Harvard study finds job loss number one reason for divorce
A Harvard University study declared job loss the biggest factor in divorce. Here's what our resident relationship counsellor makes of the findings.
According to the findings of a recent study, the kiss of death for your marriage is job loss. Harvard researcher Alexandra Killewald set out to discover the link between work, money and marital stability and in tabulating 45 years’ worth of data on spouses’ division of household labour, their overall financial resources and a wife’s ability to support herself in the event of divorce, she learned divorce is more likely when husbands are not employed full-time. In fact, those without full-time jobs increase their odds of divorce by roughly 30%. It was also found that neither wives’ full-time employment nor their share of household labour are associated with divorce risk. In fact, to the delight of many partners, according to one study from 2006, it seems the division of housework may increase marital stability.
The study highlights that over the past 45 years the expectations of wives homemaking has changed quite dramatically. In today’s age, wives often work outside of the home, be it part-time or full-time work. Sometimes wives juggle study, work and child rearing and this does not seem to increase the risk of divorce, however, the traditional role of the husband as breadwinner has held fast.
In fact, this study shows that it is a key component in determining the stability of a marriage.
It soon became evident that almost every relationship issue they were attempting to overcome could only be traced back twelve months, since he lost his job.
Part of this could be contributed to the idea that part-time or no employment is more than likely involuntary. When a person is unemployed, it can have profound effects on their mental health. These feelings of depression and anxiety thusly impact on those closest to them, and therefore, their personal relationships.
But don’t panic and call the divorce lawyers yet. Killewald's study does not take into account the more modern concept of marriage where the husband is the stay-at-home dad, nor does it include same-sex marriages as the available data is so new. As a caveat, there are many factors that contribute to divorce that this study doesn’t seem to take into account. This however, does not mean they do not exist.
A couple who was struggling with their relationship came to see me recently. The husband had been out of work for more than twelve months, and the change in his sense of self-worth had been dramatic. He felt depressed about the possibility of finding work again. His wife was concerned and found herself under enormous pressure to provide for their family. They both felt disconnected, frustrated and fearful about their future. It soon became evident that the crux of the difficulties stemmed largely from his unemployment. In fact, almost every relationship issue they were attempting to overcome could only be traced back twelve months, since he lost his job.
Marriage can be complex and unpredictable. The reality is that one in three will end in divorce. The good news is that the divorce rates in this country have actually decreased. The decline in divorce rates could be attributed to the increase in the median age at marriage. In 2013, the median age at marriage for men was 31.5 and for women, it was 29.5. Age often begets maturity, and a clearer idea of who we are and what type of person we want to be married to. At this stage, we are also more likely to be financially stable.
Combined with the above this may solve the issue, but not the problem. If anything of this study is to be taken from its findings, one must win the bread, and clean the bench it sits on.