The Practice of Natural Family Planning Versus the Use of Artificial Birth Control:
Family, Sexual and Moral Issues

Comparative Divorce Rates

The main objective of this study was to discern if couples who practice NFP are less likely to be divorced than those who do not; so a more direct comparison of groups of similar age and beliefs was necessary. Figures 9 and 10 indicate support for this hypothesis.

Figure 9: NFP Adjusted and NSFG Adjusted Data - Current Marital Status

The NFP respondents (99%) are far more likely to be married, than the NSFG respondents (82%), and are also far less likely to be divorced (0%), separated (0%) or cohabitating (0%) than the NSFG are to be divorced (9%), separated (5%) or cohabitating (4%). Thus 18% of the NSFG Catholics of the purified sample are either divorced, separated or cohabitating as compared with 0% of the NFP respondents. The difference between the NFP couples who are currently married (99%) and the NSFG currently married couples (82%) is 17%, which is an impressive difference.

The reason the divorce rate among NFP couples increased from 0.2% to 3% in the adjusted tabulations is because the statistician is using a smaller number of couples in a concentrated age group (21-44 years). The divorce rate in the Catholic NSFG group increased from 7% to 15%. The NFP Catholics who have never divorced is 97%, while the NSFG Catholics is 85%. The difference between these is 12%, which is also noteworthy.

Figure 10: NFP Adjusted and NSFG Adjusted Data - Ever divorced

Figures 9 and 10 provide support for the idea that using NFP among Catholics is associated with family stability. Further research is required in order to determine if this relationship is in any sense causal, or whether the relationship between practicing NFP and family stability is due to other factors common to these couples, including their strong religious beliefs and practices, and if these developed after they began practicing NFP.

If it is found, after further studies are conducted, that religiosity is a primary factor in marital stability together with respect for the natural law through the practice of NFP, all the more important to prioritize a more faithful adherence to one's chosen faith. Such findings would provide strong reasons for advocating religious beliefs and practices among the general population who desire a fruitful and lasting marriage. If Natural Family Planning is the main reason for the spouse's conversion towards strong religious beliefs and practices, then NFP should be given top priority in all marriage preparation courses around the world.

Divorce Rate Statistics

It is interesting to note that other studies endorse our findings on the increased number of divorces. They attribute the cause to the widespread use of artificial birth control. Robert T. Michaels and former Secretary of Education, William Bennett reported the following findings:

  1. 50% of the rise in divorce rates from the 1 960's to the mid 1 970's has been attributed to the increased use of artificial birth control8.
  2. There has been a 400% rise in the divorce rate in the U.S. between 1960 to 1990.9 (Widespread use of artificial birth control began in the 1 960's and led to increased promiscuity followed by abortion and an increase in divorce rates.)
  3. The much slower rate of increase of divorce in Japan and Japan's refusal to adopt the pill through the early 1 970's seems to support the hypothesis that the contraceptive revolution is partially responsible for the rise in U.S. divorce rates.10
  4. Statistical evidence of the commonly held belief that the presence of children, in particular young children, inhibits divorce.11

Pollster Lewis Harris has claimed that "the divorce rate of 50% in the United States was an inflated number, due to the Census Bureau noting that during one year there were 2.4 million marriages and 1.2 million divorces. Someone did the math without calculating the 54 million marriages already in existence."12 However, the divorce rate climbed after World War I (to 10% and then down again to 4%), and World II (to 18% and then down to 8%). Yet in the mid-sixties, after the introduction of birth control, the rate climbed steadily for nearly 20 years to about 23% and has remained level.

Divorce Rates In The General Population

Even though our NFP survey is not a random study, but is national in scope, the NSFG and GSS surveys were random. The following graph illustrates the current marital status of all three studies as well as that of the subsample of the GSS ever married Catholics. However, a definitive comparison cannot be made because of the age difference among the NSFG (15 to 44), the GSS and the GSS ever married Catholics (18 and older), and the NFP (21 to 66) survey groups. Nevertheless, the adjusted age comparisons previously reported in Figure 9 showed only a small difference.

Figure 11: NFP, NSFG, GSS and GSS Ever Married Catholics Data

At the time of the surveys, 98% of NFP, 49% of the NSFG, 54% of the GSS and 68% o the GSS Ever Married Catholic women, wee married. Those divorced constituted 0.2% of NFP, 7% of NSFG, 12% of GSS and 13% of GSS Ever Married Catholics, while separated women were 0% of NFP, 3% of NSFG, and 4% of both GSS and GSS Ever Married Catholics. NFP respondents had the lowest percentage of cohabitation (0.4%), in comparison to the NSFG (7%) and GSS (7%), and the ever-married Catholics in the GSS survey with a low rate of 2% had the second lowest percentage. Widows comprised 1% of NFP, 0.5% of NSFG, and 15% of both GSS and GSS Ever Married Catholic groups.

As we observe the marital status of the four groups surveyed, we can't help but wonder whether this curious phenomenon is in great part due to the advantages of observing and respecting the natural law within their marriage through the use of Natural Family Planning. The impressive low divorce rate seems to be closely linked to the practice of NFP, but a future matched sample study would enable us to make a more accurate comparative study. It cannot be denied that NFP fosters communication and intimate conversation between spouses, as they need to be aware of their combined fertility and infertility. In contrast, it appears that those who have not been given this enrichment have considerably higher divorce, separation and cohabitation rates. Is it possible that a critical element is missing in the marriages of the other groups surveyed? Could the missing element be practicing and sharing the responsibility of Natural Family Planning? Marriages in violation of the natural law seem to be in a state of instability due to the lack of chastity within their marriage, resulting in poor communication and cooperation and the denial of mutual responsibility in the area of responsible parenthood. Those couples seem to move from marriage to separation and divorce without ever experiencing permanence in their marital vocation.

Influences Of Intact Families

Unequivocal data have shown that an intact family of a father and a mother has tremendous influence on the behavior of children. Following are some of the findings that show teen pregnancies are influenced by family structure:

Consequences of Family Instability:

Benefits of Family Stability:

Legacy for Future Generations

Is the sexual revolution of the 1960s the reason for the increase in divorce, abortion and premarital sexual relations that has resulted in venereal diseases in epidemic proportions and the acceptance of unnatural sexual practices, such as sodomy? Further studies need to be conducted to ascertain that the faithful adherence to religious beliefs coupled with love and respect for the spouse through the practice of NFP is a proven means of bringing happiness and stability to marriages. The recommendations of virtuous behavior to future generations are reflected in the response from the NFP couples in Figures 12 through 20. After all, "the greatest influence on children comes primarily from the parents."

The following three questions and their answers, as shown in Figures 12 through 20, in the NFP and GSS surveys give a striking illustration of the present state of moral decadence and the prevailing confusion about right and wrong. Judging by the replies and recommendations that would be given to young men and women by respondents in the GSS and GSS ever married Catholic, moral relativism appears to be triumphant. However, the recommendations of virtuous behavior to future generations by the NFP respondents are irrefutably different and most encouraging.

Among the NFP respondents, 64% had only one partner in their lifetime, 32% of the NFP group had two or more partners since age 18, but 81% now feel that sex before marriage is always wrong and 92% would now advise a young man or woman to marry without living together. We believe that a serious change of heart had to have occurred.

The GSS respondents who had only one male sex partner since age 18 was 33% and 54% had two or more partners. When asked if sex before marriage is wrong, 32% replied that it is always wrong, while 33% said it was not wrong at all. When advising a young woman or man, only 10% would advise to marry without living together, 24% would advise to live with a steady partner without marrying and the majority (48%) would advise a young woman or man to live alone without a steady partner.

The GSS ever married Catholics had similar responses, 42% had only one male sex partner since age 18, and 48% had two or more partners. Regarding whether sex before marriage is wrong, 27% replied it is always wrong, while 34% feel it is not wrong at all. A small percentage would tell a young woman (7%) or man (9%) to marry without living together, 28% would advise a young woman and 26% a young man, to live with a steady partner without marrying. The majority would advise a young woman (50%) or a young man (51%) to live alone without a steady partner. This appears to be a tragic reflection of our society's present moral decay.

Figure 12: Number of Male partners since age 18

Figure 13: Sex before Marriage

Figure 14: Advice to a Young woman or man regarding way of life.

Success in Family Life

A majority of NFP respondents feel successful in family life, while the majority of the GSS and Ever Married Catholics do not.

Figure 15: NFP, GSS, and GSS ever married Catholics - Success in Family Life

A majority (75%) of NFP respondents feel completely or very successful, and if we also add the "somewhat successful" responses to this, the total becomes 97%. Conversely, only 9% of GSS women and 6% of ever-married Catholic women regard themselves as completely or very successful in family life. If we also add the "somewhat successful" these totals become 45% for GSS and 41% for GSS ever married Catholics. The percentage difference is considerable. These responses seem to reflect the vision that to feel successful in family life, it is vital to surrender to God's Will, be disposed to share your most intimate feelings with your spouse, be willing to give to your spouse selflessly without barriers, and to recognize the gift of life and the power to become generous co-creators of new life with Him.

Additional Benefits From Practicing NFP

The importance of prayer and the Sacraments has not been taught as powerfully as they deserve in our current culture. The following information shows an increase in church attendance among those respondents who practice NFP. Figure 22 shows the responses of the adjusted NFP Catholics and those of the adjusted NSFG Catholic respondents who practice NFP and those who do not. When comparing the responses of the random NSFG adjusted NFP and the random NSFG adjusted non-NFP, a similarity exists with those who practice NFP and the respondents in the NFP adjusted subsample. The NSFG adjusted NFP and the NFP adjusted have similar responses, which are markedly different from those of the NSFG adjusted non-NFP. 25% of the NFP adjusted and 27% of the NSFG adjusted NFP attend church more than once a week. More than half of both the NFP adjusted (64%) and NSFG adjusted NFP (51%) attend at least once a week. In contrast, among the NSFG adjusted non-NFP respondents, only 5% attend church more than once a week, and 34% attend weekly. 0.3% of the NFP adjusted respondents never attend church, as do 0% of the NSFG adjusted NFP, while 14% of the NSFG adjusted non-NFP never attend church.

Figure 16: NFP Adjusted, NSFG Adjusted NFP, NSFG Adjusted non-NFP

It is predictable that those who respect and follow God's law attain a closer relationship with God as they are totally dependent on His Will. Drawing closer to our Creator, in turn, inspires us all the more to observe His laws as they benefit us psychologically, physically, and spiritually.


We have endeavored to show a link between artificial birth control, promiscuity and divorce. The NFP survey respondents: have a dramatically low (0.2%) divorce rate; are happier and more satisfied in their everyday lives; share a deeper intimacy with their spouse; realize a deeper level of communication with their spouse; attend Church more often; and preserve the family unit more responsibly than the other groups. We are thus beginning to be able to demonstrate what the Church has long asserted philosophically and morally: artificial birth control carries with it a substantial impact on the personalistic dimensions of the sexual union of spouses. As the Holy Father reminds us, " is concerned with persons directly and immediately: affirmation of the value of the person as such is of its essence."19

In the service of building up the Civilization of Love, the social contingencies according to which the value of the person is either affirmed or denied must more and more be seen as a legitimate object of research. We hope we have contributed a small step in that vital direction.

Family of the Americas
PO Box 1170, Dunkirk, MD , 20754


1 Study presented at the Medical Committee Meeting of the Knights of Malta, New York, NY, 2000 [Back]

2 Dr. Zhang D.W. and J.X. Xu "The Effectiveness of the Ovulation Method", Reproduction and Contraception, 1993 vol.13, No. 3 pp.194-200; Ryder, R.E.J., British Medical Journal, Vol. 307, pp. 723-726, Sept. 18, 1993. [Back]

3 Mercedes Arz Wilson, Love and Fertility, 1998. [Back]

4 UN Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, "World Population Monitoring 2001, Population, Environment and Development", New York, October 2001 [Back]

5 Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), Love and Responsibility, 1981, page 43 [Back]

6 U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, New York Times, February 17, 1993; Women's Characteristics and Surgical Sterilization Series 23, Number 20, 1995 [Back]

7 Stanley K. Henshaw and Kathryn Kost, "Abortion Patients in 1994-1995: Characteristics and Contraceptive Use", Family Planning Perspectives, Volume 28, No.4, July/August 1996 [Back]

8 Robert T Michael, "Why did the U.S. Divorce Rate Double within a Decade", Research in Population Economics, Vol. 6. pp. 367-399. 1988. [Back]

9 William J. Bennett, "Quantifying Americas Decline" The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 1993 [Back]

10 Ibid [Back]

11 Robert T Michael, "Why did the U.S. Divorce Rate Double within a Decade", Research in Population Economics, Vol. 6. pp. 367-399. 1988. [Back]

12 National Center for Health Statistics. 1996 [Back]

13 Trevor Stammers, "Teenage Pregnancies are Influenced by Family Structure", Letters British Medical Journal; 324:51, January 5, 2002 [Back]

14 Ibid, cites Morgan P. "Marriage Lite: The rise of Cohabitation and its Consequences". Institute for the Study of Civil Society (CIVITAS): London, 2000:13 [Back]

15 Mercedes Wilson, Love and Family; Raising a Traditional Family in a Secular World, pg. 122; 1996 [Back]

16 Ibid [Back]

17 Jeffery Jones M.D. et. al., A Special Report Commissioned by the Consortium of State Physicians Resource Councils, January 7, 1999 [Back]

18 Peggy Kirby and Louis Paradise "Fertility Appreciation for Families: Evaluation report for the Family of the Americas Foundation; October 1, 1987. [Back]

19 Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), Love and Responsibility, 1981, page 42. [Back]

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