Continued from page 1

“There’s nothing magical that happens at age 25,” said Mark Gungor, founder of the”Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” seminars.

His advice — speaking as someone who married as a teen more than 30 years ago and is still happy — is: “If you’re going to get serious and fall in love, do it right.”

If young adult couples say they want to get married, parents should support them, even if they’re still in college, said Mr. Gungor, who also is pastor at New Beginnings Church in Stevens Point, Wis. “How can we tell young people that living together and premarital sex lowers their chances for a happy marriage, and then say wait to marry until 28? What do you think you’ve just set up?” he said.

Of course, young people should marry the best person they can, but they should realize that their greatest adversary is selfishness, he said.

“People get divorced for one reason and one reason only: One or both of them get selfish,” he said. “People won’t say they got selfish — they’ll say, ‘Oh, we were too young’ or ‘We rushed into it,’ but it’s all [nonsense]. They’re getting divorced for one reason: One of them is being selfish.”

Marriage is not only beneficial to young people, but also the surest route to the joy of grandparenthood, Mr. Gungor added.

People who wait until late in life to marry and have children “rob themselves of one of the most incredible experiences mankind has enjoyed for millennia,” which is to nurture and love one’s grandchildren, he said. “I’m all for careers, but a career isn’t going to hug you … when you’re 65.”

Historian Allan Carlson also believes that marrying young “is a fine way to start life” and that the current cultural “prejudice” against early marriage is misguided.

The federal government has been waging war on teen pregnancy without noting that that includes married older teens, he said. But eliminating early marriage isn’t good for the culture, given the alternatives, such as unwed childbearing, he said, adding, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a married 19-year-old having a child.”

Mr. Carlson also is concerned that massive student debt — averaging $18,900 in 2002 — is preventing college graduates in their early 20s from marrying and having children.

If the federal government has an interest in seeing children born into married-couple homes, it would be wise to forgive a portion of federal student debt for each baby born to or adopted by a married couple, he said. Such a policy would show that the nation values marriage and childbearing as well as education, said Mr. Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford, Ill.