October 27, 2004

Although divorce is viewed as a serious problem, parents with children should not necessarily stay married if they do not get along.

These views represent the majority opinion of more than 800 Kentuckians who responded last spring to a survey conducted by the University of Kentucky Research Center for Families and Children and Survey Research Center.

A majority of respondents also agreed that society would be better off if divorces were harder to get.

Developed as part of the 2004 Kentucky Marriage Attitudes Study, the survey gathered responses from adults18 to 89.  Sixty-five percent were women, and about half of them had no children under 18 living at home.

“The attention to marriage that has been occurring at both the national level and across individual states emphasizes the timeliness of this study,” said Claudia Heath, director of the Research Center for Families and Children and professor of family studies in the UK College of Agriculture.  She is one of the study’s authors.

Seventy-three percent of respondents agreed that couples who have children together should be married.  Fifty-five percent disagreed that it’s okay for romantically involved people who are not married to live together.

More than three quarters of respondents disagreed that marriage between same sex couples should by recognized by law in Kentucky.  When asked if civil unions between same sex couples should be recognized by law, 72 percent disagreed.  People over age 60 showed the highest percentage disagreement with civil unions, while respondents under 29 expressed the lowest percentage of disagreement.

“Attitudes toward marriage and divorce, the constitutional definition of marriage, and Kentuckians’ thinking on children and divorce were assessed in this study, and the results provide a cultural snapshot useful for policy making and understanding,” said Greg Brock, UK professor of family studies and one of the study’s authors.

Two questions focused on the recent efforts by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families to encourage healthier marriages through marital relationship education and state initiatives to support healthy marriages.

When asked “would you consider using relationship education, such as workshops or classes, to strengthen your relationship?” 43 percent agreed.  Sixty-four percent of participants indicated that a statewide initiative to promote marriage was a good idea.

“This study provides baseline data for Kentucky thereby positioning the state for future national funding and evaluation of potential programs that might result from such funding,” said Heath.

“We hope the report sparks increased attention to marriage and divorce, particularly as these issues have impact on children in the Commonwealth,” said Kay Bradford, UK assistant professor family studies and study co-author.

Several survey questions were similar to ones developed as part of the 2001 Oklahoma Baseline Survey on Marriage and Divorce.  Parts of that survey have been adapted for use in other statewide studies on marriage attitudes.

The study may be viewed athttp://www.ca.uky.edu/HES/RCFC/index.htm.


Source: Claudia Heath, 859-257-7737