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FLDS: Non Traditional Marriage Ages?

There is a lot of angst among many people about the ‘untraditional marriages’ of the FLDS and in particular the age of some brides. As I’ve mentioned earlier, for those who study history the FLDS marriages not only don’t seem unusual, but are actually quite normal. Historically anyway. Following are some things to help put this in to better perspective and as a follow-up to this post that discussed this issue.

For those who are interested in additional information on this I’d strongly recommend reading ‘Marriage, A History’ by Stephanie Coontz.

Quick Disclaimer: I do not believe that in today’s culture it is advisable for anyone to marry younger than 18. On the other hand, I do not believe that government interference, particularly in the case of a sub-culture such as the FLDS, is beneficial.

(Click on the image for more detail)

This chart is based on general historical research up through 1350ce and based on genealogical data from 1350 to 2000. Each data point represents 25 years or one quarter century. This chart assumes a human existence of 8,000 years. The least amount of time humans are believed to have existed is 6,000 years. Many scientists believe 10,000 to 18,000 is more likely. Jared Diamond posits a 100,000 year existence. Imagine the date to your left as long as you desire…

Throughout the bulk of history and throughout the world it is widely believed that women married relatively soon after their first menstrual period or menarche and what information we have indicates that most married between about 13 and 17 with the majority marrying at about age 14. Beginning in about 300ce the upper age seems to have begun increasing and around 800ce leveled off at about 19.

In general it is believed that the wealthier brides married later and those in cities married later than those in rural communities.

Genealogical data on marriage dates and age of the bride and groom begins to become useable from about 1350 onward. A research project tabulating this genealogical data is currently underway with preliminary data included in the chart. This genealogical data is based on genealogies of ancestors of people residing in the US and was procured from and the LDS Family History Center. Two independent sets of GEDCOM data were collected and analyzed. Each set included at least 100 useable marriages in each quarter century except for the period 1375 to 1450 which averaged 89 marriages per quarter century. A useable marriage was one where the birth date of both participants as well as the marriage date were present in the data. Both sets produced similar numbers.

The data at this point is believed relatively accurate though it is unverified. Most of this data is entered by amateur genealogists. While accuracy is somewhat of a concern, that both data sets utilizing different family names produced nearly identical results provides some level of comfort. I am not a statistician so I am relying on others for statistical expertise.

The average bridal age is the average of all marriages. The upper and lower ages were calculated based on the outer bounds to include at least the most concise 80th percentile to 1/10 year increments. Stats folks reading this will probably understand what I just wrote far better than I. In most years the upper and lower bounds included over 90% of all marriages. Outliers generally tended to be 40% below range and 60% above. While most second marriages were believed eliminated, some could not be accurately determined.

The data indicated relative stability in ages from about 1350 to the early 1800’s. Around 1820 the upper age began to increase.

During the mid 18th century there appeared to be a very noted temporary increase in bridal ages of those people in southern Europe. Not sure what the cause of this was. This drove up the upper end of the range but had only minimal impact on the overall average.

The two most significant jumps occurred in the quarter century ending in 1825 when the average age rose from 15.6 to 17 and in the quarter century ending in 2000 when the average age rose from 20 to 24.5.

The average age of all marriages from the genealogical data is 16.38. The lower age range dipped below 13 in the quarter centuries ending in 1425, 1500, 1550, 1675, and 1700.

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