Source: The Christian Post
June 6, 2016
Women who were virgins before they got married are the
least likely to divorce after five years, but these brides
are scarce, according to the results of a new study released
Monday by the Institute for Family Studies.
The study also found that women married since the year
2000 who had just two sexual partners prior to marriage
are surprisingly just as likely to end up divorced at the
same rate after five years as a growing cohort of women
who had 10 or more sexual partners before marriage.
And societal changes in attitudes toward premarital sex
are partly to blame. Most Americans today, according to
the latest studies, believe premarital sex is acceptable
and are likely to have three or more sexual partners
The study released on Monday was conducted by Nicholas H.
Wolfinger, a University of Utah professor of family and
consumer studies who recently co-authored Soul Mates:
Religion, Sex, Children, and Marriage among African
Americans and Latinos, with W. Bradford Wilcox.
Wolfinger uses data from the three most recent waves of
the National Survey of Family Growth
collected in 2002, 2006-2010, and 2011-2013. The
findings, he says, highlights the complex link between
premarital sex and marital stability.
“Earlier research found that having multiple sex
partners prior to marriage could lead to less happy
marriages, and often increased the odds of divorce. But
sexual attitudes and behaviors continue to change in
America, and some of the strongest predictors of divorce
in years gone by no longer matter as much as they once
did,” notes Wolfinger in the brief on his findings.
“As premarital sex became more acceptable, it’s
reasonable to anticipate that its negative effects on
marital stability waned. In general, Americans became more
accepting of nonmarital sex. Certainly fewer men entered
marriage with the expectation of a virgin bride. All of
the fanfare associated with hooking up is evidence that
some young people have become comfortable with the idea of
sex outside of serious relationships,” Wolfinger
Most of the women with minimal sexual experience or
practiced abstinence before marriage cited religion as a
factor in their life.
“One of the most common reasons for premarital
abstinence is religion, and NSFG data support such an
interpretation. … Women who marry as virgins are far
more likely than other women to attend church at least
once a week,” said Wolfinger.
“It’s also noteworthy that virgin marriages
increasingly became the domain of religious women between
the 1980s and 2000s — and during the same years, the
divorce rate for virgin brides continued to drop. These
findings make sense in light of the fact that people who
attend church frequently have lower divorce rates than do
non-participants,” he added.
While he was unable to provide a scientific explanation
for why women who had two sexual partners before marriage
were almost as likely as those who had 10 to divorce since
the 2000s, he suggested “the notion of
“My best guess rests on the notion of over-emphasized
comparisons. In most cases, a woman’s two premarital
sex partners include her future husband and one other man.
That second sex partner is first-hand proof of a sexual
alternative to one’s husband,” explained
“These sexual experiences convince women that sex
outside of wedlock is indeed a possibility. The man
involved was likely to have become a partner in the course
of a serious relationship — women inclined to hook
up will have had more than two premarital partners —
thereby emphasizing the seriousness of the
alternative,” he continued.
“Of course, women learn about the viability of
nonmarital sex if they have multiple premarital partners,
but with multiple partners, each one represents a smaller
part of a woman’s sexual and romantic biography.
Having two partners may lead to uncertainty, but having a
few more apparently leads to greater clarity about the
right man to marry. The odds of divorce are lowest with
zero or one premarital partners, but otherwise sowing
one’s oats seems compatible with having a lasting
marriage,” he added.
Wolfinger further noted that aside from religion, race and
family of origin accounted for the largest portion of the
sexual partners/divorce relationship.
Caucasian and African-American women had similar
premarital sexual behavior, but Latinas and members of the
“other” population group had notably fewer sex
partners and lower divorce rates than either whites or
People who grew up without both parents had more partners
and divorced more.
“It won’t be surprising to most readers that
people with more premarital sex partners have higher
divorce rates, broadly speaking. That said, this research
brief paints a fairly complicated picture of the
association between sex and marital stability that
ultimately raises more questions than it answers,”