Jan. 13, 2006
Couples who attend church together more likely to stay together
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Black couples are more religious but white couples reported being happier in their marriages, according to new research conducted at the University of Michigan.
Previous studies show that issues related to divorce are different for men and women. In this study, blacks and whites had different perceptions of what makes a marriage happy and the factors related to divorce were also different, said Edna Brown, lead author of the study.
The study examined how religion affected the risk of divorce for black couples and white couples. Data came from 373 couples who were initially interviewed during their first year of marriage in 1986 as part of the Early Years of Marriage project at U-M. Both spouses were of the same race, and the wife was 35 years old or younger.
"The findings suggest that the most effective intervention strategies for dealing with marital instability and divorce are those that consider gender and race of the couples," said Edna Brown, assistant professor in social work at the University of Tennessee.
Brown collaborated on the research while at U-M. The study's co-authors are Terri Orbuch, a principle research investigator at the U-M Institute for Social Research and a research professor at the U-M Institute for Research on Women and Gender; Cara Talaska, a research associate at the Institute for Social Research; and Natasha Brown, a student involved with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which creates research partnerships between first- and second-year students and U-M faculty.
The research will be presented at the Society of Social Work and Research conference this weekend.
Wives and husbands were interviewed separately for five of the seven years of marriage. Although data was collected in the 16th year of the study for couples who remained married and the divorced individuals, the current study only examines the risk of divorce within the first seven years of marriage.
In the first year, respondents were asked about the frequency of attending religious services, how often they attended together, their perceptions of how often their spouse attended, the importance of religion in their lives, and about the quality of their marriage. The researchers looked at the socio-demographic factors of race, education and income.
The research indicated that black wives and husbands were at a higher risk of divorce than whites. Education, however, was a protective factor against divorce for wives, while income was a protective factor for husbands. That is, wives with higher education and husbands wth higher income were less likely to divorce.
In addition, wives and husbands who attended religious services together were less likely to divorce regardless of race. Other aspects of religiosity, such as frequency of individual attendance or the importance of religion, were not influential to the risk of divorce, Brown said.
Contact: Jared Wadley