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5 Big predictors of divorce

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Cynthia Dermody - published on 11/10/17

We all have the power to be aware of and prevent some of these before it's too late.

Marriage is the backbone of society, so science is wise to put so much effort and research into figuring out why the divorce rate is so high and what we can do about it. Sources vary in terms of the official rate in the US — some say it’s over 50 percent, others say it’s a tad under that — but we can all agree that anything around that halfway mark is alarming and needs to be discussed as much as possible.

So kudos to Dr. Justin Lehmiller, who recently did a round-up of the latest predictors of divorce on his Sex & Psychology blog.

Lehmiller, director of the Social Psychology Graduate Program at Ball State University and a faculty affiliate of the Kinsey Institute, stops short of actually giving his opinions about the predictors, but it’s powerful and interesting data that begs much introspection and thought, both in personal and wider sociological terms.

Here’s what Lehmiller says predicts divorce. His data points are in bold. Our reflections follow each.

1. Getting married or shacking up when you’re young

Surely you know plenty of happy couples with lots of kids who started young, so it may seem contrary to your personal experience. Chances are those couples had the spiritual and psychological guidance to prepare for the (sacramental) commitment of matrimony.

2. Infidelity

It’s not just about sex, it’s about trust. It’s hard to repair those bonds once they are broken, but it’s also not impossible if couples pray for the gifts of perseverance, patience, and forgiveness — and seek psychological help.

3. Religious background and education level

Identifying with an organized religion and having a college degree seems to up the odds that your marriage will endure. Even the best of marriages thrive and grow stronger with God’s grace breathed into them.

4. Race and ethnicity

Lehmiller says that African-American women seem to have much higher odds of early divorce than Asian American women. This is an area that deserves deeper exploration.

5. Emotional instability

Research has shown that if your biological parents got divorced, this ups the odds that you will spilt up, too. Modeling a healthy relationship for your children surely comes into play here, but the concrete science points more to certain personality traits and impulsive qualities that tend to be passed along through the genes.

There is additional research being done to explore whether some people are genetically predisposed to becoming divorced due to traits such as emotional instability and impulsiveness—but even if this is the case, self-knowledge, therapy, and early intervention in a troubled relationship can help prevent a person’s marriage from becoming another statistic.

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