Divorce rates in America have fluctuated since the dawn of the nation. While divorces rose between the 1950s and 1980s, statistics have shown that divorces have leveled off, or even declined, since then. The most commonly cited statistic is that one in two, or 50 percent, of all marriages will end in divorce. This is a somewhat misleading statistic for several reasons. Divorce rates vary widely across different age distributions. The likelihood of divorce changes according to the number of times a person has been married. Divorce rates also change depending on whether a couple has children. While the overall statistic of a 50 percent divorce rate is fairly accurate, it misses the specifics about what is really going on in American families.
Divorce According to Age
There are significant differences between the divorce rates of younger people and couples reaching middle and older ages. According to the NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics), around 64 percent of divorces in women and 51 percent in men occur when couples get married before the age of 25. In fact, couple who get married after the age of 25 have a 24 percent less likely chance of getting divorced. When it comes to age when the divorce occurs, it is highest among men aged 30 to 34 and women aged 25 to 29.
Multiple Marriages and Children
Divorce percentages go up according to how many previous marriages the couples have had in their life. The NCHS shows that first marriages have a divorce rate around 41 percent, second marriages around 60 percent, and third marriage around 73 percent. This data suggests that previously married couples are more likely to consider divorce as a viable option. Couples with children are considered slightly less likely to divorce than childless couples. Declining birth rates since the baby boom era suggest one reason why divorce rates climbed after the 1950s.
Reasons for Divorce
There are no clear statistical reasons why divorce rates fluctuate so much over time. Much of the change between the 1950s and 1980s can be attributed to the liberation of women in the work force. With more women being given the opportunity to make a living wage, they are less likely to be dependent on their husbands in an unhappy marriage. Religious organizations cite declining church attendance and family values as the reason, while sociologists often point to shifting economic conditions and cultural norms as the cause.