THE NEW DIVORCE GENERATION; Having Witnessed Unhappy Marriages,they Craved security.So Why,having Vowed Not to Repeat the Mistakes of Their Parents' Generation,are So Many 20-Somethings Failing to Make Marriage Work?

Daily Mail (London), March 30, 2010 | Go to article overview

THE NEW DIVORCE GENERATION; Having Witnessed Unhappy Marriages,they Craved security.So Why,having Vowed Not to Repeat the Mistakes of Their Parents' Generation,are So Many 20-Somethings Failing to Make Marriage Work?


Byline: by Maureen Rice

NOBODY gets married thinking it will end in divorce. Sara Robinson, 28, certainly didn't. She got married aged 22 to Chris, a man who proposed to her within two weeks of their first meeting. 'He was five years older than me and worked in sales. He was so funny, intelligent and entertaining, I had never met anyone like him,' she says.

'When he proposed, he told me how much he loved me, and that we would be together for ever. I said yes instantly.' Their wedding took place two days before Christmas on a beautiful snowy day, which Sara describe as 'so romantic'. But in two years, it was all over.

Although the rate of marital breakdown peaked in the early 1990s, and in 2008 the ratio of divorce to marriage was only 18 per cent, younger marriages, like Chris and Sara's are at a great risk of failure.

According to recent ESRI research, the chance of marital breakdown is greatest for couples with one child and for women in higher occupations.

So, the corollary is clear -- if you are a young woman who is middle-class, you are more likely to experience separation. It certainly casts the 'having it all' conceit in a new light.

Most, like Sara, and works in marketing, begin their married lives in a spirit of faith and optimism, only to crash and burn in the divorce courts a few years later -- a trend reflected by the high-profile shortlived marriages of celebrities such as Cheryl Cole, Jordan, Peaches Geldof, and most recently, Andrea Roche.

It's a phenomenon that's even been given its own name: The Starter Marriage -- a phrase that glibly implies a fundamentally dismissive attitude to marriage, as 'not necessarily something you go into for life,' as Peaches Geldof so memorably said of her own disastrous six-month union last year.

It's become a fashionable analysis: dismissing an early divorce as 'one of those things' and chalking it up as a useful life lesson.

But however much young people might think a failed marriage in your 20s can be a good experience, nobody comes through the process without scars. There are serious consequences, personally and socially, to young divorce.

Behind superficial chatter about 'starter marriages' lies some stark realities: many young marriages have produced children, so the divorcing couple have to face their future as single parents and their children as the product of a fractured family.

So why is this generation so doomed when it comes to tying the knot? There may now be little social stigma to divorce, but many young divorcees admit to feeling embarrassed and ashamed by their experience.

WHILE Miss Geldof may dismiss marriage as less of a commitment than one of her tattoos, back in the real world the rest of her generation feels quite differently -- at least to begin with. If anything, there seems to be a surge of renewed faith and belief in the whole idea of marriage among younger women. A recent survey for the think-tank Civitas to gauge the attitudes of young people to marriage found 76per cent of those aged 20 to 24 were strongly in favour.

Anastasia de Waal, Director Of Family And Education at Civitas, says: 'It's a misconception that we're turning against marriage. Actually, a lot of people -- and especially young people -- would like to get married.' Most of those 20-24 year olds who would like to get married don't actually make it up the aisle, of course -- the average age for a first marriage in Ireland is now 31 for women and 32 for men.

So who are the married twentysomethings? What makes them take the plunge in the first place and why do they end up getting divorced? Ironically enough, the divorce rate of the previous decades has partly inspired this enthusiasm for marriage among the younger generation.

Their parents were part of a rising trend of unhappy marriages that peaked in the early 1990s. As a result, there is both a longing for stability and a youthful arrogance about many twentysomething marriages. …

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