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Will Miley marrying make your teen consider getting hitched?

Former Disney star Miley Cyrus 19 'Hunger Games' star Liam Hemsworth 22 are engaged. The two have been dating since

Former Disney star Miley Cyrus, 19, and "Hunger Games" star Liam Hemsworth, 22, are engaged. The two have been dating since co-starring in the 2009 film "The Last Song."

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Updated: July 14, 2012 6:07AM

Former Disney starlet and teen queen Miley Cyrus recently announced her engagement to Australian actor Liam Hemsworth. Many people were surprised by the news due to the fact that Liam is 22 years old, and Miley is only 19.

Parents are worried about the message this teenage engagement could send to their own children, while others have pointed out that this is a growing trend in Hollywood. From fictional characters like Edward and Bella from the Twilight series to stars like Hilary Duff, Avril Lavinge, and Kevin Jonas, getting hitched at a young age seems to be increasing in popularity in Hollywood.

What can explain this new trend? When it comes to teenage stars, it’s easy to understand how fame and fortune can play a role. All of these young lovers (Cyrus, Duff, Lavinge, etc.) were making millions of dollars before they were even old enough to order a drink and, in some cases, even before they were of age to drive. Their lives are completely different than the “average” kid their age, and considering they spend most of their time on set or in the studio with older, more mature individuals, it’s only natural that they would grow up much faster than teens who are still in prom and SAT mode.

Regardless of the reasoning behind it, recent research shows that couples who get married before they are 20 are two to three times more likely to divorce than couples who wait until they are 25 years old or more. Romance aside, heading down the aisle too soon actually can lead to the end of a relationship, rather than the growth of it.

Thankfully, the good news is that people are delaying marriage longer than ever before. In 1960, more than half of young adults were married, but today only 20 percent have tied the knot. Delaying such a big commitment can actually be a wise idea, because the reality is that almost half of first marriages end in divorce within 20 years of a couple’s wedding day.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that marriage is doomed (in fact, rates of divorce have decreased recently, perhaps because more people are postponing marriage than ever before). Many studies have examined the risk factors for divorce, and by learning about these and safeguarding against them, couples can increase their likelihood of staying together. For example, one study found that couples were twice as likely to get divorced if they didn’t agree on how many children they wanted (if any). Talking about issues such as these before you walk down the aisle can help you to prevent future heartache later on.

Another risk factor for divorce is financial disagreements. One study found that couples who argued about money more than once a week were 30 percent more likely to end their marriage than couples who did not argue so often. This is another risk which can be decreased if you discuss it before you get married. Talk about your debt, student loans, retirement plans and your career goals (Want to quit your lucrative career to go to culinary school someday? Better let your partner know that this is your intention before tying the knot).

And, of course, we can’t forget sex. Couples who enjoy regular sex with their partner are not only more likely to be fulfilled and connected with their mates, they also are more likely to be in a better mood and have a more pleasant outlook on life than those couples who don’t enjoy sex as often.

The bottom line is that there is no way to predict who will be divorced, but we do know that getting married too soon and not discussing important topics like kids, money and religion can be devastating down the road. And, until you are old enough to realize what you really want out of life and how you feel about all of these important issues, you will have a harder time communicating that to your partner and creating a healthy, strong marriage.

Dr. Berman is the star of “In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” on OWN and director of

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