported in National Vital Statistics Reports, June 8, 2000
Divorce rates are generally calculated by comparing the number of divorces with the number of marriages in a given time period. In the United States in 1999 there were 8.4 marriages and 4.2 divorces per 1,000 total population. Thus it can be seen that in 1999 there was one divorce for every two marriages in the United States, a “crude” divorce rate of 50%. The Rutgers National Marriage Project ( marriage.rutgers.edu ) bases their review of divorce trends on the number of marriages per 1000 unmarried women 15 years of age or older and the number of divorces per 1000 married women in the same age bracket. This look at divorce in relation to the population of marriageable age rather than the population as a whole produces a slightly lower divorce rate. However, they note, “Overall, the chances remain very high-close to 50 percent-that a marriage started today will end in either divorce or permanent separation.”
1999 The State of Our Unions, The National Marriage Project, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (http://marriage.rutgers.edu)
Key finding: The American divorce rate today is more than twice that of 1960, but has declined slightly since hitting the highest point in our history in the early 1980s.
The Barna Update, December 20, 1999
- One-quarter of all Americans have experienced at least one divorce.
- Born-again Christians continue to have a higher likelihood of getting divorced than do non-Christians (27% and 24% respectively, a statistically significant difference)
Statistics Canada, Online figures provided through 1997
In Canada, in 1997 there were a total of 154,750 marriages and 67,408 divorces-a divorce rate of 42%.
Tim Rotheisler, Alberta Report, August 4, 1997
Since the introduction of “no-fault divorce” in Canada 30 years ago, the rate of marital break-up has soared 600%. A third of marriages fail, and over a third of those break-ups involve children. One-fifth of Canadian children have lost a parent to divorce, with an effect that some sociologists now say can be “worse than a parent’s death.” Divorce is consistently associated with juvenile emotional disorders, crime, suicide, promiscuity and later marital break-up.
North America-Seventh-day Adventists
North American Division data which follows was reported in Monte and Norma Sahlin (1997). A New Generation of Adventist Families. Lincoln, NE: Center for Creative Ministries.
Results were compiled from data collected in 1993-1994 in the Pacific Union (996 respondents), Columbia Union (676 respondents), and across the North American Division through the NAD Adventist Family Study instrument (1,350 respondents).
1:4 respondents reported having been divorced at some point in their life.
At least 272 per 1,000 Adventist marriages ended in divorce.
More than 1:3 respondents who had experienced divorce did so before they joined the Adventist church.
The percentage of divorced members, particularly women, was higher among Adventists (9%) than among Lutherans and Nazarenes (6%) as reported in Barry Kosmin and Seymour Lachman (1993). One Nation Under God. New York: Harmony Books.
Among divorced members, 1:3 joined the church after a marriage breakup. This data may reflect the tendency for people to turn to the church in a time of need. It may also reflect a period of receptivity to the gospel in time of transition. This raises the question, “Does the higher percentage of divorced persons among Adventists (as compared with Lutherans and Nazarenes above) give evidence of effective outreach or ineffective nurture?” Probably both.
The largest number of respondents (43%) were under 30 years of age at the time of their divorce. Another third were under 40, and less than 1:4 were 40 or older.
2:3 divorced respondents had minor children in the home at the time of their divorce.
Low income respondents were more likely to have gone through a divorce than higher-income respondents.
The percentages of wives employed part- or full-time among divorced respondents was not significantly different from the work-force participation of married women who had never divorced.
Blacks and Whites were more likely to have experienced divorce than were Asians and Hispanics.
1:5 who had experienced divorce had also gone through a second, third, or subsequent marriage dissolution. Nearly all had had only two divorces. Only a handful indicated they had been divorced three or more times.
It is clear from this data set that the rate of divorce among Adventists in NAD increased significantly for three decades-the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s. It is equally clear that it declined in the 1990s.
This report was prepared for the General Conference Divorce and Remarriage Study Commission 1997-1999.