Recent Research on Causes of Divorce

Recent Research on Causes of Divorce

By M. Scott Gordon

Why do most people in Chicago and Illinois file for divorce? According to a recent article from Bloomberg, the underlying reasons for divorce have not remained the same over the last several decades. To be sure, recent research conducted at the University of Maryland “suggests the reasons for divorce are changing, as the roles of men and women change at work and home.” As the article explains, divorce rates jumped in the 1970s and 1980s, and over the last decade, the rate of divorce has declined generally. Yet we know that a large percentage of all marriages still end in divorce, meaning that more than 800,000 married couples across the country will file for divorce each year on average.

What makes the recent research significant? While it highlights data points about the overall rate of divorce that many of us have known or suspected, it intimates that the reasons for divorce are shifting, and the parties initiating divorce proceedings are changing, too.

More Women Are Filing for Divorce in the 2010s

The annual divorce rate in our country is down from the decades of the 1970s and 1980s, but researchers make clear that this decline largely is a result of “fewer people . . . getting married.” And when those people decide to get married, they tend to do so when they are at an older age than spouses in previous generations who entered into marriages. So, all factors being equal, the recent decline in the divorce rate might not suggest that couples simply are working things out at a higher rate than couples in previous decades.

What we do know, however, is that socio-cultural trends are influencing marriage and divorce rates in a significant way. According to Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University, approximately two-thirds of all current divorces actually are “initiated by women.” As England explains, “we sometimes have the idea that it’s always men leaving women, but that’s only a third of cases.” And the reasons for women filing for divorce differ, too. The party who files for divorce is not necessarily the person responsible for the marital problems (although that is sometimes the case). England notes that, in generic situations where the wife files for divorce, “she may be leaving because he had an affair,” or “he was unemployed and got violent.”

Why Do So Many People Actually Get Divorced?

Given that same-sex marriage has only been legalized across the country as of 2015 through the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, most academic studies have yet to incorporate divorce data for same-sex marriages, according to the Bloomberg article.

What recent research has revealed is that in some cases, men and women get divorced for similar reasons, yet in other cases, men and women get divorced for widely varying reasons. The following are some categories of “divorce causes” that show similarities and differences among men and women:

  • Infidelity: 15.6 percent of men cited infidelity as a factor in divorce, while 25.2 percent of women cited it as one of the causes for dissolving a marriage;
  • Physical or mental abuse: zero percent of men cited this factor, while 9.2 percent of women cited it;
  • Drinking and/or drug abuse: nearly 14 percent of women cited this as a cause for divorce, while only 5.2 percent of men believed drinking or drug use to be a cause for divorce;
  • “Don’t Know”: more than 9 percent of men indicated that they did not know the cause for divorce, while zero percent of women indicated the same;
  • Incompatibility: just over 19 percent of both men and women cite incompatibility as a cause for divorce; and
  • Growing apart: just over 9 percent of both men and women cite growing apart as a cause for divorce.

If you have questions about filing for divorce, an experienced Chicago divorce attorney can assist you. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC today.