Many Different Factors Explain Rise in Divorce Among Senior Citizens

Most researchers agree that divorce among older Americans is on the rise, but few people understand the risk factors that lead some older people to have higher rates of divorce.

In response to this knowledge void, some researchers from Bowling Green University recently tried to collect data on what factors make seniors more susceptible to divorce, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Surprisingly, these researchers discovered that one of the most important factors in determining a person’s risk of divorce is the number of divorces or she has already had.

Sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin, who co-authored the pending paper, “The Gray Divorce Revolution,” recently discovered that second and third marriages have a 150 percent greater chance of ending in divorce than do first marriages.

Thus, it seems that people who see their first marriage end in divorce do not necessarily learn marriage secrets that allow them to stay connected with their spouse for longer periods of time.

Another risk factor identified by the researchers is whether a couple was married relatively recently. In the study, almost 50 percent of people who divorced in 2009 had been married fewer than 20 years.

Of the couples who stayed together, almost 60 percent had been married for more than 30 years, which suggests that marriages that occurred decades ago stand a better chance of surviving than more recent marriages.

The researchers also discovered that black Americans were 75 percent more likely than whites to divorce after they turn 50, and Hispanics were 21 percent more likely to do the same.

In addition to these racial disparities, the study also concluded that people with a college degree were 17 percent less likely to get a divorce than people who did not receive any education beyond the high-school level.

And, not surprisingly, infidelity also raised couples’ risk of divorce. The study found that 27 percent of failed marriages among older Americans were at least partially attributable to one spouse’s cheating behavior.

These statistics were somewhat complicated by the fact that the Census Bureau does not ask questions about filing for divorce. So, researchers instead used data collected by the AARP in 2003, which surveyed 1,148 Americans who had filed for divorce between the ages of 40 and 69.

This relatively weak data source raised some criticism of the study, as a few observers noted that later-life divorce is a relatively new phenomenon, so researchers are working with a very limited data set.

Nevertheless, it is uncontestable that divorce among older Americans is on the rise, so it is worth examining the risk factors behind these marital splits.

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