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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Leave it to a Utah couple

By Rachel Katseanes

December 15, 2006 | After moving to Utah I started to notice that many of my peers were either married or engaged to be married. I was in complete awe because I had just barely graduated high school and was leaving home for the first time. I still felt so young and immature and couldn't imagine being married. I came to college thinking that it was normal for people to wait until they were at least graduated from college to get married. But when I got here, half of the people I had met my freshman year were already engaged by second semester.

After further investigation, I discovered this was not just my own observation. In 1998, Governor Michael O. Leavitt and First Lady, Jacalyn S. Leavitt launched the nation's first Governor's Commission on Marriage in Utah.

The findings state the median age at first marriage in Utah is 21 for the bride and 23 for the groom. The median age at first marriage in the United States is 25.1 for the bride and 26.8 for the groom. In the year 2000, 17.6 percent of the brides married were less than 20 years old. People in Utah get married at a much younger age in Utah than in other places in the country.

"Too many Utahns rush into marriage in hopes of achieving everlasting happiness," said Jane Koerner, program director for Utah State University magazine. " Overly idealistic, they fail to realize that it's your work ethic that makes a marriage endure."

96 percent of Utahns believe that young couples focused too much on the happiness they expected from marriage and not enough on the hard work required for a successful marriage. Subsequently, 83 percent of Utah adults thought too many couples rush into marriage.

Not only have I noticed the young age which people get married in Logan, but I have also noticed the extremely short duration of time they date before they get engaged and married. Often it seems as though people don't even genuinely know who they are marrying because they don't have time to truly get to know them. This is concerning because Utah actually has a higher divorce rate than the nation as a whole. Possibly people's marriages aren't lasting because they don't really know who they are dating. Also, they aren't mature enough to know what they are really getting themselves into, and don't know how to handle tough situations that come with being married so they opt to get a divorce.

When Utahns were asked possible reasons why their marriage failed, lack of commitment was the top response.

But a significant number of the respondents felt their failed marriage was partially due to marrying at such a young age. The likelihood of Utahns being divorced was greater with the early age at marriage. The divorce rate may be higher than older people because they are typically less mature and less prepared to handle the responsibilities and commitments of marriage.

"Also, their preferences and standards for a mate, as well as their own characteristics that determine their desirability as a spouse, may not yet have become stable."

Another concerning fact is that Utah also has the highest rate of bankruptcy in the nation. Perhaps it's because young adults are rushing into marriage and starting to have large families right away. They are too young and haven't learned how to budget and take care of a family, which obviously can lead to bankruptcy.

So now the question is why? Why are so many Utahns choosing to get married at such a young age? Part of the explanation is that a significant number (57 percent) residents in Utah belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

John Morley, a returned missionary attending the University of Utah says, "LDS theology infuses marriage with a great deal of significance- it's a prerequisite to salvation. Additionally, many LDS people see family and children as critical parts of a full life. Far from something to be postponed or avoided."

The LDS culture places such importance on getting married and starting a family that young adults in Utah see no reason to wait. Many people that didn't grow up in this culture, and then move to Utah for college have culture shock and don't understand why people are getting marriage at such young ages.

Alaina Scoffield, an out-of-state sophomore, said she was shocked how young couples get married in Utah.

"When I moved here from Virginia I was very surprised at how young everyone was getting married," she said. "One of my roommates was actually engaged after her first two months of college and married after four. I don't understand why people want to get married so young when they still have so much of their lives ahead of them. Your married for your whole life; why is everyone in such a rush?"

I guess no one really knows Utah couples true motives for getting married at such a young age. Many of them do it because of their strong religious beliefs. Others just do it because they feel they have found true love. Either way, they are trading in being single to be married very early in life, whether that's a positive thing or not.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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