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#ScienceSpeaks Women Are More Likely To Initiate Divorce

The study and its findings

A new study has confirmed that women are more likely to ask for a divorce in opposite sex relationships but the same isn’t true of non-marital relationships. While the study reveals that women lead the figures when it comes to initiating divorce in heterosexual marriages, breakups are far more gender-neutral.

couple disagreement

Image source: Shutterstock

This study was conducted in the United States, by Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University and his team, and the nationally representative research gave some compelling insights into divorces, non-marital breakups, and the driving forces behind each type.

The intriguing study, aptly titled ‘How Couples Meet and Stay Together,’ collected data from 2,262 adults with opposite sex partners who answered questions about their relationship status between 2009 and 2015. Women initiated 69% of divorces, compared to 31% of men. But there was no statistically significant difference between women and men when it came to non-marital breakups.

“The breakups of non-marital heterosexual relationships in the U.S. are quite gender-neutral and fairly egalitarian,” Rosenfeld said, “This was a surprise because the only prior research that had been done on who wanted the breakup was research on marital divorces.”

Because marriage —->  Man > Woman ?

couple arguing

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

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The research, which has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented at the American Sociological Association’s 2015 annual meeting in Chicago and probed deeper, underlying issues behind the findings. Researchers found that the incidence of women initiating divorces is likely rooted in the response of modern women to the arcane conventions of spousal roles. The fact that gender equality is fast creeping into other institutions in society, as against the institution of marriage where traditional gender roles are still upheld is causing women to respond to the constraining, oppressive, and controlling dynamic of a heterosexual marriage with a bail-out. Rosenfeld confirms the same:

“I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality. Wives still take their husbands’ surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare. On the other hand, I think that non-marital relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations … of gender equality.”

Participants in the survey say:

couple arguing

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

On probing the reasons further, Rosenfeld found the following written responses for the reasons behind divorces and non-marital breakups:


  • “I want a traditional marriage, but she sees it as controlling.”
  • “I used to be a very happy, optimistic person, and it was like he was slowly starving my soul. I didn’t like the way he treated me, and finally realized that he was abusive. I didn’t know that such a thing existed until I researched it. Once I realized [what] was going on was abuse, I started the proceedings for a divorce.”

Non-marital breakups:

  • “I wasn’t in love with him anymore; he was selfish, immature. I was ready to move on and find better love.”
  • “…He called me home from work to say he needed to have a serious discussion with me. He told me that after almost 9 years together he could not live a lifetime with our differences, especially since he is a Republican and me a Democrat…”
  • “We had a mutual break up … we knew that we would never end up getting married as we belong to different religions. However, we had a nice relationship till the time we were together, and she is still my very good friend.”


As is evident, the divorce reasons seem to align closely with the idea of women’s rights and the concept of linked fate. They also seem to bear a direct correlation with the concept of marriage, marital roles, and their direct link to gender. However, could there be a possibility that there is more to the issue of dissatisfaction stemming in marital relationships than meets the eye? Perhaps.

couple arguing

Image source: Dollarphotoclub

Sure, women in heterosexual marriages seem to find marriage as a confining institution that provides for higher relationship quality for the male participant and surprisingly lower levels of relationship quality for the wife who is ‘allowed’ to ‘work’ as long as she does not go lax on her duties as a ‘homemaker, wife, and mother,’ and such a discrepancy in reported levels of relationship quality is non-discernible for non-marital relationships – but there is always the possibility of something more behind the scenes.

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Therefore, while it is clear that women tend to be more dissatisfied in marriages than in non-marital relationships, Rosenfeld avers that “it [will] take a study with far greater depth of information than [this one] to fully understand why women are less satisfied in marriage than men are.”

Needless to add, we sure are waiting for the research on that one too!

Featured image source: Shutterstock

Article Name
Research Confirms - Women More Likely To Initiate Divorce
Research has confirmed that women are more likely to initiate divorce in heterosexual marriages as against non-marital relationships. Take a look.
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."