Wednesday, August 27, 2008

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.


ztgstmv said...

I wonder what it'll take to get humans back to normal.

The Pharisee said...

Get back to normal? Maybe a nuclear war or an attempt to colonize another planet. We are Devo.

Anonymous said...

If historical precedence is your only criterion for "normal," then I suppose you must consider slavery is also very normal. I wonder how long before we all "get back" to that as well.

First Amendment said...

"I wonder how long before we all "get back" to [slavery] as well."


Not much longer now, and the state becomes our master.

Anonymous said...

Keep sliding down that slippery slope!

kbp said...

Thanks for the data!

alaskagain/"Toes" said...

I've been looking at marriage statistics myself lately.

Did you know that in 2006, AFTER the new Hildebran anti-FLDS marriage laws were enacted:

6 marriages for 14-year old girls . 1 to 17 yr old, 1-18, 1-23, 1-24, 2-26 (almost twice their age).

19 marriages for 15 year olds. one a boy, married to a 21 yr old woman. 1-17, 1-18, 5-19, 3-20, 1-21, 2-22, 1-23, 2-24, 1-25, 1-27, (all but 2 over the 3 year victim limit).

is there a way to email you, Crusty? (or you could contact me?)

The Pharisee said...

Impressive anonymous. If you wish to bring up slavery, vs marriage at a young age I suggest you make a moral argument as opposed to:

"It's like SLAVERY!"

"It's CREEPY!"

"You're SICK!"

"But they're OLD!"

And so on. It's against the law in many ways and certainly it sure seems to be against the law the way the FLDS have preferred to practice it in the past.

I submit to the governing authority, I can't drive 100 mph. But tell me, what MORAL reason is there for me not to do so? We don't throw speeders in jail for life and brand them with a scarlet letter.

Anonymous said...

I was pointing out the fallacy of using historical precedent (as far back as 5,000 years!!) as a benchmark for "normal."

I wasn't comparing underage marriage to slavery at all. Nor did I say anything about creepiness or "sick"ness.

I suspect you're misintperpreting my post to make it easier to argue against. Just like how "first amendment" responded by spouting unrelated, paranoid, pseudo-libertarian nonsense.

Crusty said...

Anon, you raise a very good point. I don't believe that historical precedence is the only criterion, but I do believe it is a very important one. As someone else said, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it...

My primary point is to all of those who say that a girl marrying at 13 is abnormal and the guy is a pervert. Well, the reality is that historically it is in fact extremely normal and was the norm until as recently as the 1970's. Those of us living now are the odd ones out.

More later...

The Pharisee said...


I have made a similar point over at my blog. Having established that a behavior is the norm, it's appropriate then to turn to moral guides (for you and I, the 66 books of the Bible) and ask "is it normally sinful behavior" or "is it JUST normal behavior?"

The problem for "Bible Believing" Christians is that the only two suggestions for appropriate onset of sexual relations (which are always appropriate ONLY in the husband/wife context) are in Song of Songs (Solomon) and Corinthians.

In Song of Songs the chorus of women suggest that the time a young girl is spoken for is when she ceases to be flat chested. Mensus.

In Corinthians it is suggested that the "Flower" (depending on translation) is the demarcation point.

Unfortunately for those of us wanting a strict rule, there is none and for that reason we must conclude that where there is no law of God, there is no sin. The only sin then is that of disobeying the rule of this land or whatever part of this land you are in.

Scripture does tell us that even EVIL parents known how to give good things to their children.

(Matthew 7:11)

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

This of course is spoken by Christ, and must be a general rule as it is well known that often parents did evil things to their children, but they do so less often than other parties. Parents in general are the best people to decide the best for their children, and they are appointed to that role by God.

Since I am a believer in submitting to governmental authority, which rarely by the way asks us to do something overtly wrong, and I believe in parental permission to marry, it's hardly likely that I would do a bad thing to my daughter.

Pliggy said...


you are arguing slavery, and then saying others are:

"misintperpreting my post to make it easier to argue against. Just like how "first amendment" responded by spouting unrelated, paranoid, pseudo-libertarian nonsense."

Look at your first supposition, that "normal" is slavery if "normal" is teenage motherhood.

What other MISINTERPRETED, UNRELATED, PARANOID, PSEUDO-"slippery slope" NONSENSE do you want to discuss?