Divorces are expected to surge in 2021, due to the pressures of the pandemic. However, even before Covid-19, couples’ relationships have been more at risk due to certain factors.
According to new research published this week in the Economic Journal, parents of teenage daughters are more likely to divorce than those of sons. The study, led by American and Australian academics, found that couples with a daughter were up to nine per cent more likely to get divorced, and that age also played a role – with first-time parents to 15-year-old girls being the most likely to be affected.
One of the authors, Jan Kabatek of the University of Melbourne, suggested to The Economist that this could be because couples might argue more about how to raise a daughter, compared to a son.
However, this is just one of many studies in recent years that have indicated there are certain factors that make you more susceptible to getting divorced. We have outlined the most surprising below…
Your husband went to a single-sex school
Boys who were educated at single-sex schools are more likely to divorce by their early 40s, according to research by the Institute of Education in London (IoE).
The study interviewed 17,000 adults who were taught in both state and independent schools, and found that, whilst single-sex education doesn’t affect your chances of getting married, it can make it more likely for men to get divorced.
IoE emeritus professor Diana Leonard explained at the time: "When we examined the risk of divorce or separation by age 42 for those who had ever been married, there was a statistically significant increased risk of divorce or separation for men from single-sex schools.”
For women, however, there was no significant link. Whilst the study does not suggest why this might be, Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the study proved her suspicions that “single-sex schools are good for girls but bad for boys – both in terms of academic performance and socialisation”.
You had a very expensive wedding
It’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life, but going ‘all out’ could be a bad omen for your marriage. The amount couples spend on engagement rings and the ceremony is inversely related to the marriage duration, according to a 2014 study published in the Social Science Research Network.
The survey of 3,000 married people found that men who spent between $2,000 and $44,000 (£3,000) on an engagement ring were 1.3 times more likely to get divorced than those who spent between $500 (£376) and $2,000.
Likewise, weddings that cost less than $1,000 (£753) had a significantly lower risk of ending in divorce, whereas weddings that cost more than $20,000 (£15,000) were 1.6 times more likely to end in divorce.
You married your childhood sweetheart
It might seem romantic to marry your first love, but this might not be the recipe for marital bliss. In 2015, the Office of National Statistics reported that the number of couples getting divorced was at its lowest since 1971.
Yet among those who were splitting up, the age at which couples were getting married was significant, according to the ONS report: "Age at marriage is also considered to be closely linked to the risk of divorce with those marrying in their teens and early twenties being at greater risk of divorce; our marriage statistics show that the average age at marriage has increased steadily since 1970 for both men and women."
Indeed, one study found that of women who got married in their teens, 53 per cent were divorced within 30 years. Those who married between the ages of 30 and 34, meanwhile, had a divorce rate of one in four by their 30th anniversary. The most stable relationships, then, were in couples who got married between 45 and 49 – just seven per cent had divorced within 30 years.
Your husband works with many members of the opposite sex
If you work in an occupation where there is a higher proportion of members of the opposite sex, your marriage is more likely to end in divorce, according to a 2018 Danish study.
The research, which covered couples who married in Denmark between 1981 and 2002, found that men who worked almost exclusively with women were approximately 15 per cent more likely to get divorced than men who worked mostly with other men.
The paper concluded that highly educated men were most likely to divorce if they worked in female-dominated sectors, but “for highly educated women, the association is weak or non-existing.”
One possible explanation included in the research is that being surrounded by members of the opposite sex means there are more opportunities of meeting a new partner, or this could influence the “overall perception of alternative partner choices”.
You lived together before getting married
You might think that living together before you get married will make your marriage smooth sailing in later years, but this is not always the case.
In fact, a 2018 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that those who live together prior to marriage are more likely to struggle in their marriage. The research found that these cohabiting couples had lower odds of divorce in the first year of marriage, but the odds of divorce increased in subsequent years.
While it is not clear why this might be, a 1997 study by Axinn and Barber found that cohabiting alters attitudes about marriage and divorce, lowering esteem for marriage and increasing acceptance of divorce. Another potential hypothesis is that living together before marriage encourages a state of inertia – where it’s harder to break up and, eventually, you ‘fall into’ a marriage that is not sustainable.
Then again, it could depend on if you move in together too young. Those who move in before the age of 23 were more likely to divorce in later life, according to a study on Council on Contemporary Families in 2014.
Your children are close together in age
According to a study in Finland, couples whose children were born in quick succession are more likely to get divorced. The study, which analysed over 60,000 individuals with two or three children, found that those with children born no more than 1.5 years apart had a 449 per cent higher divorce risk than those with two children born more than four years apart.
The study also found that couples with three children were less likely to divorce than those with two children.
One of you has not looked after your health
Looking after your health could be more important than you think, as one 2015 study published in BMC Psychology found that, when couples have differing levels of health, it can lead to the breakdown of their relationship.
Analysing almost 20,000 couples over 15 years, the data found that poor subjective health, heavy drinking, mental distress, lack of exercise or smoking in one partner was associated with marital dissolution. However, if both partners had similarities in four of these characteristics (heavy drinking, mental distress, no exercise and smoking) it reduced the risk of divorce.
Your husband neglects the housework
Divorce is twice as likely in couples where the husband does minimal housework, according to a 2010 study for the Gender Equality Network.
The risk of divorce was said to be 97 per cent higher when the mother went out to work but her husband made a “minimal contribution” to housework and childcare.
The impact of housework on the marriage does depend on the dynamics of the relationship. In a ‘traditional’ heterosexual marriage, where the husband is the breadwinner and the wife stays at home, the research calculated probability of divorce to be just 3.3 per cent. When the woman has a paid job, this likelihood rises to 6.5 per cent. However, if the husband also carries out his fair share of chores, that risk falls again to 4.5 per cent – and if he helps with the kids whilst the wife works, the risk falls again to 3.2 per cent.
You met online
These days, most couples meet online – and doing so has become even more common during the pandemic, as it’s harder to meet people organically. However, this does not necessarily bode well for your relationship prospects.
Married couples who met online are three times more likely to divorce than those who met face-to-face, according to a study from Michigan State University. The study of 4,000 couples found that relationships were more stable if couples met in traditional ways – through work, friends or socialising.
Whilst the reasons were not made clear, the research did indicate that 86 per cent of online daters were concerned that profiles contained false information suggesting that trust may have been damaged at an early stage in the relationship.