Saturday, July 26, 2008

More family instability among atheists?

N = 10,999

N = 877

N = 883

In earlier posts, General Social Survey data have pointed to higher rates of problem behavior by atheists (i.e., crime, illegal drugs, and alcoholism). I suggested in the last post that atheists are skeptics in general and might question norms of all kinds, not just the existence of God. It might be that rejecting conventional rules of behavior might throw one back on his free judgment which is influenced by self-interest.

I wondered if this same tendency might be seen with family life. The top chart shows belief in God by one's marital status. Atheists are more likely to have never married (32.1% compared to 18.7% of believers). Younger age might be a factor here, but I found the same pattern among 40-60 year olds. (The younger age does explain lower rates of widowhood). More never-married atheists does not give them lower rates of separation and divorce: 21.1% are one or the other, compared to 17.5% of people who know there is a God.

In the two lower graphs, more atheists than believers are having serious problems with a spouse (13.6 vs. 8.1%) even though fewer of them are married, and a similar difference is seen on the question about breaking up with a fiance (13.6% vs. 5.1%).

The samples for the last two graphs are too small to give us much confidence since atheists are so rare, but the overall pattern suggests more family instability among atheists.

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