Flower arrangements, seating charts and bridesmaids dresses typically don’t go hand in hand with homework, group projects and finals in a young college student’s thoughts.
But SF State student Leona Bouzidi, 29, was 19 years old when she decided to elope and get married to her now ex-husband after knowing him for only six weeks.
The marriage itself lasted seven long years and Bouzidi is happy about her decision to eventually get a divorce. She understood the reality of marrying so young and said that it was for the best in the end.
Marriage at a young age seems like a thing of the past with society encouraging the youth to explore and define their own identities before they enter traditional concepts of marriage.
“Marriages that do occur at that age tend to not be very stable,” said SF State sociology professor Christopher Carrington. “There’s lots of factors, communication skills, financial stresses. It’s a period of time for young people when their aspirations and sense of self are in a rapid transition. And sometimes, that transition moves faster than the relationship.”
According to Bouzidi, 20-year-olds are still growing and understanding their core values and establishing an identity, which can become difficult when balancing a marriage.
“I think that you at 35 is also going to be different than you at 50 and there’s going to be some part of whether you have the value of keeping a marriage together despite differences and learning to work through those and compromise,” Bouzidi said. “But I think that when you make that decision when you’re 30 you’ve already established what your core essential values are. You might have slight changes in growth and maturity as your grow older, but from what I am today at 29 versus what I was at 19 I have cemented very differently.”
The average rate of marriage among undergraduates is relatively high with nearly 40 percent of female undergraduates reporting to be married and/or have children, according to the American Council on Education.
“I think people have misconceptions about marriage in general. It is seen all the time in the media and people are taught to think that marriage is to be tied down, no more freedom, that you have someone to constantly answer to,” said SF State junior Nicole Mischke, 20, who is getting married the summer of 2013. “Yet, at least with myself and my fiance, marriage is not like that. We are growing together, changing our minds about schools and careers and going every which way with support of each others independence.”
Mischke will soon join the minority of undergraduates who are under 25 and married.
According to the American Council on Education, only 14 percent of female undergraduates who are younger than 25 are married.
Reasons for marrying so young can range from seeking independence to an individual’s personal aspirations.
“Romantic love, sometimes the effort to achieve independence of parents, social independence, financial independence or pregnancy often will drive a marriage decision at that age,” Carrington said. “But sometimes it’s about individual aspirations, ideals, how they see how their life is supposed to be like… all of these things are contributing factors to marriage at this age.”
Bouzidi understood the reality of marrying so young and how her coming of age affected the marriage.
“I think that for the majority of my marriage I accepted that compromise, accepted that sacrifice, because I was really in love with him,” Bouzidi said. “But eventually though I matured to the point that I was becoming more of myself and he was really becoming more of himself and we were radically different to begin with.”
Sociologist Michael J. Rosenfeld said this phenomena in which the age a couple gets married has increased throughout the 20th century, according to Carrington.
“This sociologist (Rosenfeld) makes the case that one of the things that’s happened in the late 20th century and continues, is that young people have this extra decade… because of health, nutrition, and advances in medicine and reproductive technology people have put off thinking about fertility and child bearing. There’s this sort of new, what he calls, the age of independence,” Carrington said.
Though she understood the complications of marrying young, Bouzidi holds no regrets about her decision to marry as young as she did.
“Even though it was a hard year for us I would have adamantly defended my decision to be married as young as I was,” Bouzidi said.