A study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota clarified some key points about divorce in America and went against the traditional narrative regarding divorce’s relative rarity post-1970s. It looked at divorce among different age groups rather than simply tracking divorce over time, providing a more nuanced look at how couples have built their lives in the past 50 years.
Previously Held Beliefs About Divorce
Prior to the latest study, researchers were of a mind that divorce rates skyrocketed around the 1950s through the 1970s when the sexual revolution was in full swing. At the time, this trend sparked significant fear among cultural voices who claimed that half of all American marriages would end in divorce. However, beginning in the 1980s and continuing into the present day, studies showed the divorce rate declining from its precipitous highs of the previous decades.
The widely-held rationale for this decline was that couples post-sexual-revolution had a better sense for modern gender roles. They were more able to make informed decisions about how to structure their family lives in a way that best suited them, and as such, they were more likely to have satisfied marriages.
New Ideas About Divorce
The University of Minnesota study throws a number of wrenches into this notion. First of all, a reexamination of the data concludes that divorce hasn’t declined in recent decades. Rather, it has flattened out and become more or less consistent at about 18 divorces per 1000 married women.
The other piece of information the study illuminated was that when controlling for changes in age composition according to what ages are more or less likely for divorce, it was found that, on the whole, the age-standardized divorce rate has risen by nearly 40 percent since 1980.
Age-Related Prevalence of Divorce
What this indicates is that the older population is actually driving the increase in divorce statistics. While the generation before the baby boomers was driving the sexual revolution in the 1950s and 1960s, the baby boomer generation, hitting their late 20s and 30s in the 1980s, began divorcing at a much faster rate than their elders.As this generation got into their 40s and 50s, it also became clear that they were divorcing at a still more prevalent rate than their juniors or their elders. Data makes it clear that this generation is characterized by a pattern of unusually high marital instability.
Perhaps tellingly, a statistic in a Pew survey indicated that while 66 percent of Baby Boom generation individuals would prefer divorce to staying in an unhappy marriage, only 44 percent of younger Americans felt the same way.
Divorce Lawyers and Other Studies Confirm Findings
A poll of divorce lawyers in the United States indicates that more than 60 percent have noticed a rise in the number of divorces in people over 50 years of age. In this poll, divorce lawyers provide more detailed information such as that about 25 percent were filed by wives versus nearly 15 percent initiated by husbands. Another study conducted by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research showed that the divorce rate doubled over the past twenty years among adults middle aged and older.
A report by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio showed that the divorce rate among middle-aged and older adults has doubled during the past two decades, and the rate was 2.5 times higher for remarriages than for first marriages.
Reasons for Baby Boomers’ Divorces
There are many different reasons for baby boomers to divorce. First of all, the climate surrounding divorce is much different. It no longer has the stigma it once had. That is combined with the generally increasing health and longevity of the American people who feel that their retirement is a new beginning.
Some baby boomers simply find that after the course of raising children, their interests diverge, and they seek to grow in different directions. Others find younger partners. In particular, the drive by women to divorce may stem from dissatisfaction with a domestic lifestyle and a desire to hone their personal skills and grow their sense of personal happiness in the wake of being a primary caregiver for children.
Legal Considerations in Baby Boomer Divorces
One of the main considerations for middle-aged and senior divorces is alimony. After having lived a few years, couples have had the opportunity to amass considerable wealth. They may also be in more stable, highly-paid jobs. Conversely, one partner may be significantly under-experienced when it comes to the job market and finding a job while the other partner may own a business or have a significantly higher income. On the other hand, the baby boomer generation saw the rise in women getting careers with significantly higher-paying salaries, which would make divorce a lot easier because as alimony doesn’t have to be as significant a concern.