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The causes and outcomes of rising separation rates

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  1. Sociology of Industrial Societies The causes and consequences of rising divorce rates Week 4 HT08

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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