Marriage and Divorce in the African American Community

Written by Nisa Muhammad


The African American community has the lowest marriage rate in America and the highest out of wedlock childbirth rate.  But on top of these depressing numbers, the Census Bureau figures released last month show that while everyone else’s divorce rate went down, Black women between the ages of 50-59 were more likely to divorce.  Our divorce rate went up to 48%.  In addition, Black woman have the highest chance of their first marriage ending within 10 years, at 47%.

The reasons for divorce are complex but the effects of divorce are well known. Studies show that after a diagnosis of cancer, married people are most likely to recover, while the divorced are least likely to recover, indicating that the emotional trauma of divorce has a long-term impact on the physical health of the body.

Men and women both suffer a decline in mental health following divorce, but researchers have found that women are more greatly affected.  Some of the mental health indicators affected by divorce include depression, hostility, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Parents often think they are doing their children a favor by divorcing and sparing them the arguments, fussing and disagreements when in fact they often are doing them a grave disservice.  Children learn how to resolve conflict by watching their parents disagree, kiss and make up.  Children in low conflict homes learn that every conflict doesn’t have to end in a physical alteration.   The emotional effects of divorce on children last long after the parents have moved on to a new love.

Children growing up without both parents generally do worse in school, are more likely to abuse drugs, become teen parents, and repeat the cycle of their parents.  Do your own anecdotal study and look at the communities where marriages fail or worse, fail to even happen.  We see troubled schools, high crime and lower property values.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is there’s a growing movement in the Black community to reconsider marriage and reject divorce.  It starts with getting people to look at the benefits of marriage, to look on the other side of town where marriages flourish.  We see better schools, lower crime and higher property values.

There are more people than ever celebrating Black Marriage Day in March.  Blogs about how to have a successful marriage abound like Black and Married with Kids.  There are also marriage education programs around the country providing classes to help couples learn the skills to be successful in their marriage.  CNN featured my program, Basic Training for Couples, on Black in America 2.DATE

Marriage matters and this is the message that needs to get to the community with the lowest marriage rates and the highest divorce rates.  Let’s work to help more marriages achieve wedded bliss and fewer experience the tragedy of divorce.

Nisa I. Muhammad
Wedded Bliss Foundation
Founder, Black Marriage Day

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