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Study: Marriages are the happiest when couples attend church

Families are the happiest when attending church.

Families are happiest when attending church.

A study released by the Institute of Family Studies concluded that marriages are the happiest when both members of a couple attend religious services or if the husband does. In contrast, the least happiest are those where neither person attends or the just the wife does.

The study entitled Better together: Religious attendance, gender and relationship was written by W. Bradford Wilcox of University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project and Professor Nicholas Wolfinger from the University of Utah.

For their report the two analyzed data from the National Survey of Religion and Family conducted in the US in 2006.

After accounting for other factors such as economic well-being and education, they discovered:

  • 78% of couples when both or just the husband attended church considered themselves “very” or “extremely” happy.
  • 67% of couples considered themselves happy when neither attended services.
  • Only 59% of couples said they were happy when just the wife attended religious services.

The two stated that the reason they believe religious services are a contributing factor to successful relationships is because they are among few influences in society that emphasize the importance of family.

However, the results of this study did conflict with a previous survey conducted by the Barna Group that showed a 50%, divorce rate in evangelical churches was just as high as those who did not attend church. This would suggest happiness in marriages among Christians is on par with those who are not.

In her book, The Good News About Marriage, author Shaunti Feldhahn asked the Barna group to re-analyze their data and calculate the divorce percentage when the couple had attended church the week previous.

When Barna Group made this adjustment, the divorce rate among Evangelicals fell from 50% to 27%. It showed that active church participation made the difference.

Wilcox and Wolfinger addressed the Barna study and came to the same conclusion stating that “religious affiliation” is not the same as “religious practice.”  It is actual attendance that contributes to successful marriage.

A study conducted in 1994 by Swiss researchers Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of Switzerland’s Statistics office found similar parallels but in relationship to a child’s future church attendance.

In their study, The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland, they discovered:

  • When neither parent attended church only 19% of the children would go on to attend church regularly or semi regularly (4% regular, 15% irregular)
  • When just the mother attended church 39% of children attended church — regularly (2%) or irregularly (37%).
  • When both parents attended church 74% of children attended church — regularly (33%) or semi regularly (41%).
  • But the biggest guarantee of future attendance showed up when the father attended the church more regularly than the mother. In these instances, 82% of the children went on to attend church — regularly (38%) and semi regularly (44%).


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