1. Half of all marriages end in divorce.
That may have been the case several decades ago, but the divorce rate has been dropping since the early 1980s. If today’s divorce rate continues unchanged, the chances that a marriage contracted this year will end in divorce has been estimated to be between 40 and 45%.1
2. Because people learn from bad experiences, second marriages are more successful than first marriages.
Although many people who divorce have successful subsequent marriages, the divorce rate of remarriages is higher than that of first marriages.2
3. Living together before marriage is a good way to reduce the chances of eventually divorcing.
Many studies have found that those who live together before marriage have a considerably higher chance of divorcing. The reasons for this aren’t well understood. In part, the type of people who are willing to co-habit may also be the same types who are more willing to divorce. There’s evidence that the act of cohabitation generates attitudes in people that are more conducive to divorce. There is the attitude that relationships are temporary and easily can be ended.3
4. Divorce may cause problems for many of the children, who are affected by it.
They say that these problems are not long lasting and also the children recover relatively quickly. In reality, divorce increases the risk of interpersonal problems in children. There’s evidence, from both small and large-scale studies that many of these problems are long lasting. In fact, they may even become worse in adulthood.4
5. Having a child together will help a couple to improve their marital satisfaction and prevent a divorce.
Many studies have shown that the most stressful time in a marriage is after the first child is born. Couples who have a child together have a slightly decreased risk of divorce compared to couples without children. But the decreased risk is far less than it used to be. Parents with marital problems were more likely to stay together “for the sake of the children.”5
6. Following divorce, the woman’s standard of living plummets by 73% while that of the man’s improves by 42%.
This dramatic inequity was later found to be based on a faulty calculation. A reanalysis of the data determined that the woman’s loss was 27% while the man’s gain was 10%. The gender gap is real and seems not to have narrowed much in recent decades.6
7. When parents don’t get along, children are better off if their parents divorce than if they stay together.
A recent large-scale, long-term study suggests otherwise. While it found that parents’ marital unhappiness has a negative impact on every dimension of their children’s well-being, so does the fact of going through a divorce. They examined the negative impacts on children more closely. The study discovered that it was only the children in very high conflict homes who benefited from the conflict removal that divorce may bring as compared to lower-conflict marriages that end in divorce.
And the study found that perhaps as many as two thirds of the divorces were of this type. The situation of the children was made much worse following a divorce. Based on the findings of this study, therefore, except in the minority of high-conflict marriages, it’s better for the children if their parents stay together and work out their problems than if they divorce.7
8. They’re more cautious in entering marriages and have a strong determination to avoid the possibility of divorce.
They reason that children who grow up in a home broken by divorce tend to have as much success in their own marriages as those from intact homes. But marriages of the children of divorce actually have a much higher rate of divorce than the marriages of children from intact families. A major reason for this, is that children learn about marital commitment by observing their parents. The sense of commitment to a lifelong marriage has been undermined in the children of divorce.8
9. Following divorce, the children involved are better off in stepfamilies than in single-parent families.
The evidence suggests that stepfamilies are no improvement over single-parent families. This is true, even though typically income levels are higher and there’s a father figure in the home. Stepfamilies tend to have their own set of problems. They include interpersonal conflicts with new parent figures and a very high risk of family breakup.9
10. Being very unhappy at certain points in a marriage is a good sign that the marriage will end in divorce.
All marriages have their ups and downs. Research found that 86% of people who were unhappily married in the late 1980s, and stayed with the marriage, indicated five years later that they were happier. Indeed, three fifths of the formerly unhappily married couples rated their marriages as either “very happy” or “quite happy.”10
It’s usually men who initiate divorce proceedings. Women initiate two-thirds of all divorces. One recent study found that many of the reasons for this have to do with the nature of our divorce laws. For example, in most states women have a good chance of receiving custody of their children. In states where there is shared custody with the husband the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower.11
1 Joshua R. Goldstein, “The Leveling of Divorce in the United States” Demography 36 (1999): 409-414; Arthur J. Norton and Louisa F. Miller Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the 1990s (Washington, DC: U S. Bureau of the Census, 1992) Robert Schoen and Nicola Standish, “The Retrenchment of Marriage: Results from the Marital Status Life Tables for the United States, 1995” Unpublished manuscript, Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
2 Joshua R. Goldstein, “The Leveling of Divorce in the United States Demography” 36 (1999): 409-414; Andrew Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992)
3 Alfred DeMaris and K. Vaninadha Rao, “Premartial Cohabitation and Marital Instability in the United States: A Reassessment” Journal of Marriage and the Family 54 (1992): 178-190; Pamela J. Smock, “Cohabitation in the United States” Annual Review of Sociology 26 (2000)
4 Judith Wallerstein, Julia M. Lewis and Sandra Blakeslee, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2000); Andrew J. Cherlin, P. Lindsay Chase-Landsdale, and Christine McRae, “Effects of Parental Divorce on Mental Health Throughout the Life Course” American Sociological Review 63 (1998): 239-249; Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997)
5 Tim B. Heaton, “Marital Stability Throughout the Child-rearing Years” Demography 27 (1990): 55-63; Linda Waite and Lee A. Lillard, “Children and Marital Disruption” American Journal of Sociology 96 (1991): 930-953; Carolyn Pape Cowan and Philip A. Cowan, When Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples (New York: Basic Books, 1992)
6 Leonore J. Weitzman, “The Economics of Divorce: Social and Economic Consequences of Property, Alimony, and Child Support Awards” UCLA Law Review 28 (August, 1981): 1251; Richard R. Peterson, “A Re-Evaluation of the Economic Consequences of Divorce” American Sociological Review 61 (June, 1996): 528-536; Pamela J. Smock, “The Economic Costs of Marital Disruption for Young Women over the Past Two Decades” Demography 30 (August, 1993): 353-371
7 Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997)
8 Paul R. Amato, “What Children Learn From Divorce” Population Today, (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, January 2001); Nicholas H. Wolfinger, “Beyond the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce” Journal of Family Issues 21-8 (2000): 1061-1086
9 Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, Growing Up With a Single Parent (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994); Alan Booth and Judy Dunn (eds.), Stepfamilies: Who Benefits? Who Does Not? (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994)
10 Unpublished research by Linda J. Waite, cited in Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage (New York: Doubleday, 2000): 148
11 Margaret F. Brinig and Douglas Allen, “These Boots Are Made For Walking: Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women” American Law and Economics Review 2-1 (2000): 126-169
This article was sent to us from: Smartmarriages®, Subject: The Top 10 Myths of Divorce. Discussion of the most common misinformation about Divorce, is written by David Popenoe, of The National Marriage Project.
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