Abstract

Age at marriage in the Republic of Ireland has declined substantially from the very high level that prevailed in 1946. Between 1946 and 1969 the median age of grooms fell from 32 to 26 and of brides from 27 to 24. To some extent this is a reflection of the declining importance of the rural population but to a much greater extent it is due to the falling age at marriage among all sections of the population. Simultaneous with the decline in age at marriage, the frequency distributions of brides' and grooms' ages have become both more skewed and more peaked. Thus earlier marriage has also meant greater uniformity in age at marriage, but the phenomenon of first marriage at a fairly advanced age persists. There has been a marked trend towards greater equality between husbands' and wives' ages over the postwar period: the proportion of marriages in which there was less than five years' gap between the ages of the bride and groom rose from 49 percent in 1946 to 71 percent in 1969. The percentage of marriages in which the groom was ten or more years older than the bride has fallen from 22 to seven percent. The evidence suggests that the “marriage market” became less favourable to males (especially older males) over the period and that part of the narrowing in the gap in relative age of brides and grooms has been due to the greater willingness of younger males to marry. It also seems that changes in the age structure of the unmarried population has had an impact on the age distribution of grooms.

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