Women more likely than men to initiate divorces, but not non-marital breakups

Women are more likely than men to initiate divorces, but women and men are just as likely to end non-marital relationships, according to a new study that will be presented at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).

"The of non-marital heterosexual relationships in the U.S. are quite gender neutral and fairly egalitarian," said study author Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University. "This was a surprise because the only prior research that had been done on who wanted the breakup was research on marital divorces."

Rosenfeld's analysis relies on data from the 2009-2015 waves of the nationally representative How Couples Meet and Stay Together survey. He considers 2,262 adults, ages 19 to 94, who had opposite sex partners in 2009. By 2015, 371 of these people had broken up or gotten divorced.

As part of his analysis, Rosenfeld found that women initiated 69 percent of all divorces, compared to 31 percent for men. In contrast, there was not a statistically significant difference between the percentage of breakups initiated by unmarried women and men, regardless of whether they had been cohabitating with their partners.

Social scientists have previously argued that women initiate most divorces because they are more sensitive to relationship difficulties. Rosenfeld argues that were this true, women would initiate the breakup of both marriages and non-marital relationships at equal rates.

"Women seem to have a predominant role in initiating divorces in the U.S. as far back as there is data from a variety of sources, back to the 1940s," Rosenfeld said. "I assumed, and I think other scholars assumed, that women's role in breakups was an essential attribute of heterosexual relationships, but it turns out that women's role in initiating breakups is unique to heterosexual marriage."

Perhaps women were more likely to initiate divorces because, as Rosenfeld found, married women reported lower levels of relationship quality than married men. In contrast, women and in non-marital relationships reported equal levels of .

Rosenfeld said his results support the feminist assertion that some women experience heterosexual marriage as oppressive or uncomfortable.

"I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality," Rosenfeld said. "Wives still take their husbands' surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare. On the other hand, I think that non-marital relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations, including 's expectations for more gender equality."

Explore further

Wives with more education than their husbands no longer at increased risk of divorce

More information: The paper, "Who Wants the Breakup? Gender and Breakup in Heterosexual Couples," will be presented on Saturday, Aug. 22, at 8:30 a.m. CDT in Chicago at the American Sociological Association's 110th Annual Meeting.
Citation: Women more likely than men to initiate divorces, but not non-marital breakups (2015, August 22) retrieved 23 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-08-women-men-divorces-non-marital-breakups.html
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Aug 22, 2015
Very interesting research.

When I met my ex wife, an American woman, I asked her about the future with the man she was dating. She was drunk, very American woman, and replied "We will marry, then divorce, like everyone else..."' . So based on that I called her state of mind "pre-divorced".

But the paper describe it as a general problem, unashamedly. Conveniently, no mention of the divorce side effects, like children depression and suicide.

It seems we do well when we tell our boys to learn other languages than English, so they can marry women from family-forming cultures.

No good wife material in the land of divorce, where the social fabric is melting.

Aug 22, 2015
The focus should be moved away from feminism. It should focus in factors like the alcohol/drug consumption of women, promiscuous behavior early on, etc. Alcohol, for example, is a strong predictor of divorce, child neglect, etc. Alcohol makes people impulsive, among other problems.

Hillary Clinton stood by her family when the situation called for her virtues. I am very impressed that she did not behaved as the classic feminist, but as a traditional conservative woman, a woman of class and stature, that could care about someone else beyond her pride and vanity. I am not making the case for her political aspirations.

Aug 22, 2015
It's really not too complicated. Divorce gives the woman court-enforced cash payments from the man, the reverse is not true.

Pre-marital promiscuity gives women the illusion that they could do better than their current husband. (Which isn't true for women in their 30s and up who think they will get the same attention as in their early 20s). Men who submit to their wives also stop being attractive to their wives - the professor is a fool if he thinks women are turned on by a guy doing the chores. Each sex is projecting in their own behavior what they want from the opposite sex - women want a dominant man, men want a quiet and agreeable woman, so they behave in ways that actually repel the opposite sex.

There is little social disapproval of divorce; if there were, as there was in the past, then women would be much less likely to file for divorce.

Aug 22, 2015

There is little social disapproval of divorce; if there were, as there was in the past, then women would be much less likely to file for divorce.

And they would be suffer in miserable marriages, especially if married to an ahole like you.

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