Monday, December 9, 2019

2010 Divorce Rates and Longer Term Trends

March 23, 2018  

On 8th December, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released the current figures on divorces occurring in 2010. Having recently written about the patterns over current years, and exactly what this tells us about the health of marital relationship as an institution, it deserves considering how these latest stats impact the bigger image.

The headline is that the number of divorces in 2010 increased; the very first annual rise in 8 years (considering that 2003) and apparently out of step with the wider pattern. The overall number of divorces that took place in 2010 came to 119,589 representing a 4.9% boost on 2009’s 113,949 divorces. Although, on the surface, this does appear to suggest a rise in the prevalence of divorce the figure could potentially be described by other factors such as a bigger married population – more tellingly the divorce rate, that is the percentage of the married population that got separated, likewise increased from 10.5% in 2009 to 11.1% in 2010. So does this enhance the understanding that more marriages are stopping working?

Instead of an indicator of a more comprehensive shift in societal attitudes it is most likely that the results for 2010 mark a problem in a longer term decrease in divorce rates. This kind of problem or spike in divorce rates has been seen at other points in recent history when the nation has been on the tail end of an economic downturn. In 1993 the rate spiked following the economic crisis between 1990 and 1992. There seems to have been a lag between the worst of the financial troubles and a jump in divorces and it appears plausible that this might also hint at causality; financial concerns are among the major reasons for relationship breakdowns and the lag might be described by a) a preliminary response to pull together’ to deal with money problems, b) the build up of subsequent pressures in the relationship and then, c) once the relationship has broken down, the time it considers divorce procedure itself to complete.

In regards to the broader image, the real variety of divorces has actually been visibly succumbing to the last years although it is easy to associate this to the matching fall in marital relationships and previous divorce patterns deteriorating the size of the married population in the first place. That the divorce rate has actually been steadily falling too suggests that those who are married are less most likely to split.

Additional proof originates from the profile of those couples involved. More divorces included individuals aged 40-44 than any other age group in 2010 but surprisingly it appears that the age at which people divorce is creeping up (both males and females had 0.2 boosts to 44.2 and 41.7 respectively), albeit in line with the rise in the age at which individuals are marrying, whilst the period of marriages has plateaued. Furthermore, the greatest rate of divorces for males in 2010 was seen in the 30-34 year old age instead of the 25-29 group in 2009 (females were the same). This may all recommend that marriages are starting later on but are starting to last a little longer.

In spite of the current figures informing us that 33% of marriages starting in 1995 had stopped working in the 15 year duration to 2010 (up from 22% of those in the exact same 15 year period from 1970) the ONS is recommending that the figures they have actually gotten so far may suggest that the rate of divorce before the 15th year for more current marital relationships may be most likely to decline. Again this includes a bit more weight to the argument that combines now appear to be waiting longer (cohabiting), being more mindful but eventually, as a result, being more effective in their marriages.

In summary, it would appear probably that the rise in divorces in 2010 is a spike, as seen in previous periods of economic crisis, rather than a longer term pattern. There is still proof in the age and period of those getting separated to support the larger image that couples are being more effective in marriage, however just time will inform.

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