Too old for the altar?

Oh, great. A new study says people who tie the knot before age 27 have happier marriages.

Published November 17, 2005 2:23PM (EST)

As if singles didn't have enough to worry about -- now USA Today reports that a national survey -- recently conducted by University of Texas sociology professor Norval Glenn -- has found that brides and grooms who say "I do" between the ages of 23 and 27 may have happier marriages than their elder counterparts.

But before all you 30- and 40-somethings start having panic attacks, take a deep breath. Independent researchers insist that the survey's conclusions, culled from brief telephone interviews of 1,500 adult men and women around the country, aren't cause for alarm. Besides looking at respondents' age at the time of marriage, the survey questioned subjects on their attitudes concerning divorce, cohabitation and parenting. "The last thing you want is [for people to] take this as a rule," Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Washington state, tells the paper.

A fact that is mentioned only in passing in the USA Today story is that Glenn's study was funded by the National Fatherhood Initiative -- a bipartisan group dedicated to promoting marriage and traditional family values. Though in the past eight years politicians and activists on both the right and the left have embraced the organization's mission, between 1998 and 2001, NFI received over $2 million in funding from the Bradley and Scaife Family foundations, two conservative organizations -- and in 2004 came under fire after launching an ad campaign that some believed vilified black parents.

How might NFI's ideology skew Glenn's study, and what stake does the organization have in his findings? The article doesn't say. But Glenn does tell USA Today that while age seemed to play a role in spousal happiness, a lot of the unhappy people may also be "just too picky or too choosy or not extremely desirable."

Gee, thanks, Dr. Glenn. You sure know how to cheer a girl up.

By Sarah Karnasiewicz

Sarah Karnasiewicz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Until recently, she was senior editor at Saveur magazine; prior to that she was deputy Life editor at Salon. She has contributed to the New York Times, the New York Observer and Rolling Stone, among other publications. For more of her work, visit and Signs and Wonders.

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