Risk Factors For Divorce

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you will learn the prevalence and definition of divorce. You will learn the consequences of divorce, as well. The bulk of the lesson will review 10 of the most common risk factors for divorce.

Definition and Consequences of Divorce

Anyone can get married, but couples that reach 50, 60, or 70 years of marriage have achieved quite an accomplishment in our day and age. This is mostly due to the statistic that 40-50% of all first marriages, and 60% of second marriages, end in divorce. Divorce rates have been rising in the last 50 years, and were at an all-time high in the early 1980s in the United States. They have decreased a little since then, but are still at a higher rate than 60 years ago.

Divorce, or the legal termination of a marriage, comes with many negative consequences. First of all, divorce is highly expensive. With attorney fees, court costs, parent education classes, refinancing costs for housing, etc..., a divorce can average about $15,000.

Statistics show that 20% of children show emotional or behavioral problems after experiencing their parents' divorce (compared to 10% of children who have not experienced divorce). Lastly, divorce can come with dishonor and shame, especially for religious individuals who may be shunned by their religious community when they divorce.

Children of divorced parents show higher rates of behavioral and emotional problems.
Image of divorce

On the other hand, divorce can be the best option for some couples who have tried by all means to better their relationship but are at a dead end. Divorce is also sometimes better for the children if they are being exposed to chronic yelling or abuse in the marriage.

With all this being said, it is no wonder that couples in a relationship attempt to ascertain that the person that they have chosen is the one that they want to be with forever. What follows is a list of risk factors that, through research, are indicative of a higher chance for divorce.

Risk Factors for Divorce

There are actually many risk factors for divorce, some that may be surprising, and others that are quite understandable and obvious. Here are 10 of the most common risk factors:

Marrying at an Early Age

Marrying as a teenager poses the highest risk for divorce, actually. Teens are three times more likely to divorce than those that marry in their 20s and later.

Couple that marry in their teens are more likely to divorce.
Image of couple yelling.

Less Education

This may have something to do with the fact that couples who have less education are more likely to have money problems, which can lead to marital issues and divorce. It may also be related to the fact that less educated couples are not as skilled in communication and emotional regulation- abilities that are vital for a healthy marriage.

It has been shown that over 50% of marriages between couples who did not complete high school end in divorce. For those couples with a college degree, their divorce rate is only 30%.

Less Income

Financial troubles can cause a rift in a marriage. The constant stress, worry and concern over how to pay bills, and the burnout of not having enough money for entertainment, vacation or travel can wear hard on a marriage. Researchers have discovered that couples with an annual income of less than $50,000 a year have a higher risk for divorce due to financial strain.

Cohabitation before Marriage

Studies have shown that it may not be the actual living together before marriage that poses a higher risk for marital problems and divorce, but it may be the selection effect. The selection effect proposes that the characteristics of people who choose to live together may be the very reason that these people are more likely to divorce. People who live together before marriage are less likely to be religious, for example, which is actually the next risk factor for divorce.

No Religious Affiliation

It would appear that sharing religious beliefs and values creates a stronger foundation for a relationship and marriage. Most religions promote commitment in relationships and working to make marriages strong. Nonreligious couples may be more lenient about the acceptability of divorce.

Having Divorced Parents

If one or both of individuals in a marriage have a divorced parent, their risk of divorce nearly triples. This may be due to them feeling like it is more acceptable to divorce if they are having difficulty with their spouse. They may see divorce as an option versus someone who has parents who are still married.

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