Marriage on the Decline?
Barrington H. Brennen, November 22, 2007
This article is
my cursory review of the latest marriage, divorce, and live births
statistics for The Bahamas. Take your time to review this information.
You might find some of the figures shocking, while others might dispel some
myths about family life in our country.
- My first
observation is that the figures suggest that while the number of
divorces is increasing, the number of people getting married is not.
Ninety-nine was the lowest number of divorces in The Bahamas in 1975
during a 30-year period (1975-2005). The divorce rate in 1975 was .05
divorces per 1000 population. In 2005 the number of divorces granted
was 689. Thatís nearly 700 percent increase in divorces in 30 years
(1975 to 2005). This is compared to a population growth of about 65
percent for the same 30 years. Here is what is more shocking: The
divorce rate moved from .05 divorces per 1000 population in 1975 to 2.1
divorces per 1000 population in 2005. This is a significant increase
and ranks The Bahamas far above most Caribbean islands, except Puerto
Rico, Cuba, and other industrial countries around the world.
interesting comparison is the number of divorces filed as compared to the
number of divorces granted. Between 2000 and 2006, the divorces each year
fluctuated slightly. For example in 2000, 503 divorces were granted as
opposed to 461 divorces in 2001. Then the number jumped to 647 in 2004 and
689 in 2005. On the other hand, the number of divorces filed by those who
wanted a divorce increased steadily each year between 2002 (556 cases filed)
and 2006 (758 cases filed). Perhaps we can conclude that more couples are
deciding to end their marriages each year, but the judicial process is not
moving as fast to grant the divorces, or perhaps some are changing their
minds after they file for divorce. Whatever the reason, this is not a
healthy picture for marriage in The Bahamas.
carefully that in 2005 there were 689 divorces as compared to 1,731
marriages. (That is 1 out of 2.5 couples got a divorce or 40%.
This is a major increase from 21% or 1 out of 5 in 2000.
In other words, for every 10 marriages in The Bahamas, 4 are
ending in divorce. That is compared to 5 out of 10 in the United
States) The marriage rate for 2005 was 5.3 marriages per 1000
population. This represents a decline over the past 30 years (from 1975
to 2005) when the rate was 5.6 per 1000 population. However, it was
not until 1998 when the Department of Statistics began separating
residential marriages from tourist marriages. Hence, if we compare the
rates from 1998 to 2005, we will still note the decline. For example: 1998, 5.7; 1999, 7.4; 2003, 6.5;
2004, 6.4; 2005, 6.3. Note
carefully that the number of marriages each year from 1998 to 2005 does
not show a healthy growth but instead a slight decline. Here are the
figures: 1998, 1,684; 1999, 2,204; 2000, 2,366 (the highest year since
1998); 2001, 1,787; 2002, not available; 2003, 2,039; 2004, 2,043; 2005,
1,731. Note the gradual decline in marriages, keeping in mind
that thousands of tourists come to our shores to get married each year.
Itís also important to note that tourist marriages are not included in the
marriage or divorce rates as presented above. Let us look at a few of the
tourist marriage figures in The Bahamas. In 2005 there were 4,133 tourist
marriages as compared to 1,731 residential marriages. This means there was
a total of 5,864 marriages in The Bahamas in 2005. In 2000 there were 3,752
tourist marriages and 2,366 residential marriages with a total of 6,118
marriages. Are tourist marriages ending in divorce? Yes, some of them
are. Perhaps in the future I will try to find out, if possible, what is the
divorce rate for those marriages.
BIRTHS OUT OF WEDLOCK
We are all
alarmed about the number of babies being born out of wedlock in The
Bahamas. Every day we see young unwed pregnant mothers on our
streets. Many have to leave school, ruining their plans for life.
However, a look at the actual figures may startle you. I noted with
interest that 1985 was the highest year for illegitimate births in The
Bahamas between 1975 and 2005.
There were 3,380 babies born out of
wedlock that year as compared to 2,027 in 2005. Between the years 1980
and 1985 were our worst years in the history of The Bahamas for the
number of babies born out of wedlock. Since 1985, no other year has
passed the 3000-birth mark. Perhaps we can attribute this to the
terrible drug usage and sale at the time. We can also construe that
since 1985 there has been greater education about contraception or more
We also hear
stories of so many girls under the age of 14 giving birth. Hereís another
startling revelation. The year with the highest number of babies born out
of wedlock by mothers ages 10 to 14 was in 1984 with 56 births. The
following years also had double digits birthrate for unwed mothers ages
10-14: 1977, 22; 1979, 19; 1981, 17; 1983 25; 1987, 19; 1988, 21; 1993,
29. From 2001 the rates for this age group has been in the single digits:
2001, 5; 2003, 9; 2004, 8; 2005. 8. What a surprising decrease!
The age groups
with the greatest number of illegitimate births are ages 20 to 24 and 15 to
19. We are all concerned about teenage births out of wedlock, but take a
close look at these figures. In 1985 for mothers ages 20 to 24, there were
1,178 babies born out of wedlock compared to 789 for ages 15 to 19.
Fifteen years late, in 2000, for mothers ages 20 to 24, there were 844
babies born out of wedlock compared to 519 for ages 15 to 19. In 2005 for
mothers ages 20 to 24, there were 883 babies born out of wedlock compared to
508 for ages 15 to 19. Both of these figures are alarming because they
represent the crucial formative years of women. It is a time to concentrate
on finishing basic education and choosing careers. Note that the total
number of babies born out of wedlock for 2000 was 2,584; 2003, 2,835, and in
Hereís some good
news. More married women than unmarried women ages 25 to 44 are having
children. Letís look at a few figures. In 2000 there were 1,581 births to
married mothers, ages 25 to 44 compared to 1,192. In 2004 there were
1,608 births to married mothers, ages 25 to 44 compared to 1,119. In 2005
there were 1,731 births to married mothers, ages 25 to 44 compared to 1,302.
mothers over the age of 45 having babies in The Bahamas? Certainly!
Here are a few figures. In 2000 there were 8 babies born to unmarried
mothers between ages 45 and 49 as compared to 2 babies born to married
mothers. In 2005 there were 2 babies born to unmarried mothers
between ages 45 and 49 as compared to 2 babies born to married mothers.
- I hope
that these facts will help you to understand better the direction in
which our families are heading. However, these figures do not fully
reveal all teenage sexual promiscuous behavior. They only tell us about
pregnancy rates and not how many are having sex out of marriage.
However, I have reason to believe that sexual promiscuity has increased
significantly over the past 30 years. Over the past 10 years, I have
conducted short surveys to ascertain sexual behavior among Christian
teenagers. The results always show that at least 50 percent of the
Christian teenagers completing the survey were sexually active. My
research also indicates that homosexual practices are increasing among
Christian teenagers and young adults and anal sex in on the
riseóespecially among so-called Christians. The use of contraceptives
is at an all-time high among unmarried teenagers, and the horror stories
about abortions are increasing. Let us wait and see what the 2006 and
2007 statistics will reveal to us.
Our young people
are being exposed to sexually explicit materials more than ever before.
More and more young people, especially our females, are contracting the HIV
virus. These are terrible days; however, I believe that with education and
training we can save our families.
Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments
to P.O. Box N-896, Nassau, The Bahamas; or email
or call 242-323 8772 or 305-767 4976.