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Sociology of Industrial Societies The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates Week 4 HT08 The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates Substantial increase in the divorce rate from c.1960 to c.1990 Divorce rates highest for more recent marriage cohorts

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the causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Sociology of Industrial Societies

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide2

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

  • Substantial increase in the divorce rate from c.1960 to c.1990
  • Divorce rates highest for more recent

marriage cohorts

  • More recent marriage cohorts are

divorcing sooner into their marriages

  • Patterns puzzling because early marriage

traditionally a strong divorce risk factor,

but delayed marriage in recent cohorts

  • Patterns worrying because marriage

thought to offer significant physiological,

psychological, economic and social

benefits to both adults and children

Marriage survival rates in Britain by cohort

Source: Chan 2005

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide3

Why are married couples increasingly likely to get divorced?

  • Marriage trading and specialization model (Becker 1977)
    • Married people divorce if the expected utility of

divorcing (and possibly remarrying) is greater

than that of staying married

    • Utility of remaining married has declined with

declining sex role specialization and women’s

increasing economic independence

  • Mate search model (Oppenheimer 1997)
    • Longer mate search period increases the

chances of making a good match initially

    • But longer mate search prompted by

greater uncertainty about

(a) achieving a good match at the outset

(b) scope for post-marital socialization

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide4

Why are married couples increasingly likely to get divorced?

Declining sex role specialization?

  • Divorce risk lowest for spouses occupying traditional sex roles…
  • …but similarly low risk where both spouses in employment…
  • …highest divorce risk linked to unemployment, especially that of husbands

Divorce risk in every 1,000 marriage years in Finland by spouses’ economic activity statuses

Source: Jalovaara 2003

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide5

Why are married couples increasingly likely to get divorced?

Women’s increasing economic independence?

  • Divorce risk similar for all income levels of husband…
  • …except where wife’s income higher than that of the husband…
  • …and larger discrepancy associated with larger divorce risk

Divorce risk in every 1,000 marriage years in Finland by spouses’ income status

Source: Jalovaara 2003

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide6

Why are married couples increasingly likely to get divorced?

  • Sex differences in divorce seeking?
  • Divorces increasingly initiated

by wives rather than husbands

    • Roughly equal rates of initiation

in 1950 in the UK

    • Divergence since early 1970s
    • Stabilization at ratio of approx

70:30 since end of 1980s

  • Women more likely than men

to initiate divorce when

    • Wife works
    • Financial problems in household

(Kalmijn and Poortman 2006)

Source: National Statistics on Initiators of Divorce

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide7

Why are married couples increasingly likely to get divorced?

  • Advantageousness of longer mate search period?
  • Marriage delay may not improve

chances of a good match

  • Example of premarital cohabitation
    • Most spells fairly short-lived, ending in

separation rather than marriage

    • Most marriages preceded by

cohabitation spell

    • But couples cohabiting before

marriage more likely to divorce

  • Poor match at the outset? Or

limited possibilities of creating/

sustaining good match via

post-marital socialization?

Effects of pre-marital cohabitation on divorce

Source: Wagner and Weib (2006)

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide8

What are the consequences of divorce for adults?

  • Marriage appears to have major protective health benefits…
  • Married people live longer than divorced Marital status linked

and never married people to mortality/morbidity for men especially

  • Similar patterns in relation to physical

and psychological health

Probability of survival by marital status

Women Men

Source: Waite (1995)

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide9

What are the consequences of divorce for adults?

  • Marriage associated with superior economic circumstances:
  • Married people tend to have higher

household incomes and higher per

capita wealth

  • Divorce apparently about as

economically disadvantageous

as being widowed or never married

  • Causal effects of marriage on

personal prosperity?

  • Or selection effects, with causality

running in the opposite direction?

i.e. are those who are more prosperous

(and healthy) more likely to become,

and to stay, married?

Median household income ($s) by marital status

Source: Waite (1995)

Source: Waite (1995)

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide10

What are the consequences of divorce for children later in life?

  • Divorce linked to poorer socio-economic outcomes for affected children:
  • Often considerable drop in family income

at the time of marital dissolution

  • Although such families tend to be

poorer beforehand than families

that remain intact

  • Lower incomes in divorced families

implicated in lower levels of

children’s educational achievement

  • Longer-term links between parental

divorce and subsequently lower

earnings in adulthood, mediated

mainly via lower education

Educational achievement in Sweden by family type

Source: Jonsson and Gahler (1997)

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide11

What are the consequences of divorce for children later in life?

  • Experience of parental divorce in childhood a predictor of adultfamily formation patterns
    • Higher rates of of pre-marital childbearing
    • Higher rates of pre-marital cohabitation
    • Higher likelihood of marital dissatisfaction and conflict
    • Higher likelihood of marital separation and divorce

Effects of parental divorce on likelihood of divorce

Source: Wagner and Weib 2006

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide12

What are the consequences of divorce for children later in life?

  • Possibility of lasting psychological impact of parental divorce…but evidence points to family conflict, rather than marital dissolution
  • Given marital conflict, children’s longer-term outcomes improved by divorce?
  • Likely that selection effects again play a role: factors predictive of marital dissolution, not dissolution itself, may matter more (Ni Bhrolcháin 2001)

Source: Gahler 1998

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08

slide13

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

  • Why are married couples increasingly likely to divorce?
    • Declining sex role specialization a problem where husband not occupying traditional sex role?
    • Women’s increasing economic independence makes acting on marital dissatisfaction more feasible?
    • Extended mate search period unable to fully compensate for greater uncertainty about good match? Initially? As marriages progress?
  • How does divorce affect adults and children?
    • Divorced and never married adults appear to have poorer health and poorer socio-economic circumstances
    • Those who experienced parental divorce in childhood appear to have poorer economic, social and psychological outcomes later in life
    • But unclear to what degree these effects are causally consequent on divorce, or are causally prior due to differential selection into divorce

The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates

Week 4 HT08