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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1994  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/1994   
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Contents >> Religion >> Special Feature: Religion and marriage

Special Feature: Religion and marriage

Although there has been an increase in civil marriage, most wedding ceremonies are still performed by ministers of religion. Two-thirds of married couples and half of de facto couples share the same religious beliefs.

Marriage is a legal contract but in religious terms it is also, and perhaps more importantly, a sacred rite. Although the marriage rate has generally declined, and the incidence of divorce and de facto relationships (especially among younger people) have increased over the last twenty years, 92% of couples counted in the 1991 Census said they were married (see
Family - National summary tables). Associated with changes in living arrangements has been an increase in the age at first marriage although, for some religious groups, early marriage is far more common than for others. There has also been a trend towards civil rather than religious marriage ceremonies.

Age at marriage

Since the mid-1970s there has been a trend towards later marriage for both men and women, accompanied by a decline in the incidence of early marriage. In the early 1990s, the median age at first marriage was 27 years for men and 25 years for women, about 3 years older than the median ages 20 years earlier. The difference between men and women in median age at first marriage has consistently been a little over 2 years (see
Family - National summary tables). In 1991, 11% of young people (aged 15-24 years) were or had been married and, of these, 88% were currently married. In contrast, in 1971, 27% of young people had ever been married and 97% of them were currently married.

The incidence of early marriage is more common among some religious groups than others. However, of the larger religious groups in 1991, Islam had the highest incidence of early marriage with 33% of young people ever married. Similar, or higher, figures were observed for several of the smaller groups including Aboriginal traditional religions, the Aboriginal Evangelical Mission, Druze, and the Revival Centres group of Pentecostals. Early marriage was also common among Jehovah's Witnesses, Hindus, Brethren, Christadelphians and Sikhs (about 20%). In contrast, less than 7% of young Jews had ever married. About 10% of young Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, Uniting Church and Buddhist adherents had ever married, a similar proportion to that of young people who stated 'no religion'

EVER MARRIED PERSONS AGED 15-24 YEARS, 1991

Persons
Proportion of age group
Religion
'000
%

Christian
      Anglican
58.0
10.1
      Baptist
5.7
13.4
      Catholic
76.1
9.9
      Churches of Christ
1.5
13.6
      Jehovah's Witness
2.7
22.9
      Lutheran
4.3
12.4
      Orthodox
11.0
12.2
      Pentecostal
4.5
18.5
      Presbyterian & Reformed
8.9
10.0
      Salvation Army
1.4
14.0
      Seventh Day Adventist
1.2
15.6
      Uniting Church
18.6
9.8
Buddhism
2.6
9.8
Hinduism
1.2
19.9
Islam
8.5
32.5
Judaism
0.5
6.1
Other
8.5
16.6
No religion
37.6
9.5
Not stated
50.4
19.1
Total
303.4
11.5


Source: Census of Population and Housing


Marriage ceremonies

Although over half of all weddings in 1992 were performed by ministers of religion, the proportion has steadily declined, from 86% in 1972 to 66% in 1978 and 58% in 1992. Most of this shift towards civil marriage occurred in the 1970s and can be attributed to the Commonwealth Government's introduction, in 1973, of authorised private civil celebrants to provide an alternative to religious ceremonies and State Registry weddings.


Over 76% of all religious weddings in 1992 were performed by ministers of the Catholic, Anglican or Uniting Churches. This is broadly consistent with the incidence of these denominations in the population; 77% of people who stated a religion in the 1991 Census identified with one of the three major Christian denominations.


About one-third of the 115,000 weddings in 1992 involved remarriage for one or both partners and, of these, 95% involved at least one divorced person. Ceremonies where at least one partner had been divorced were more likely to be civil than religious. 69% of first marriages (for both partners) had religious ceremonies compared to 39% of marriages where one partner was divorced and 26% of marriages where both partners were divorced.


Of the 53,000 religious weddings involving a first marriage for both partners in 1992, 41% were Catholic ceremonies, 23% were Anglican and 14% were Uniting Church. A similar pattern was observed for weddings involving a couple who were either both widowed or one widowed and one never married; 32% of religious ceremonies were Catholic, 21% were Anglican and 19% were Uniting Church. Religious weddings involving divorced people were more likely to have been conducted by a Uniting Church celebrant than by any other type (around 30%). However, where only one partner had been divorced, Anglican ceremonies were twice as frequent as Catholic ceremonies and where both partners had been divorced, Anglican ceremonies were five times as frequent as Catholic.

MARRIAGES BY CATEGORY OF CELEBRANT



(a) Categories of civil celebrant were not separately identified prior to 1978.


Source: Marriage Registrations

MARRIAGES PERFORMED BY RELIGIOUS CELEBRANTS, 1992

Category of celebrant

Anglican
Baptist
Catholic
Churches of Christ
Lutheran
Orthodox
Presbyterian
Uniting Church
Other Christian
Non-
Christian
Total
Prop'n of all marriages
Previous marital status
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

First marriage for both partners
23.0
2.7
40.5
1.6
1.8
4.6
2.5
13.9
7.8
1.6
100.0
69.3
Both partners widowed, or one widowed and one never married
20.7
4.1
31.5
3.3
1.4
1.2
3.1
18.9
13.5
2.2
100.0
53.0
One partner divorced
23.6
4.6
12.1
2.7
2.9
3.3
4.1
29.4
14.2
3.1
100.0
39.1
Both partners divorced
19.1
6.4
3.7
4.4
2.6
2.7
4.1
31.1
22.5
3.4
100.0
26.1
Total
22.9
3.1
34.8
1.9
2.0
4.3
2.8
16.9
9.5
1.9
100.0
58.2


Source: Marriage Registrations


De facto relationships

Over the last 20 years the decline in the marriage rate and the trend towards marrying at later ages has also been associated with an increase in the incidence of de facto relationships. Younger people are more likely to live in a de facto relationship than older people and, increasingly, marriage is preceded by a period of living together. The 1992 Survey of Families in Australia found that of people who had married after 1974, 43% of those aged 15-24 years, 37% of those aged 25-34 years and 32% of those aged 35-44 years had lived together before their marriage.


At the 1991 Census, 41% of partnered people aged 15-24 years, 13% of those aged 25-34 years and 6% of those aged 35-44 years were in de facto relationships. Again there was considerable variation according to religious affiliation. People who reported 'no religion' were the most likely to be in de facto relationships. Of the major religious groups only two, Anglicans and Presbyterians, had higher than average proportions of people in de facto relationships. Smaller groups with higher than average proportions of de factos included Spiritualists, Quakers and Christian Scientists. In contrast, less than 10% of 15-24 year old partnered people who were Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses or Muslims were in de facto relationships. These groups are noted for their strict teachings and cultural traditions which may well account for their high rates of marriage.

PROPORTION OF PARTNERS IN DE FACTO RELATIONSHIPS, 1991

Age group (years)

15-24
25-34
35-44
Religion
%
%
%

Christian
      Anglican
47.8
14.7
6.8
      Baptist
26.8
7.5
3.8
      Catholic
37.8
11.3
5.2
      Churches of Christ
21.0
6.6
3.7
      Jehovah's Witness
6.6
2.2
1.0
      Lutheran
36.8
11.9
5.7
      Orthodox
9.0
4.0
2.1
      Pentecostal
10.7
3.0
1.7
      Presbyterian & Reformed
45.2
14.4
6.9
      Salvation Army
38.1
11.9
6.4
      Seventh Day Adventist
23.9
7.7
3.6
      Uniting Church
37.6
9.3
4.3
Buddhism
22.1
7.5
4.3
Hinduism
12.3
4.7
2.5
Islam
4.9
2.9
1.8
Judaism
35.0
9.8
4.6
No religion
58.0
22.1
11.4
Total
41.4
13.3
6.4


Source: Census of Population and Housing


Shared beliefs

Married couples may share religious beliefs as a consequence of marrying someone from the same religion. Alternatively they may have had different religious backgrounds initially and subsequently converted, either one partner to the faith of the other, or both partners to a new faith for both of them. When interpreting religious characteristics of couples it should be borne in mind that all members of the same household are included on one census form which is often completed by one person. This is likely to increase the tendency for the same religion to be reported for family members and to reduce the likelihood of one partner reporting a religion and of the other reporting 'no religion'. Thus, for example, while twice as many married people reported 'no religion' as reported Presbyterian, Anglicans were more likely to have a spouse with Presbyterian affiliation than with 'no religion'.


In just over two-thirds of married couples and just under half of de facto couples, both partners shared the same religious beliefs. Men were generally more likely to share their wife's religion than women were to share their husband's religion. This reflects women's greater tendency to state a religious affiliation and men's greater likelihood of reporting 'no religion' (see
Trends in religious affiliation).

Among the major religious groups, Islam, Pentecostal and Orthodox had the highest proportions of married couples with shared beliefs. Presbyterians were least likely to be married to someone with the same belief. De facto couples had a similar pattern of religious affiliation to married couples but the proportions of couples with shared beliefs were much smaller, except for those who both stated 'no religion'. However, care should be exercised in interpreting proportions of de facto partners with the same religion for religious groups where the incidence of de facto marriage is low.


Of the two largest religious groups, Catholics and Anglicans, about two-thirds of married people had a spouse of the same denomination. Anglicans not married to another Anglican were more likely to be married to a Catholic than to someone from another religious group (17% of Anglicans were married to Catholics, 5% to Uniting Church adherents and 5% to Presbyterians). A complementary pattern was observed for Catholics; 16% of Catholics were married to Anglicans.


Presbyterians had the lowest proportion of married people with a spouse of the same denomination (46%). In addition, 24% of married Presbyterians were married to Anglicans, 18% to Catholics and 4% to Uniting Church adherents.


Within the Orthodox religious grouping, married couples with different beliefs were generally more likely to contain an Anglican, a Catholic or a person who stated 'no religion' than a person with a related affiliation. 88% of married Greek Orthodox adherents had a spouse of the same denomination. In addition, 6% of married Greek Orthodox adherents were married to Catholics and 3% to Anglicans, but only 0.3% to members of any of the other Orthodox denominations (including Macedonian, Russian and Serbian). For Macedonian Orthodox adherents, an even greater proportion of married couples shared the same beliefs (95%). Macedonian Orthodox were more likely than Greek Orthodox to be married to someone from one of the other Orthodox denominations but numbers and proportions were small. The patterns observed reflect birthplace and ethnic groupings.

PROPORTION OF PARTNERS WITH SAME RELIGION, 1991

Married
De facto
Religion
%
%

Christian
      Anglican
65.3
47.9
      Baptist
66.7
19.3
      Catholic
67.9
39.8
      Churches of Christ
73.1
25.6
      Jehovah's Witness
83.8
51.2
      Lutheran
59.4
19.8
      Orthodox
87.3
39.5
      Pentecostal
88.5
45.0
      Presbyterian & Reformed
45.9
19.5
      Salvation Army
58.8
13.2
      Seventh Day Adventist
80.3
32.2
      Uniting Church
64.0
28.2
Buddhism
83.8
52.4
Hinduism
86.5
48.3
Islam
93.7
58.0
Judaism
86.9
47.8
No religion
67.4
64.0
Total
68.9
49.0


Source: Census of Population and Housing
MARRIED PEOPLE OF ANGLICAN AND CATHOLIC AFFILIATION, 1991

Anglican
Catholic
Religion of spouse
%
%

Anglican
65.3
16.1
Catholic
16.9
67.9
Uniting Church
5.2
3.8
Presbyterian & Reformed
4.8
3.3
Other
4.1
4.5
No religion
3.6
4.4
Total
100.0
100.0


Source: Census of Population and Housing
MARRIED PEOPLE OF GREEK AND MACEDONIAN ORTHODOX AFFILIATION, 1991

Greek Orthodox
Macedonian Orthodox
Religion of spouse
%
%

Greek Orthodox
87.9
0.8
Macedonian Orthodox
0.1
94.9
Other Orthodox
0.2
0.5
Catholic
5.9
2.1
Anglican
2.6
0.7
Other
2.5
0.7
No religion
0.8
0.3
Total
100.0
100.0


Source: Census of Population and Housing



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