I have read Frederica Mathewes-Green's "Against Eternal Youth" (August/September), and I must admit to being flabbergasted. Mathewes-Green believes that Baby Boomers' parents shielded their children from the trials of adult life, making us unwilling to grow up and assume our adult roles in society. That was not my experience growing up in the 1950s.
In my experience, many Boomers' parents exposed them to a very unpleasant picture of adulthood. In my formative years, I saw excessive use of alcohol and tobacco by adults who were self-absorbed, bored with life, and, in fact, not very interested in their children.
Perhaps other factors are at work in producing the societal ills mentioned in the article. Maybe we should look at some of those institutions thought to be helpful in forming the character of our youth: the arts and religion, for example. A movie industry that affirms adolescent fantasies and churches that preach a politically correct gospel might be a part of the problem.
At age twenty-nine, with two graduate degrees but no wife, I am the perfect target for Frederica Mathewes-Green's disappointment with the rising age of marriage. She notes that "fifty years ago, when the average bride was twenty, the divorce rate was half what it is now." Later marriage, she says, does not result in a more thoughtful choice of mate, but discourages us from treating marriage as a lifelong commitment.
The statistics are a bit more complicated, however. Today, as Mathewes-Green notes, half of all men marry by age 27.1 and half of all women by 25.3. That is significantly different from fifty years ago, when median age at first marriage was 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women.
But the 1950s were the low-age decade for both sexes. In 1890--the earliest year for which we have reliable data--the median marrying ages were 26.1 and 22.0 for men and women, respectively. These averages fell throughout the first half of the twentieth century, then rose again during the second half. A stable, "correct" age for marriage simply doesn't exist. The existing data on divorce do not appear to support the theory that late marriage contributes to an increased divorce rate. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, brides who are at least twenty-five years old are 40 percent less likely to divorce or separate than women who marry in their teens.
Mathewes-Green's response, presumably, would be that a society that weds young has...