Divorce stats
March 19, 2009 7:37 AM   Subscribe

If you are still married after n years of marriage, what are your odds of divorce in the US? Is there data specifically for the happily married? How does this change over time? Also, for those who get divorced, is there any data about at what point the marriage turned the corner from good to bad?
posted by crazycanuck to Human Relations (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also, for those who get divorced, is there any data about at what point the marriage turned the corner from good to bad?

I think this is the proverbial seven-year-itch, though one site says it's down to 2 years now. I have heard that a good predictor of a long-term marriage is whether or not the spouses had parents who divorced. That's what our two-session pre-marriage counsler told us 15 years ago, in any case.
posted by jquinby at 7:50 AM on March 19, 2009


Some of the data you seek is contained in this 2005 census report using 2001 data. See, especially, figure 2.
posted by carmicha at 7:58 AM on March 19, 2009


The National Marriage Project at Rutgers has all kinds of data on this.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:12 AM on March 19, 2009


Though this is a couple years old, this is an article I keep around for such discussions.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 8:14 AM on March 19, 2009


From wocka's link:
About 60 percent of all marriages that eventually end in divorce do so within the first 10 years
Awesome. I just told my husband "we're half way to making it more than half way!"
posted by DarlingBri at 9:30 AM on March 19, 2009


If you are still married after n years of marriage, what are your odds of divorce in the US? Is there data specifically for the happily married?

This depends on a lot of different demographic factors. There are two good online widgets to calculate your divorce risk, this one based on census data, and this one based on Center for Disease Control data.

The more kids you have, the more education get, the later you marry, and the more religious you are, the more likely you are to remain together.
posted by dgaicun at 11:25 AM on March 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


The problem with statistics is always the same, it can suggest general trends, suggest causation, but has very poor value as a predictor. Lives in particular are never really quite average, and there is always going to be a large range of values in these things, people who are getting married now who will last, people who will get divorced after the kids move out, etc etc.

A while ago I came across a psychology article that discussed the best predictor for whether a marriage would last was simply- how well the couple tried to resolve arguments. Having frequent arguments didn't mean much, but how they were handled was a good predictor: if one partner shows contempt for the other person's opinion, or simply doesn't want to deal with issues and lets them go unchecked, it was a better than 50% chance of eventual divorce.

I couldn't find the original article, but this one seems similar enough.
There is a behavioral cascade I call the four horsemen of the apocalypse—criticism, contempt, defensiveness and withdrawal. If I say to my wife, "I am upset that you didn't balance the checkbook. Three checks have bounced, and that embarrasses me," that's a healthy way to complain. But if I say, "You keep embarrassing me. You are irresponsible and inconsiderate," that's a criticism—one of the four horsemen.
posted by tachikoma_robot at 1:23 PM on March 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


And by similar, I mean it's the same researcher, but was done in 1992. The one I read was more recent (and not in People, if I may add)
posted by tachikoma_robot at 1:28 PM on March 19, 2009


tachikoma_robot is referring to John Gottman, a professor at the University of Washington who's done some amazingly interesting studies of marriage.

He's written several books for general audiences, too. If you're asking this question out of general curiosity, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail might be of interest.

If you're asking because you're worried that you might be on the path to divorce (and are interested in trying to turn it around), The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work mighbt be of interest.
posted by Sublimity at 2:18 PM on March 19, 2009


Thanks everybody. I'm asking out of general curiosity. I'm familiar with Gottman's work but didn't think to apply it to this question. Of course the demographic factors matter and I appreciate the redirect to this information.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:31 PM on March 19, 2009


Parents' marriage is important as long as the parents were happily married. "Happy marriages" of both sets of parents raise the odds. Longevity of parents' marriages does not predict children's marriage longevity.

So I'm onto you, jquinby. Not sure if statistics exists on "parents' marriage level of happiness" correlated with children's marital success, but "whether or not the spouses had parents who divorced" is an insufficient predictor (usually used to portray children of divorce as weaker prospects for marriage, for inexplainable reasons).
posted by Jurate at 4:42 PM on March 19, 2009


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