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Study looks at role of work in divorce risk, suggests that traditional model still applies

There are a variety of reasons why married couples divorce, including anything from substance abuse and domestic violence to finding somebody else who has a better sense of humor. In some cases, of course, money also plays a role, but not as much as most people would think.

According to a recent study out of Harvard University, a very important factor in calculating divorce risk is how couples balance both paid and unpaid work responsibilities. For couples who married prior to 1975, the study found, there was a greater risk of divorce based on how much housework the wife does. For couples who married between 1975 and 2011, though, the stronger risk factor was apparently whether the husband is working a full-time job outside the home. 

As the study makes clear, the stability of marriages in both groups depends significantly on a traditional view of the role of men and women in marriage, despite the social changes that have occurred. Based on this study, one might conclude that although wives have the ability to seek work outside the home, the stability of their marriages still significantly depends on their contributions at home. Likewise, men are arguably under a stronger expectation nowadays to make contributions to the care of children and housework, but men who experience job loss or who can only find part time work are more likely to divorce than those who work full time.

It is worth noting that he study looked strictly at couples in first marriages in which both parties were between the ages of 18 and 55, so the situation may be different when it comes to second and third marriages or marriages among older Americans. In addition, the findings do not hold for men who do not work outside the home by choice. 

In a future post, we’ll look at this issue in the context of property division.

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Study looks at role of work in divorce risk, suggests that traditional model still applies | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC