Statistics of marriage at Biola reflect those of evangelical church

The divorce and marriage rates at Biola tend to reflect those of the evangelical church.

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Statistics of marriage at Biola reflect those of evangelical church

Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Rachel Snyder, Writer

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Sophomore Stephen Schloesser and junior Alina Morrill share a romantic moment after a stroll through the Olive Grove. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Though the phrase “ring by spring” echoes around campus ad infinitum, roughly 80 percent of Biolans will graduate without having met their spouse, according to associate professor of communications Timothy Muehlhoff.

The probability of finding a spouse at Biola is slimmer than one might think. If every single man and woman at Biola were paired up, 38.56 percent of girls would still be left out, wrote Matthew Weathers, a professor in the math department, in an email.

For the 20 percent of students who do get engaged, their patterns of divorce closely mirror those of the evangelical church. In 2008, the Barna Group did a study on divorce rates of different religions and races. One-third of all surveyed adults have been through a divorce, while 26 percent of evangelical Christians have been divorced, according to the study.

Biola divorce rates consistent with average rate

“Biola alumni do not have higher divorce rates than the average American,” wrote Chris Grace, a professor of psychology and vice president for student planning and university planning, in an email. “They in fact have slightly lower rates, closer to the same rates as Americans who are religious and regularly attend church. [It’s] still high, but less than the average rate.”

Though the divorce rate differs, the reasoning is consistent both inside and outside the church. The reason for 80 percent of divorces is a “lack of intimacy,” often caused by the effects of pornography, Grace wrote.

Christians are not immune to what is going on in the culture around them, and technology makes pornography more accessible than ever, said assistant professor of psychology Jenny Pak.

Lack of communication is another major cause of divorce, according to Muehlhoff, and porn would directly compromise the trust in a relationship.

The most common time to get divorced is four or five years into the marriage because of unmanaged conflict, according to Grace. But through premarital counseling, Muehlhoff said couples need that third party to be able to ask tough questions they might not otherwise ask.

Premarital counseling tends to decrease likelihood to divorce 

Fifty percent of engaged couples decide to break off their engagement after going through premarital counseling, according to Grace.

The Journal of Family Psychology found that couples who receive premarital counseling are 31 percent less likely to divorce.

Premarital counseling is an important part of becoming self-aware, Pak said.

“It is critical to not have an idealized image of what a relationship should look like,” she said.

However, divorce rates are generally going down because people are waiting a couple years to get married, Muehlhoff said.

Pressure to commit at Biola

In 2011, the average age of a man entering his first marriage was 29, and women getting married for the first time had an average age of 27, according to the United States Census Bureau.

“My students continually tell me that I am the minority perspective [on marriage] at Biola,” Muehlhoff said. “Roughly, 26 is probably the age you’re wanting to get engaged or married.”

There is a lot of pressure to commit to a relationship while at Biola, Muehlhoff said.

“We’re going to have to change the dating culture at Biola … there’s no casual dating [here]. It forces people to move too quickly in a relationship,” he said. 

"The concept that you can develop opposite-sex friendships is naive."

The most important things are a student’s relationship with God, studies and developing same-sex friendships — in contrast with the Torrey Conference session during which Jonalyn Fincher enthusiastically supported cross-sex friendships, according to Muehlhoff.

“The concept that you can develop opposite-sex friendships is naive,” Muehlhoff said.

Aside from students focusing on their relationships with Jesus and their own spiritual maturity, Grace said it is important to identify and recognize our heart in times of conflict.