Marriage and family are the two institutes which form the basic building blocks of communities and by extension the society. Sudha (2000, p.198) declares that marriage is a fundamental universal social institute that “facilitates proper progeny and helps to have life long companionship and family life”.
This assertion is true since it is through marriage that children are raised and the continuity of a community assured. While the importance of marriage is universally appreciated, there are many differing opinions as to the age at which a person should get married. While marriage at a young age was favored in the past, modern day society advocates for later marriage. This is despite the many benefits that are to be gained by early marriage.
This paper will argue that people should marry at an early age, this age ideally being 18 years. The paper shall demonstrate that early marriage has many significant advantages most notable of which are: it inhibits crime, it results in stronger families being build and lastly, it reduces the probability of the youth engaging in risky sexual behaviors.
A Case for Early Marriage
Marriage reduces the likelihood that a person will engage in criminal activity. Particularly, marriage is credited with inhibiting male crime and is associated with lower crime among men. Sampson, Laub and Wimer (2006, p.500) explicitly state that “marriage is a potentially transformative institution that may assist in promotion desistance from criminal behavior”.
The reason why marriage might lead to lower crime is because it results in a marked change in a person’s daily routines. Sampson, Laub and Wimer (2006) note that “unstructured socializing activities with peers by people aged 18 to 26 increases the likelihood of deviant behavior”.
Being married at the early age of 18 has the potential of changing activities such as frequent socializing with deviant peers. It can therefore be asserted that early marriage improves the quality of life for the married couple and the society at large. By reducing the likelihood of the person engaging in crime, the individual is able to engage in more productive activities. This benefits his immediate family and contributes to the well being of the society.
Young couples have a higher likelihood of building stronger families than older couples. This is because younger people have not yet formed rigid perceptions concerning life. Strong, Devault and Cohen (2010) state that most marriages are built on the idea that one can change their partner following the marriage union and mold them into more desirable people.
As such, both parties to a marriage enter into the union hoping to change certain behaviors in each other. Young people are more flexible and open minded as compared to older one’s. As such, it is easier for a younger couple to forge a coherent family than for an older couple who have already built independent perceptions of life over the years.
Marriage at an early age significantly decreases the probability of an individual engaging in risky sexual behavior. We live in an age that is rife with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). While there is risk of infection for both married and unmarried people, the risk to the unmarried people is heightened.
The reason for this is that unmarried people are more likely to engage in risky sexual activities with multiple partners. Ellis (2004) goes ahead and advocates early marriage as a means for curbing promiscuity which is one of the causes of the prevalence of STIs among youths. Marriage results in less risky behavior therefore increasing the probability of better health for a person. In addition to this, there is a positive correlation between marriage and the increased mental and physical well being of an individual (Smith, 1999).
Counterargument and Refutation
One of the most potent argument raised by opponents of early marriage is that marrying young may result in poverty for the couple. This is not an empty argument since as a matter of fact; most young people are economically insecure. Therefore, when these two people with limited financial capabilities come together in marriage, they cannot assist each other to become financially sound.
While it is true that marrying young is often accompanied by economic insecurities, this is not a permanent state of affairs. The young couple has the ability to grow into financial security together. The notion that early marriage results in poverty is based on the assumption that the young couple will lack opportunities to better themselves.
This is not true since both parties work towards achieving self-reliance and economic empowerment. Sudha (2000) notes that both parties in the marriage are encouraged to pursue higher education and engage in employment in addition to the activities concerning marriage and family.
Another argument advanced against marrying young is that it increases the likelihood of divorce. Opponents of early marriages state that the young are more likely to resort to divorce than older couples. Strong, Devault and Cohen (2010) suggest that the reason why young marriages are more prone to divorce is because of the immaturity and impulsive nature of the partners.
This argument fails to consider that divorce rates are on the increase for all ages (Harvey, 2006). In addition to this, research by Ruggles (1997) states that marital dissolutions have increased dramatically over the last century and while only 5% of marriages entered into in 1987 ended in divorce, a phenomenal 50% of marriages entered into in 1967 are forecasted to end up in divorce.
This dramatic rise in divorce rates has been blamed on a number of factors most notably of which are the increases in the earning power of women in the USA. This assertion by Ruggel is corroborated by Bianchi et al (1996) who declare that while there are many reasons for the rising rates of divorce, the most important factor is the changes in the female labor force over the last two decades. The reason for this is that the wife’s employment provides an economic alternative to an unhappy marriage.
Conclusion and opinion
This paper set out to argue that people should marry at a young age so as to reap the benefits that accompany early marriage. The current reality is that the gap in years between the legal adult age (18) and marriage has increased significantly over the past three decades. This paper has outlined the various advantages that come with getting married while young.
It has been noted that early marriage reduces the likelihood of a person engaging in criminal activities or risky sexual behavior. In addition to this, early marriages result in strong bonds being formed between the couple. With this benefits that marriage beings about as highlighted in this paper, more people should be encouraged to marry at a young age.
Bianchi, S.M. et al. (1996). American Women in Transition. CA: Russell Sage Foundation.
Ellis, H. (2004). Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 6. Online-ebooks.
Harvey, J.H. (2006). Handbook of Divorce and Relationship Dissolution. NY: Routledge.
Ruggles, S. (1997). “The Rise of Divorce and Separation in the United States, 1880 – 1990”. Demography, Vol 34- No. 4, November 1997: 455-466.
Sampson, J.R., Laub, H.J., & Wimer, C. (2006). “Does Marriage Reduce Crime? A Counterfactual Approach to Within-Individual Causal Effects”. Criminology Volume 44, No. 3.
Smith, J. P. (1999). “Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relationship Between Health and Economic Status”. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 13: 145-66.
Strong, B., Devault, C., & Cohen, F.T. (2010). The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationships in a Changing Society. NY: Cengage Learning.
Sudha, D. Gender Roles. USA: APH Publishing, 2000.