Top-Ten Myths of Divorce Debunked

Updated 2019 06 07


The Top Ten Myths of Divorce

Discussion of the most common misinformation about divorce

David Popenoe

1 Because people learn from their bad experiences, second marriages tend to be more successful than first marriages.

Although many people who divorce have successful subsequent marriages, the divorce rate of remarriages is in fact higher than that of first marriages.1 [Sources]

2 Living together before marriage is a good way to reduce the chances of eventually divorcing.

Many studies have found that those who live together before marriage have a considerably higher chance of eventually divorcing. The reasons for this are not well understood. In part, the type of people who are willing to cohabit may also be those who are more willing to divorce. There is some evidence that the act of cohabitation itself generates attitudes in people that are more conducive to divorce, for example the attitude that relationships are temporary and easily can be ended.2[Sources]

3 Divorce may cause problems for many of the children who are affected by it, but by and large these problems are not long lasting and the children recover relatively quickly.

Divorce increases the risk of interpersonal problems in children. There is evidence, both from small qualitative studies and from large-scale, long-term empirical studies, that many of these problems are long lasting. In fact, they may even become worse in adulthood.3[Sources]

4 Having a child together will help a couple to improve their marital satisfaction and prevent a divorce.

Many studies have shown that the most stressful time in a marriage is after the first child is born. Couples who have a child together have a slightly decreased risk of divorce compared to couples without children, but the decreased risk is far less than it used to be when parents with marital problems were more likely to stay together “for the sake of the children.”4[Sources]

5 Following divorce, the woman’s standard of living plummets by seventy three percent while that of the man’s improves by forty two percent.

This dramatic inequity, one of the most widely publicized statistics from the social sciences, was later found to be based on a faulty calculation. A reanalysis of the data determined that the woman’s loss was twenty seven percent while the man’s gain was ten percent. Irrespective of the magnitude of the differences, the gender gap is real and seems not to have narrowed much in recent decades.5 [Sources]

6 When parents don’t get along, children are better off if their parents divorce than if they stay together.

A recent large-scale, long-term study suggests otherwise.While it found that parents’ marital unhappiness and discord have a broad negative impact on virtually every dimension of their children’s well-being, so does the fact of going through a divorce. In examining the negative impacts on children more closely, the study discovered that it was only the children in very high conflict homes who benefited from the conflict removal that divorce may bring.In lower-conflict marriages that end in divorce—and the study found that perhaps as many as two thirds of the divorces were of this type—the situation of the children was made much worse following a divorce. Based on the findings of this study, therefore, except in the minority of high-conflict marriages it is better for the children if their parents stay together and work out their problems than if they divorce.6 [Sources]

7 Because they are more cautious in entering marital relationships and also have a strong determination to avoid the possibility of divorce, children who grow up in a home broken by divorce tend to have as much success in their own marriages as those from intact homes.

Marriages of the children of divorce actually have a much higher rate of divorce than the marriages of children from intact families. A major reason for this, according to a recent study, is that children learn about marital commitment or permanence by observing their parents. In the children of divorce, the sense of commitment to a lifelong marriage has been undermined.7 [Sources]

8 Following divorce, the children involved are better off in stepfamilies than in single-parent families.

The evidence suggests that stepfamilies are no improvement over single-parent families, even though typically income levels are higher and there is a father figure in the home. Stepfamilies tend to have their own set of problems, including interpersonal conflicts with new parent figures and a very high risk of family breakup.8 [Sources]

9 Being very unhappy at certain points in a marriage is a good sign that the marriage will eventually end in divorce.

All marriages have their ups and downs. Recent research using a large national sample found that eighty six percent of people who were unhappily married in the late 1980s, and stayed with the marriage, indicated when interviewed five years later that they were happier. Indeed, three fifths of the formerly unhappily married couples rated their marriages as either “very happy” or “quite happy.”9 [Sources]

10 It is usually men who initiate divorce proceedings

Two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women. One recent study found that many of the reasons for this have to do with the nature of our divorce laws. For example, in most states women have a good chance of receiving custody of their children. Because women more strongly want to keep their children with them, in states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower.10 [Sources] Also, the higher rate of women initiators is probably due to the fact that men are more likely to be “badly behaved.” Husbands, for example, are more likely than wives to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity.


The information shown above is from The [US] National Marriage Project:


The project is co-directed by two nationally prominent marriage experts. David Popenoe, Ph.D., a professor and and former social and behavioral science dean at Rutgers, is the author of Life Without Father, Disturbing the Nest, and many other scholarly and popular publications on marriage and family. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Ph.D., an author and social critic, writes extensively on issues of marriage, family and child wellbeing. She is the author of Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman (Broadway Books, 2003), The Divorce Culture (Knopf, 1996) and the widely acclaimed Atlantic Monthly article “Dan Quayle Was Right.”

The list of the Top-Ten Myths of Divorce attracted my attention because of the comments provided in Item #10 in the list. Somewhat more comprehensive and to-the-point views of the cited Brinig and Allen report provide more relevant information. For example:

The proportion of divorces initiated by women ranged around 60% for most of the 20th century, and climbed to more than 70% in the late 1960s when no-fault divorce was introduced….The Brinig-Allen study also explodes the myth of the brutish husband, finding, for instance, that cruelty is cited in only 6% of divorce applications in Virginia, one of the few states that still uses fault grounds for divorce….adultery cases are evenly split between men and women…. (“Look who doesn’t want a divorce,” Alberta Report, January 11, 1999, page 30)

Brinig and Allen, the authors of the report “These Boots are Made for Walking: Why Wives File for Divorce,” found that “who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce, particularly when there is very little quarrel about property, as when the separation is long.” They found that to have or to be assured that they will get the children (and “child-support” payments) “the probability that she’d file increases to .69,” while “if the husband got custody, the probability that the wife files would decrease to .32.” (Table 7. How much do the numbers matter?)

In divorcing families with children, depending on locality, wives file for divorce in between 75 percent to 85 percent of the cases.

Note also the last statement under Item #10 in the list: “Also, the higher rate of women initiators is probably due to the fact that men are more likely to be “badly behaved.” Husbands, for example, are more likely than wives to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity.”

That statement is pure speculation and not corroborated by any research nor by any citations of such research. The statement appears to be based on another myth, namely that women always tell the truth. That “truth” is largely debunked in the report by Brinig and Allen and in a variety of similar studies (e. g.: Divorced Dads : Shattering the Myths : The Surprising Truth About Fathers, Children, and Divorce (Hardcover – 288 pages (October 1998) J P Tarcher; ISBN: 087477862X ) Review).

For example, in the vast majority of cases wives file for divorce, and they file not because of adultery by their husbands or because they were being physically abused (the latter is theleast important reason of all stated by wives – alleged in only about six percent of the reasons given for divorce) but because they are bored with their marriages.

The myths and slander of men who are “badly behaved” and “are more likely than wives to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity” are most likely founded in the myth that women don’t lie. However, even supposedly objective social researchers are not yet quite ready to examine the true circumstances of that reality. The impact of decades of incessant and all-pervasive indoctrination by feminists is often difficult and sometimes impossible to shed by those who are members of the captive audience of the feminist-controlled and -dominated education system.

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1 Response to Top-Ten Myths of Divorce Debunked

  1. twersk77 says:

    Number 3 is very important. Many children are affected by divorce. The health of the children is totally ignored by parents. Research has shown that how a couple conducts themselves during a divorce has a far greater impact on their children than the actual divorce. The all out battle approach to custody, asset distribution and support often leaves couples in financial and emotional shambles.

    Response by F4L: There is no doubt at all that the process of divorce and its aftermath leaves couples in financial and emotional shambles. That is most often not the fault of both divorcing parents but the fault of just one who wants to be “more equal” than the other.

    However, quite often the inequities that are being created in many divorce proceedings don’t even need to be the doing of one parent or the other. To create those inequities, nothing more than judicial discretion is needed.

    It is more than a bit sweeping to state, “The health of the children is totally ignored by parents.” Your supporting assertion to that extent, namely that “Research has shown that how a couple conducts themselves during a divorce has a far greater impact on their children than the actual divorce”, requires a citation. Without citations of examples of the research you allude to, your assertion is nothing more than an unsubstantiated opinion.

    On average, as far as the outcomes in children of divorce are concerned, there is no such thing as “a good divorce”. Negative outcomes in children of divorce, as shown by much research from all over the world, are more than twice as likely than they are in children who are being raised by their two married parents with whom they live under the same roof. The advantage held by children whose parents do not divorce holds true even if their parents have what are considered to be high-conflict marriages.

    If you wish to explore this a bit farther, check the results of a search for “outcomes in children of divorce“.

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