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Five Risk Factors for Divorce

A few months ago I wrote about research conducted in my lab on predicting the stability (i.e., persistence vs. breakup) of dating relationships. That article received a lot of traffic, but some readers have asked if similar research has been done on predicting whether a marriage will continue or not. Fortunately, researchers have tackled this question as well. Here are five factors that predict staying married versus getting divorced:1

1. Positive and negative behaviors: Husbands and wives who exhibit more positive behaviors (e.g., giving compliments, helping each other), and fewer negative behaviors (e.g., name calling, criticizing), towards each other are more likely to stay together. It’s pretty straightforward: be nice to each other, people. 

2. Attitude similarity: To put a spin on the common adage, “birds of a feather flock stay together.” Couples that hold similar values, likes and dislikes, and beliefs are more likely to stay married to one another.

3. Marital and sexual satisfaction: Husbands and wives who are generally happy with their relationships and happy in bed tend to stay together.

4. Parental divorce: Having divorced parents puts your marriage at risk for the same fate. “I learned it by watching you.”

5. Neuroticism: Marriages in which the husband or the wife is high in neuroticism (i.e., increased worrying and emotional instability) are more likely to end in divorce.

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1Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: A review of theory, methods, and research. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 3-34.

Dr. Benjamin Le - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Le's research focuses on commitment, including the factors associated with commitment and its role in promoting maintenance. He has published on the topics of breakup, geographic separation, infidelity, social networks, cognition, and need fulfillment and emotions in relationships.

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Reader Comments (1)

The research surrounding neuroticism feels to missing information, or better yet, maybe the question needs to be asked: can couples stay married, and avoid divorce if one partner becomes neurotic due to mental illness, is supported and assisted by the non-neurotic spouse? The question them draws another; do couples who recognize the emotional ailments and needs their spouse has and that it may not be a controllable behavior choice, but rather, a real, clinical mental illness (neuroticism) rather than a choice in behaviors, and does that couple stand a better or worse chance of staying married if the stigma of mental illness does not exist between a married couple? When the changes of life bring on neuroticism or real, scary, sad mental instability, couples who educate themselves and remain supportive through the trials and mental changes in life take place?

April 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMs. Happy
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