Tag Archives: divorce research

Why divorce rates are declining

love tiles ring PixabayDivorce is on the decline according to new research announced in the New York Times. Rates have been declining for three decades, after peaking in the 70s and 80s. “The divorce surge is over,” says the paper.

That’s the good news. However, marriage itself is experiencing a significant decline.

Still, good news is good news, and additional reasons are given for the decline in divorce. These include:
*later marriages, which appear to be more stable;
*fewer couples choosing to marry, and the ones who do make the commitment are serious about marriage;
*less stringent gender roles with more sharing of child care and home care; and
*more couples choosing to marry for love (say the researchers).

There’s another caveat though. The divorce decline is concentrated among people with college degrees. Of the college educated couples who married in the early 2000s, 11 percent had divorced by year seven of their marriage. Of couples without college degrees married around the same time, 17% divorced by year 7. These rates are still probably lower than you thought, though, with the pop culture myth commonly repeated that “half of all marriages end in divorce.” Not even close.

As a result of fewer divorces, many more children may be able to witness their parents’ stable marriages and perhaps learn how to create their own stable families. On the flip side, simultaneously, a record number of children are being raised in one-parent homes—by both never-marrieds and divorced parents.

Unfortunately, poverty rates and income inequality can become huge problems for children in single-parent homes. According to the National Survey of Children’s Health report, only 6 percent of children in married-couple homes have no parent who works full-time. For kids being raised by never-married single mothers, the comparable figure is 46 percent. The Boston Globe provides details in “Two Parent Families have Decreased, and Economic Inequality Grows.”

We’ll take the good news, but keep in mind we have some work to do before we can claim family stability.

Still, don’t believe the hype that marriages are doomed to fail or that most of them fail. Work to make yours a success. And remember, the good news isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, particularly for those in the lower economic and educational spectrum.

For more details, read “The Divorce Surge is Over, but the Myth Lives On” from the NYT.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Parental Divorce Negatively Affects Later Parent/Child Relationships

mom and child morgefileWhen children experience parental divorce, they are more likely to have insecure relationships with their parents once they grow into adults. A new 2013 study, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, reports that insecure parental relationships were most pronounced when the divorce occurred during early childhood. This is the first such study to determine that the timing of the divorce in the first years of life has a greater impact. It is also one of the first to demonstrate a link between the divorce and the parent/child relationship being harmed.

This research contradicts cultural assertions that children are very resilient and that they can easily get over family breakups, particularly if they are too young to really understand what is going on. On the contrary, early childhood is deemed a “sensitive period” during which the child learns how to trust and attach to others. Therefore, divorce during this sensitive period was shown to be more impactful.

There has been some disagreement in previous research about when during childhood the most harmful effects of parental divorce occur. A 1989 study by Allison and Furstenburg found greater distress, delinquency, problem behavior, and academic difficulties in children whose parents separated between infancy and age five. However, a 2005 study by Strohschein suggested older children whose parents divorced were more vulnerable to mental health problems.

This 2013 study by Fraley and Heffernan isolated and tested the sensitive period hypothesis which posited that, if true, the impact of parental divorce on adult attachment styles should be more pronounced if it occurred during early childhood than if it took place later in childhood. The study concluded that the data was in fact consistent with the sensitive period hypothesis. The researchers concluded that “not only is early divorce more consequential than later divorce, but it is also particularly influential when it takes place in the early years of life.”

Psychologists say some experiences, such as parental divorce, can influence our personality development more when they take place during a child’s early development. Why? A 2006 study by Sullivan suggests one possibility is that our nervous system is more malleable or plastic early in life, and so may be impacted to a greater degree during this time. A 2002 study by Fraley adds that early experiences help us set expectations for later experiences. So when a disruption in family relationships occurs very early, it changes the mindset and removes the secure foundation on which other relationships can be compared and built.

Adult Children of Divorce Have More Insecure Relationships with Parents
If you are a parent considering divorce, it is certainly worth noting that the action of divorce and its timing have major consequences for your child and for his or her future relationship with you and your spouse.

Researchers concluded that people who were younger when their parents divorced were more insecure in their relationships with their parents as adults than people who were older when their parents divorced. The first few years of life appear to be the most critical “sensitive period.” However, even when children were older when the divorce occurred, the parental relationships were more likely to be insecure.

Fraley and Heffernan used a fairly large testing group of more than 12,300 participants for this study and replicated the results with a second sample of 7,300. They included people who varied in parental divorce status, age, and age at parental divorce. Participants were mostly from the U.S., the U.K., and Canada.

Custody Affects Parent/Child Relationships
It shouldn’t be surprising that the amount of time the child spends with a parent was shown in this study to be linked with the security of the adult/child relationship as adults. People in the study were more likely to have an insecure relationship with their father if they lived with their mother. However, if they lived with their father, they were less likely to have an insecure relationship with him as an adult. And if they lived with their father, they reported more insecurity in their relationship with their mothers than with their fathers.

Adult children of divorce were more insecure with fathers than with mothers, on average. This is likely due to the fact that more mothers gain full custody. In fact, 74 percent of participants whose parents divorced reported that their mothers had primary custody, while 11 percent lived with their fathers, and the rest lived with a grandparent or other caretakers.

“These findings are valuable because they suggest that something as basic as the amount of time one spends with a parent or one’s living arrangements can have the potential to shape the quality of the attachment relationship that one has with a parent,” say researchers.

To summarize, divorce during the first few years of life affects children the most, and this family breakdown is likely to result in more insecure relationships with one or both parents, with custody being a major factor in relationship security. Is this study consistent with your own personal experience, or the experiences of your friends?

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Religious Practice is Relevant to Divorce Rate

It’s common to hear people say that Christians have the same divorce rate as non-Christians. In fact, most people believe this is an established fact. When digging deeper, however, this turns out to be false, at least when we’re talking about practicing Christians. Religious practice, not religious affiliation, makes the crucial difference.

W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, conducted his own analysis which concludes there is a big difference in the divorce rates between those who are committed to religious practice and those who self-identify with a particular faith.

To explain it further, people who refer to themselves as Catholics are 5 percent less likely to divorce, but active Catholics are 31 percent less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation. Among Protestant Christians, those who are nominal Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce than nonreligious people. Conservative Protestants are 10 percent less likely to divorce, and Conservative active Protestants are 35 percent less likely to divorce than people in the general population. The difference was a much more stark difference among Jewish individuals. Nominal Jewish people were 53 percent more likely to become divorced, and active Jewish people were 97 percent less likely to divorce than the non-religious. Wilcox controlled for socio-economic factors.

So, contrary to what you have heard, religious commitment and practice within a traditional religious faith does correlate with stronger and longer marriages. Reasons for these church-goers’ lower divorce rates may include having a community of support to help churchgoers live out the churches’ teachings. There were important correlations of note:

“Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said they were more religious reported higher levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce, and lower levels of negative interaction.  These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education, and age at first marriage,” reported Professor Scott Stanley, sociologist from the University of Denver. (From FactChecker: Divorce Rate Among Christians)

Jennifer Roback Morse writes in the National Review Online that the false assumptions that Christians divorce at the same rate as others is harmful because 1.) It contributes to a general sense that divorce is inevitable. 2.) It demoralizes people on a personal and policy level. 3.) It makes Christians appear to be hypocrites. 4.) People don’t know that religious practice has a stabilizing effect on marriages.

However, in every culture and religion, I think we can agree that divorce more common than we would hope.

Do you believe your belief system and/or religious practice affects your marital strength?

Get Inspiration for Your Marriage:

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com. Pick up your copy today!

Photo by David Castillo Dominici courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Researchers: Divorced friends may have good marriage advice

Some divorced individuals have learning experiences through their divorce that can help others, researchers say. The Early Years of Marriage Project, a long-term NIH-funded study on marriage divorce that began more than 25 years ago found that divorced people may have some valuable insights to share.

The study included 373 couples between the ages of 25 and 37 who were in their first year of marriage in 1986. Nearly half of them divorced, and 70 percent went on to new relationships.

Researchers also found value in asking happily married couples what makes their marriages work. But they concede that the divorced couples can tell about what they learned about marriage the hard way, and what they would do differently. More than 40 percent of the divorced individuals remarried, and they shared some of the things that they carried to their second marriages. Read the TODAY article here for details.

A couple of the points researchers found included:

Nearly half of subjects said money strained their first marriages. That’s why 60 percent didn’t share expenses in their new relationships. Instead of resolving their money issues, they felt it was better to set up a system that kept financial conflict at bay.

Researchers found that men needed “affective affirmation” –such as as compliments or physical contact that shows support from their wives as an important part of their relationship.  Men needed this non-sexual support more than women, because they don’t often hear positive feedback from others in their lives as women do.

It’s too early for the researchers to determine if these second marriages will fare better than their first in the long run. However, the point is that failure often teaches us some important lessons. If you have a divorced friend who tells you he wishes he had shown more affection to his wife, or who says she wishes she had appreciated her husband’s efforts more, those are lessons worth listening to. If they have a lot of anger about their ex, perhaps it’s best to change the subject.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by imagerymajestic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Is Divorce Rate Booming for Boomers?

While overall U.S. divorce rates have declined in recent years, the divorce rates have spiked for baby boomers who are in the 50 to 60 age group. The Wall Street Journal calls this trend “gray divorce” and recently analyzed some of the factors contributing to the trend. (Read “The Gray Divorcés” for full details.)

Late in life divorces used to be unusual, but are now more common. In 1990, only one in ten people who got divorced were 50 or older. By 2009, the number was about one in four. More than 600,000 people aged 50 and older got divorced in 1009, according to the WSJ. Divorces in middle age can be financially devastating, says the paper, and those who remarry have to address issues over estates, inheritances, and children from previous marriages.

The WSJ reported on some of the risk factors behind these gray divorces, and says one of the best explanations for the rise in divorce rates for this age group is that more of them have already been divorced once. “Second and subsequent marriages have a 150 percent greater chance of ending in divorce than do first marriages.”

Another risk factor is a more recent marriage. Nearly half of divorced individuals were married fewer than 20 years, while three-fifths of those married more than 30 years stayed together.

Race also impacted boomer divorce rates, with blacks being 75 percent more likely to divorce after age 50, and Hispanics being 21 percent more likely than whites.

Those with a college education had a 17 percent lower probability of divorce than those with only a high school diploma.

In an AARP study asking older individuals about their reasons for divorce, 29 percent cited marital infidelity as a cause, which is similar to the rate in other age groups. Women also initiated 66 percent of the divorces, which is also similar to other age groups.

There have not been comprehensive national studies about other reasons for late divorces. “If there’s a silver lining to the rise in gray divorces, it’s that the rate may fall for subsequent generations,” says the WSJ article. The reason is that with divorce rates declining for those in their 20s, 30s or 40s, the biggest risk factor for divorce (a previous divorce) will be lessened. In addition, the newspaper cited GenXers as having “relatively stable marriages so far” and states they could stay married longer than generations before them.

Next time, I’ll follow up with a final post on this gray divorce trend, including what boomers’ focus on self-fulfillment–as opposed to previous generations’ focus on role fulfillment—may have to do with the increase in the divorce rate.

What do you think are the biggest reasons for the boomers’ booming divorce rate?

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

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Check out this thought-provoking post from Corey Allan, PhD, called “Marriage is Easy.” He says, “If you want your marriage to keep getting better over time and lighten your load rather than add to your burden, you must take responsibility for both how you behave and for what behaviors you accept from your spouse.” Yes, I agree. Working through this kind of conflict may help you get to a better place.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Debunking Divorce Myths/Flushing Out Rumors

I recall a friend who was about to file for a divorce expressing how she would be financially better off after she divorced her husband. A friend of hers had put this idea in her head, and she believed it without question. Since she and her husband fought frequently about money, she thought she would have more freedom with her finances after they were separated. Sadly, that was not the case; the divorce only compounded their financial problems, and she filed for bankruptcy soon after. This example is only to say: Don’t believe everything you hear. The effects of divorce can’t always be predicted, and there are many misunderstandings surrounding divorce.

Following are a couple of myths about divorce. These come from David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project, and a professor of sociology at Rutgers University.

Myth: Following divorce, the woman’s standard of living plummets by 73 percent while the man’s standard of living improves by 42 percent.

Fact: This widely publicized statistic was based on a faulty calculation. The data was recalculated to show a 27 percent loss in standard of living for women, and a 10 percent gain for men. Popenoe says the gender gap post-divorce is real, and hasn’t narrowed much since the study was done decades ago.

Perhaps the perception of financial gain leads people to believe the following untruth…

Myth: It is usually men who initiate divorce proceedings.

Fact: Two-thirds of divorces are actually initiated by women. However, child custody and divorce laws in each state influence these numbers. States in which women have a better chance at retaining full custody of children have higher rates of women initiating divorce proceedings. In states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband, the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower, says Popenoe. While women more frequently file for divorce, men are more likely to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity (which may lead her to want the divorce in the first place). So, let’s not “blame” women for divorces, folks.

Myth: Living together before marriage is a good way to reduce the chances of eventually divorcing.

Fact: Popenoe reports many studies have concluded those who live together before marriage have considerably higher rates of divorce.

Myth: When parents don’t get along, children are better off if their parents divorce than if they stay together.

Fact: Studies show that while marital unhappiness does negatively affect children, so does divorce. For two-thirds of familes in low-conflict homes, the children’s situation only worsens after the divorce. They are better off if the parents stay together and work out their problems. Studies show only those in very high-conflict homes benefit from “the conflict removal that divorce may bring.”

If you’re interested in more setting the record straight, read Popenoe’s other Myths and Facts about Divorce.

Perhaps spreading misinformation is one of the reasons why Divorce is Contagious? What rumors have you heard about the effects or causes of divorce? Have you questioned the veracity of rumors like these?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Is Divorce Contagious? Researchers: Yes.

Divorce is contagious among social networks, directly affecting friends and family member’s likelihood to also divorce. In addition, the breakup can lead to other divorces at least two degrees of separation from the initial couple who split. Researchers say behaviors like divorce can spread as viruses do.

CNN reports the findings from James H. Fowler, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. Fowler worked with other researchers at Harvard and Brown Universities. They studied 5,000 people. Fowler says the first couple’s divorce impacts other people’s decision to divorce, “and can even sway your friend’s friend.”

Have you noticed some divorces among groups are announced in fairly quick succession? The obvious example that comes to mind among those who discuss marriage is the Gore family. One of their daughters divorced about a year ago. As everyone knows, Al and Tipper have announced their split as well after 40 years of marriage. Their eldest daughter even more recently announced her plans to divorce after 13 years and three children.

Their decisions to divorce are private, but the research says those with a divorced sibling have a 22 percent increased chance to get divorced than those who don’t have divorced siblings.

While those stats sound rather high, friends who divorce have an even higher impact. “People who had a divorced friend were 147 percent more likely to be divorced than those whose friends’ marriages were intact,” says the study. Even your workplace has a strong impact on your marriage status. If your coworker divorces, your odds of divorce go up 55 percent compared to those who work with non-divorced workers.

Some people become carriers without getting divorced, say the researchers, just by relaying information to their friends and family. The listener may warm up the idea of divorce, says Fowler, or consider the benefits of divorce.

Some marriage therapists have anecdotally agreed that their clients have been influenced by divorced friends. When divorce permeates a social group, group norms can change. In addition, poor relationship skills can be imitated by others. I’m sure we are all aware that ineffective relationship skills can be transferred from one generation to another.

What does this research mean to us? First, we should be cautious about the one-sided information we hear about divorce from those in our social network. You may be hearing the rosy side of divorce, but know there is a dark side others may not show. For instance, I’ve seen the loneliness, financial ruin, heartbroken children and hurt spouses left behind in divorce. But if you run into those same people at the grocery store, they might tell you about how they go out on Friday nights because of their new freedom.

Also, remember that our culture supports the idea of divorce and makes it very easy. It also suggests a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude about marriage. There’s a misconception that if you just change partners, your relationship problems will disappear. You have to decide if you will have a counter-cultural marriage that lives in love and remains committed, even during difficult times.

A recent blog post at Journey to Surrender caught my attention, reminding readers who are trying to get their spouses to change that you can’t push on a rope. “Some things only work in one direction. Pushing a rope only ends in frustration and you might just wind up with a tangled mess. Pulling it, however, will cause the entire rope to move smoothly in the directly you want. It can be tempting at times to push your spouse toward their appropriate roles and actions in your marriage.” Scott’s tips:

  • Speak into that which you want to see rise up, rather than complaining about what you see as missing or wrong. 
  • Use appreciation and gratitude for every small step in the right direction.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything you might be doing that is pushing your spouse and possibly causing an undesirable counter-reaction
  • Look for unmet needs in your spouse. Most men need to feel respected, admired, trusted and desired to be “pulled” toward their position of loving leadership. For a woman, things like affection, attention/time, genuine concern and romantic engagement will draw her toward more fully offering her submission.

Have you noticed divorces that have affected friends and family or occurred in groups?  Do you think this research is on target?