Study: women who have fewer premarital sex partners have lower risk of divorce

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

Consider this article from Family Studies that talks about how the number of pre-marital sex partners that a woman has increases her risk of divorce.

It says:

American sexual behavior is much different than it used to be. Today, most Americans think premarital sex is okay, and will have three or more sexual partners before marrying. What, if anything, does premarital sex have to do with marital stability?

This research brief shows that the relationship between divorce and the number of sexual partners women have prior to marriage is complex. I explore this relationship using data from the three most recent waves of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) collected in 2002, 2006-2010, and 2011-2013. For women marrying since the start of the new millennium:

  • Women with 10 or more partners were the most likely to divorce, but this only became true in recent years;
  • Women with 3-9 partners were less likely to divorce than women with 2 partners; and,
  • Women with 0-1 partners were the least likely to divorce.

Earlier research found that having multiple sex partners prior to marriage could lead to less happy marriages, and often increased the odds of divorce.

[…]Even more noteworthy has been the decline in the proportion of women who get married having had only one sex partner (in most cases, their future husbands). Forty-three percent of women had just one premarital sex partner in the 1970s.

[…]By the 2010s, only 5 percent of new brides were virgins. At the other end of the distribution, the number of future wives who had ten or more sex partners increased from 2 percent in the 1970s to 14 percent in the 2000s, and then to 18 percent in the 2010s. Overall, American women are far more likely to have had multiple premarital sex partners in recent years (unfortunately, the NSFG doesn’t have full data on men’s premarital sexual behavior, and in any event they recall their own marital histories less reliably than do women).

Here’s the change:

Women have freely chosen to dismiss the Bible and the moral law
Women have freely chosen to dismiss the Bible and the moral law

And the problem with this, of course, is that more premarital sex partners means a higher risk of divorce:

Even one non-husband premarital sex partner raises risk of divorce
Even one non-husband premarital sex partner raises risk of divorce

Why is the 2-partner number so high?

In most cases, a woman’s two premarital sex partners include her future husband and one other man. That second sex partner is first-hand proof of a sexual alternative to one’s husband. These sexual experiences convince women that sex outside of wedlock is indeed a possibility. The man involved was likely to have become a partner in the course of a serious relationship—women inclined to hook up will have had more than two premarital partners—thereby emphasizing the seriousness of the alternative.

The Christian Post had an article about some recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control about virgins.


A new Centers for Disease Control study examines teenage health behaviors in connection to their self-reported sexual activity and shows those who remain abstinent are much healthier on many fronts than their sexually active peers.

The report, titled “Sexual Identity, Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12, United States and Selected Sites,” showcased the results from a 2015 survey that monitored several categories of health-related behaviors like tobacco usage, drug and alcohol use, sexual habits, unhealthy dietary behaviors, and behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence.

The report concludes “that students who had no sexual contact have a much lower prevalance of most health-risk behaviors compared with students” who had sexual contact.

The article quotes Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, who I have featured on this blog many times:

In a Monday interview with The Christian Post, Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, said, “this study is remarkable because it asks questions and reports the answers, rather than avoiding questions or assuming answers.”

As Glenn Stanton noted last week in The Federalist, the results from those questions and answers are remarkable.

With regard to smoking, teenage virgins are 3,300 percent less likely to smoke daily than their peers who are sexually involved with someone of the opposite sex, Stanton computed from the report’s data. Teen virgins are 9,500 percent less likely to smoke daily than their peers who are sexually involved with someone of the same sex or in a bisexual relationship, he added. Chaste young people are also extremely less likely to use indoor tanning beds, binge drink, smoke marijuana, ride in cars as passengers with a drunk driver, and get into physical fights than their sexually active peers. Abstinent youth are also more likely to get a solid eight hours of sleep every night and eat breakfast daily.

[…]The CDC report also included findings from 25 state surveys, and 19 large, urban school district surveys conducted among students in grades 9–12 which took place between December of 2014 and September of 2015.

Now, many pro traditional marriage people will tell young men “feminism and the sexual revolution change nothing about a woman’s suitability for marriage, so go out there and get married to these women anyway”. In my experience, no one is telling women NOT to follow their hearts, and explaining to them the harm that they do by allowing their feelings to determine who they will engage in relationships.

I would like to see women make better decisions with men before they marry, rather than be influenced by their peers and culture to give themselves to men who are not marriage-minded. Maybe a little skepticism should be shown to “follow your heart”? Women need to understand what they are losing when they choose to have premarital sex.

In my group of friends, the men are aware of the Biblical prohibition on premarital sex. My friends know about the research on marriage, and what it takes to make a marriage work. We don’t follow our hearts, because we do what we know will work to achieve the results we want. We don’t listen to the culture, and we don’t listen to radical feminists. Men generally take an engineering approach to marriage – we want to know what the best practices and tradeoffs are, and then we plan and act to succeed.

12 thoughts on “Study: women who have fewer premarital sex partners have lower risk of divorce”

  1. People, and women in particular, seem to want to have it both ways when it comes to sexual decisions. They want the freedom to have sex with as many partners as they want, but also the ability to have a marriage and family later if they want. This just isn’t how reality works.

    I don’t think we can force people not to make bad decisions, but at the same time we shouldn’t be trying to bail them out when their bad decisions don’t work out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there is a problem in this generation of young women where there is a disconnect between their long term wishes (I won’t call them goals or plans) and their desire for fun and thrills in the moment. Women, more than men, get their idea of what they should be doing and what man they should be desiring because of peer pressure and cultural approval. In a time like this, you’re going to have a lot of women doing things now that conflict with what they imagine later.


  2. I understand the purpose for the study; I also understand that you are trying to educate women on abstinence. I would like to ask whether there are similar studies for MEN who are having premarital sex. These women are not having sex by themselves. There should be balance when we discuss what women are doing wrong and what men are doing wrong. My other question is, what hope is offered to people with a past who are already broken? Jesus offered hope to just such a person (John 4:10) As Christians, we have to offer hope to the broken that they can have a new life. The Christian experience is about turning from sinfulness but it is also about the hope that the New Covenant gives us to escape the law which brought only condemnation. There isn’t condemnation when we walk after the Spirit (Romans 8:1) and in Jesus our pasts are forgiven and we become new creatures in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).


    1. I believe in talking with some single women, many become impatient with God’s plan and/or are being asked out by non-Christian men. Some give in and go out, even have relationships with the men, and start justifying their decisions and even their decisions to engage in pre-marital sex with their significant others.
      There are some Christian couples who of course engage in premarital sex. I saw an odd statistic that even within the church, most couples do not remain chaste until after their wedding vows.
      Regarding, is there hope? Yes, there’s ALWAYS repentance and grace. And God is a God of second (, third, fourth, fifth, … nth, n+1th, …) chances. Prov. 24:16, “…the righteous falls seven times and rises again…” This applies to any sin — God is constantly making us new if we are open to His Holy Spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. People do not understand biblical grace, likely because catholicism and legalism is followed by many Christians.
    People with a past are forgiven and they don’t need some elaborate purification ceremony to make them pure the past is the past and done. But we don’t continue one saying well since I broke this command I may as well continue, which is very common with people
    Christians believe fully in our soul spirit and body together. And we work un our life to being more spirit centred as we work out our life.
    But many Christians live like the non committed and are driven by the flesh.
    I don’t see it as always being will you get to heaven or not as the issue. But that if Satan cant take a person to hell his plan b is to waste their life, make them a bad witness so they don’t bring others to heaven with them


  4. what does smoking, drink and drive and that other stuff have to do with sex? im pretty sure you can still smoke and get into fights without having sex


    1. I would say it is how often the correlation of them occurring together is.

      Some only do one or a few of them in the list. But from the study it appears many that choose to break one command tend to break many. Thus they end up with a cumulative effect of negative consequences


    2. Yes, you can participate in immoral and unwise behaviors individually; however, people who engage in one immoral and/or unwise behavior are more likely to engage in others. People imitate the behavior of the people around them and expand their array of immoral and unwise behavior choices. The “gateway” sin can be any number of things.


  5. @Wintery’s Friend
    Was this study only of Christian women? I will have to go back and look. My concern was twofold: that we not make it appear as if women only are promiscuous, which I am seeing more of in these studies, and that we offer hope to the broken. All people are made new creatures in Christ through the Holy Ghost. Women who have been spoiled through several partners should not be ostracized within the Christian church as damaged women unfit for marriage if they have been made new by the power of God. If we do that, we are saying God is a liar. Jesus offered the woman at the well hope though she had been with many men.


  6. I found this interesting study ( at the same site that says regular church attendance (which is different than religious affiliation) seriously decreases the overall likelihood that couples will divorce. So it is clear that having a connection to a local church impacts that. The more one goes to church overall, the more one is less likely to seek divorce because marriage is seen as sacred within that context.

    One would hope that would include some women who have been broken by life, but find hope in Jesus Christ.


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