Divorce Research Update– 7-27-2015

New findings about predictors of divorce, marital quality, cohabitation, GLBT divorce and more.  The most recent issue of the Journal of Family Psychology Volume 29, Issue 3, (Jun) includes 5 articles that address important issues in our understanding of divorce.

A more complete list of research report about divorce, remarriage and stepfamilies published in 2015 or between 2010-2015.

Goldberg, A. E., & Garcia, R. (2015). Predictors of relationship dissolution in lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents. Journal of Family Psychology,29(3), 394.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000095

Goldberg, J. S., & Carlson, M. J. (2015). Patterns and Predictors of Coparenting After Unmarried Parents Part. Journal of Family Psychology,29(3), 416-426. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000078

James, S. L. (2015). Variation in Marital Quality in a National Sample of Divorced Women. Journal of Family Psychology,29(3) http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000082

Bourassa, K. J., Sbarra, D. A., & Whisman, M. A. (2015). Women in Very Low Quality Marriages Gain Life Satisfaction Following Divorce. Journal of Family Psychology,29(3) http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000075

Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., & Allen, E. S. (2015). Can Marriage Education Mitigate the Risks Associated With Premarital Cohabitation? Journal of Family Psychology, 29(3), 500-506. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000081


Divorce Research Update 7-6-2015

 A cross cultural look at the antecedents and consequences of divorce can provide further insights into our understanding of divorce.

A more complete list of research report about divorce, remarriage and stepfamilies published in 2015 or between 2010-2015.

Härkönen, Juho (forthcoming). Divorce. In Scott, Robert A. & Kosslyn, Stephen M. (Eds.), Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.

A nice summary of some theoretical and methodological issues to consider in studying divorce with some good references to this literature in Europe.

Terekhina S.A. Approaches to assessing the psychological well-being of minors when the parents divorce. Psikhologiia i pravo = Psychology and Law, 2015. no. 1, pp. 119–128. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.). Download PDF-fulltext (576 kb)  

Only the abstract is in English, but this summary hints at some careful thinking about the conceptualization of “psychological well-being” in regards to children who have experienced the divorce of their parents.

Andersson, G., Obucina, O. & Scott, K. (2015).  Marriage and Divorce of Immigrants and Descendants to Immigrants in Sweden, Stockholm Research Reports in Demography 2015: 14.  (as noted on the paper this document has not received careful scientific review.)

A thoughtful examination of the marriage, divorce and remarriage patterns among immigrants to Sweden.  The sample is large enough to examine variations among different immigrant groups (e.g., Eastern European and the Middle East/Africa).  The authors explore the differential impact of “migration stress” on the marital patterns of immigrant children and adults.

Does where you live cause you to divorce?

In 2011, the Census Bureau released a report that included the rates of divorce for each state in 2009.  This report set off wild speculation about why some states have high or low divorce rates.

It is obvious that the soil, weather or average daily temperature have little to do with divorce rates, so what might lead to differential divorce rates among the states.

Here are some hypotheses and comparison of two states—Minnesota and Georgia.

First, what are the divorce rates for Minnesota and Georgia?

In 2009, the divorce rate for men in Minnesota is 7.4 per 1000 men and for women it is 7.8 per 1000 women.  In Georgia the divorce rate is 11.5 per 1000 men and 11.7 per 1000 women. The divorce the United States for women was 9.7 divorces per 1000 women and 9.2 divorces per 1000 men.  And the range of divorces for women was from the lowest in New Jersey of 6.0 divorces to 16.2 divorces in Alaska.    For men the highest divorce rate was 13.5 in Arkansas and the lowest was 6.3 in the District of Columbia.

So what are some of the reasons why the divorce rate might be different in these two states?  Table 1 provides the complete demographic comparison of both states.

The most obvious first idea is that there is a different rate in which people get married in each of these states.  In other words, if you have fewer marriages you will get fewer divorces.  So we should look to at the marriage rates in each state.  In 2009, the marriage rate in Minnesota is 15.3 for men and 15.4 for women and the rate in Georgia is 22.1 for men and 20.4 for women.  These numbers provide at least a clue about the differences in the divorce rate.  At least in the past year, more people are getting married in Georgia than in Minnesota.  Now one of the limitations of these numbers is that they are only the marriage rate in the past year, but if this difference has been generally consistent, then in Georgia there are just more married couples, therefore, more couples that can get divorced.

Young people in the age group of 25-34 are more likely to be getting married.  Different states may have more or less people in this age group.  In Minnesota, the percentage of the population in this age range is 13% and in Georgia it is 14%.  Thus, it does not appear as if there are simply more young people of marriageable age that might increase the marriage and ultimately the divorce rate.

Another factor that might make a difference is the age of first marriage.  We know from other data that couples that marry at a young age are more likely to divorce than couples who marry when they are older.  Perhaps the age at first marriage is different between the two states.

In Minnesota, the age of first marriage for men is 27.8 years and for women is 26.3 years.  In Georgia the age at first marriage for men is 27.7 years and the age for women is 25.9 years.  These numbers are quite similar so this is not likely to explain the differences in the divorce rate.

Some of the factors that are consistently related to higher divorce rates are education and income.  When the education and income levels are compared between the two states, Minnesota residents are in better shape.  Although residents of Georgia have about the same percentage of residents with a Bachelor’s degree, there are more residents without a high school education (almost 30%) compared with Minnesota that only has 18% without a high school degree.  Income also favors Minnesota.  There are fewer residents with incomes under $25,000 and in poverty compared to Georgia.

There are also differences in the divorce rate among racial and ethnic groups.  In a recent report, it was found that about 49% of Black marriages end in divorce compared to 41% of marriages of White marriages.  When you compare the two states, Georgia has a Black population of 30% compared to Minnesota that has only 5% Black residents.

Both states have about the same percentage of urban residents.

There is some evidence that people who are more mobile are more likely to divorce.  The suggestion is that these people are less attached to support systems and kin that may assist the couple.  Both states have a high degree of stability, but Georgia has a slightly more mobile population.

In addition to marrying at a young age, having a child as a teenager or outside of marriage can increase a person’s risk of divorce.  In both cases, Georgia has higher rates of teen births and births to unmarried women.

There is much debate about the role of religion in divorce.  There is no reliable estimates of the divorce rate among various religious groups.  The general perception of the south is that this is the “Bible Belt” referring to the historically large percentage of residents who are identified as conservative Christians.  Somewhat surprisingly, a higher percentage of Minnesotans identify themselves as Christian compared to Georgians.  We don’t have an estimate about whether these Christians are conservative or not.

In summary, the major differences between residents in the two states that may contribute to the differential divorce rate would seem to be the larger population of African-Americans, less education and lower incomes.  Many of factors that might contribute to higher divorce rates are similar between the two states.  It is important to understand the limits of this analysis; I conducted no statistical tests to compare the differences between the various demographic factors.  These conclusions might not hold up to a more rigorous analysis.

Table 1.  Summary of Demographic Characteristics of Residents of Minnesota and Georgia









Divorce Rate





Marriage Rate





Age at First Marriage





Percentage of Population ages 25-34



Education (BA or more)



Education (High School)






Mobility (same house 2007-2008)



Religious Affiliation (Christian)









Births to Teens



Births to Unmarried Women



Household Income under $25,000



Households below poverty



Data Sources:

All of the statistics in this report are based on data U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012 as follows:

Population Data:  http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/12statab/pop.pdf

  •  Table 16. Resident Population by Age and State: 2010
  • Table 19. Resident Population by Race and State: 2010
  • Table 29. Urban and Rural Population by State: 1990 and 2000
  • Table 33. Mobility Status of Resident Population by State: 2009
  • Table 77. Christian Church Adherents, 2000, and Jewish Population, 2010—States

Births, Deaths, Marriages & Divorces http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/12statab/vitstat.pdf

  • Table 78. US Divorce Rates 1960-2008
  • Table 89. Percent of Births to Teenage Mothers, Unmarried Women, and Births with Low Birth Weight by State and Island Areas: 2000 to 2009
  • Table 131 Percentage of First Marriages Reaching Stated Anniversary by Sex and Year of Marriage (2009)
  • Table 133. Marriages and Divorces—Number and Rate by State: 1990 to 2009

Income, Expenditures, Poverty and Wealthhttp://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/12statab/income.pdf

  • Table 706. Household Income—Distribution by Income Level and State: 2009

Divorce Science Research Update 5-29-2015

This week’s summary is a report in The Journal of Chinese Sociology about the role of children (number, age, etc.) in predicting divorce.  Also, below is a figure showing the growth in the Chinese divorce rate.

A more complete list of research report about divorce, remarriage and stepfamilies published in 2015 or between 2010-2015.

Xu, Q., Yu, J., & Qiu, Z. (2015). The impact of children on divorce risk. The Journal of Chinese Sociology, 2(1), 1. http://www.journalofchinesesociology.com/content/2/1/1

Chinese Divorce Rate-- 1979-2009

Divorce Science Research Updates– 5-22-2015

This week there are 7 new articles dealing with parent-child relationships postdivorce, alienated children interventions, stepfamilies, and predictors of divorce.  The work by Kalmijn exploring the variations in father-child relationships postdivorce is an important contribution to our understanding of the impact of divorce on parent-child relationships.  Also, alienation continues to be challenging for some families experiencing severe conflict, the work by Reay provides new ideas for helping these families.  See more 2015 articles and complete lists from 2010.

Parent-Child Relationships Post-Divorce

Davies, H. (2015). Shared Parenting or Shared Care? Learning from Children’s Experiences of a Post-Divorce Shared Care Arrangement. Children & Society, 29(1), 1-14. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/chso.12013

Kalmijn, M. (2015). How Childhood Circumstances Moderate the Long-Term Impact of Divorce on Father-Child Relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, , n/a-n/a. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12202

Help for Alientated Children and Families

Reay, K. M. (2015). Family Reflections: A Promising Therapeutic Program Designed to Treat Severely Alienated Children and Their Family System. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 43(2), 197-207. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2015.1007769


Ivanova, K. (2015). Relationship satisfaction of the previously married: The significance of relationship specific costs and rewards in first and repartnering unions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0265407515583942

Jensen, T. M., Shafer, K., & Holmes, E. K. (2015). Transitioning to stepfamily life: the influence of closeness with biological parents and stepparents on children’s stress. Child & Family Social Work, , n/a-n/a. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12237

Predictors of Divorce

Boertien, D., von Scheve, C., & Park, M. (2015). Can Personality Explain the Educational Gradient in Divorce? Evidence From a Nationally Representative Panel Survey. Journal of Family Issues, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0192513X15585811

Torvik, F. A., Gustavson, K., Roysamb, E., & Tambs, K. (2015). Health, health behaviors, and health dissimilarities predict divorce:  Results from the HUNT study. BMC Psychology, 3(13) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40359-015-0072-5

Help for Alientated Children and Families

Reay, K. M. (2015). Family Reflections: A Promising Therapeutic Program Designed to Treat Severely Alienated Children and Their Family System. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 43(2), 197-207. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2015.1007769

Insurance-dependent Women Have Lower Divorce Rates– Good or Bad News?

In a just released study by Heeju Sohn at the University of Pennsylvania, she found that women who were dependent on their spouses for insurance coverage had lower rates of divorce.  This finding does not mean that these women are “protected” from divorce, but rather suggests that these women are likely to have fewer options and therefore may be remain in relationships for financial reasons.  These findings are a reminder that divorce decisions are not merely about marital satisfaction, but also about all aspects of family life.


Philip Cohen: Short video explanation of divorce rates

Professor Philip Cohen (blogger of Family Inequality) provides a short description of how divorce rates vary by ethnicity, age, education and length of time married.  A good reminder that the “average” divorce rate doesn’t tell us much about the risk to specific individuals.  (just over 1 minute long).