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DIVORCE Facts Causes Consequences
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About the author, Dr Anne Marie Ambert is now a retired professor She had been at the Department of Sociology York University. since 1971 She has done research and published extensively in the areas of divorce and remarriage poverty and va. rious aspects of the parent child relationship She is currently revising her latest book entitled Changing Families. Relationships in Context published in 2005 by Pearson Canada for a second edition She has also served for over two. decades on the editorial board for the Journal of Marriage and Family More recently her long experience with condos. has led her toward applied research in order to help condo owners understand their rights and responsibilities and how. condos work www condoinformation ca Professor Ambert can be reached at ambert yorku ca. About the Institute, The Vanier Institute of the Family was established in 1965 under the patronage of Their Excellencies Governor Gene. ral Georges P Vanier and Madame Pauline Vanier It is a national voluntary organization dedicated to promoting the. well being of Canada s families through research publications public education and advocacy The Institute regularly. works with businesses legislators policy makers and program specialists researchers educators family service profes. sionals the media and members of the general public. Contemporary Family Trends CFT is a special collection of documents written by Canadian experts on a wide range. of issues facing today s families CFT papers are descriptive interpretative and provide a critical overview of relevant. topics involving families, The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Vanier. Institute of the Family,Ce rapport est disponible en fran ais. 94 prom Centerpointe Drive Ottawa Ontario K2G 6B1,www vifamily ca.
c o n t e m p o r a r y f a m i l y t r e n d s,Facts Causes. Consequences,Dr Anne Marie Ambert,York University,3rd Edition 2009. n o v e m b e r 2 0 0 9, I was struck by the findings of a recent survey of teenagers in Canada in which 90 said they expect to marry and. to stay with the same partner for life1 The percentage of young people with this expectation is about the same ac. tually slightly higher than when these questions were put to an earlier generation of teenagers some 15 years ago. What is curious about this is that it seems to be quite at odds with the evidence By current estimates only half of. today s young men and women are likely to marry although most will form conjugal unions and of those who do. enter into a formal or legal first marriage about one third will divorce before the 30th wedding anniversary. So how are we to make sense of the gap between expectations and actual outcomes Perhaps some will simply. attribute it to na ve optimism among young people But more significantly perhaps it signals a more or less endur. ing aspiration if not expectation to live our lives within committed lifelong relationships. In our lifetimes many of us will experience separation and divorce and many will navigate the difficult terrain of. a relationship in profound transition Many more of us will experience divorce not as separating couples but as. the children of divorcing parents the parents of divorcing children or simply as other close relatives friends or. co workers Anyone who has had such an experience will likely know that it can be accompanied by tremendous. emotion anxiety and sometimes fear And most will acknowledge that each story of divorce is unique deeply. textured by particular circumstances and events within and surrounding the lives of the individuals involved. To understand divorce and divorce trends is no easy task In this the 3rd edition of Divorce Facts Causes and. Consequences Dr Anne Marie Ambert of York University points out that divorce is a complex phenomenon. involving multiple interlocking factors operating within an evolving social cultural and legal context Drawing. on the latest statistics available Dr Ambert first addresses the most frequently asked questions about divorce and. along the way helps us to understand what the statistics on divorce tell us and as important what they do not tell. us Dr Ambert also reviews a large research literature to help us better understand the variety of factors that have. been associated with divorce trends over the past 50 years and to reflect on the varied consequences that divorce. and separation may have in the lives of those involved and by extension for the societies in which they take place. Clarence Lochhead,Executive Director, Bibby Reginald W 2009 The Emerging Millennials How Canada s Newest Generation is Responding to Change and. Choice Lethbridge Alberta Project Canada Books p 199. november 2009,TABLE OF CONTENTS,Divorce Facts Causes and Consequences.
UNDERSTANDING THE NUMBERS 3, Is it true that one out of every two marriages ends in divorce 3. Why the misunderstanding 4,So how do we measure divorce 4. But is this the entire story 5,Are divorce rates going up or down 7. How do Canadian rates compare with others 8,What about same sex divorce 9. How many people divorce more than once 9, After how many years of marriage do couples divorce 9.
How old are people at divorce 9, How many children are involved in divorce cases 10. Who is responsible for children after divorce 11,How common is remarriage 12. How many families with dependent children are stepfamilies 12. Are remarriages as stable as first marriages 12,Are cohabitations as stable as marriages 13. FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO DIVORCE IN CANADA 13,Cultural factors 13. Demographic factors 14, Why does cohabitation before marriage not prevent divorce 15.
Personal reasons for divorcing 16,CONSEQUENCES OF DIVORCE 17. Increased risk of poverty 17, Increased risk of problems for children of divorced parents 18. Cautionary notes in interpreting the above information 19. The five main sources of children s negative outcomes following a parental divorce 20. Are there differences by age and sex in children s adjustment to divorce 21. What are the consequences of parental remarriage on children 22. What are the consequences of divorce for adults 23. CONCLUSIONS 25,REFERENCES 26,divorce facts causes and consequences 1. t h e va n i e r i n s t i t u t e o f t h e f a m i l y. 2 co n t em p o r a ry fa m i ly t r en ds,november 2009. Facts Causes and Consequences, This article answers some of the main and most frequently asked questions regarding divorce includ.
ing what percentage of marriages taking place today will end in divorce Are divorce rates going up or. down Is Canada s divorce rate higher than other countries In providing answers to these and other. questions this article also explains the various statistics that are used to measure divorce and discusses. their limitations The paper is divided into three sections One presents the basic numbers while the. other two focus on the causes and consequences of divorce Issues on remarriage and cohabitation that. pertain to divorce are also reviewed,UNDERSTANDING THE NUMBERS. Is it true that one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. No for Canada as a whole but yes for Quebec The latest estimates by Statistics Canada 2008 put the. risk of divorce by the 30th wedding anniversary for recently married couples at 38 for the country as a. whole ranging from 21 6 in Newfoundland and Labrador to 48 4 in Quebec as illustrated in Table. 1 This compares with an estimated 44 in the U S However these estimates include persons who are. divorcing for the first time as well as those who are divorcing for a second time or more For instance. in 2005 16 of divorces included husbands who had already been divorced at least once and 15. involved wives who had also been divorced before The probability of divorcing is somewhat lower for a. first marriage but is higher for a remarriage,divorce facts causes and consequences 3. t h e va n i e r i n s t i t u t e o f t h e f a m i l y. Why the misunderstanding, People are often led to believe that one out of two marriages ends in divorce because we too frequently. use the American media as a source of information and in the 1980s it was actually true that one out of. two American marriages ended in divorce This peak time statistic has stuck in the media and in our. imagination, Another reason for this misunderstanding stems from simplistic ways of measuring divorce that are too. often used For example one method simply divides the number of divorces in a year on the basis of the. number of marriages that have taken place during this same year If the number of marriages goes down. as it has in the past decade the proportion of divorces compared to marriages will automatically increase. even if the number of divorces remains the same As you can see using the number of marriages as a basis. is a misleading way of calculating divorce rates For example in 2005 Quebec had 15 423 divorces and. only 22 244 marriages Girard 2008 With this number method we would falsely conclude that 69. of current Quebec marriages will end in divorce when the reality is 48 4 Table 1. A second equally misleading approach utilizes the rate of divorce in one year and compares it to the. rate of marriage in the same year such as 2 7 divorces per 1 000 population and 5 4 marriages per 1 000. population Thus the divorce rate stated as a ratio is 50 that of marriages a false fact as we have. already seen Furthermore because this 50 rate is calculated on the basis of marriages and divorces. occurring in one same year it has at times been erroneously used to predict that 50 of people marry. ing in a year will end up divorced One has to keep in mind that divorces recorded in any one year rarely. happen to couples who have married during that same year. Unfortunately the above two methods of calculating divorce are used in many countries even by re. searchers and appear in a few textbooks in Canada and the U S This means that we have to be vigilant. when statistics are thrown at us,So how do we measure divorce.
When people ask about divorce rates they are most often interested in knowing what will happen to. couples who are marrying this year What s their chance of staying married But not all divorce statistics. answer this question only the first one below does. The most refined way of measuring divorce is to calculate what is referred to as the Total Divorce Rate. see Table 1 It consists of looking at couples who marry in a given year and calculating the proportion. expected to divorce before their 30th wedding anniversary For instance Canada s 2004 total divorce. rate of 37 9 divorces per 100 marriages means that 37 9 of all marriages taking place in 2004 will have. ended by 2035 if as Statistics Canada point out the duration specific divorce rates calculated for 2004. remain stable In other words the Total Divorce Rate is a prediction about future levels of divorce. based on the actual divorce patterns of the recent past This method gives the closest approximation to. a lifetime divorce rate because after 30 years of marriage relatively few divorces take place However. this method cannot be used for comparisons across the world because it requires adequate governmental. record keeping and complex calculations that relatively few countries can afford. 4 co n t em p o r a ry fa m i ly t r en ds,november 2009. Table 1 Total Divorce Rates per 100 Marriages by the 30th Wedding Anniversary by Provinces and Territories. 1998 2000 2002 2004,Canada 36 1 37 7 37 6 37 9,Newfoundland Labrador 23 2 22 9 21 8 21 6. Prince Edward Island 26 4 26 9 25 2 29 1,Nova Scotia 28 2 30 4 30 4 30 2. New Brunswick 26 9 31 9 27 2 26 9,Quebec 45 2 47 4 47 6 48 4. Ontario 33 0 34 6 34 9 35 5,Manitoba 30 1 34 6 30 3 30 6.
Saskatchewan 31 5 31 4 28 7 27 6,Alberta 39 0 41 5 41 9 41 9. British Columbia 40 0 40 6 41 0 40 8,Yukon 55 2 33 6 43 4 34 8. Northwest Territories Nunavut 37 5 40 7 31 2 35 5, Source Ambert 2005a Statistics Canada 2008 and earlier. Another method of measuring divorce focuses on those who are eligible to divorce namely legally. married couples which gives us a divorce rate per 1 000 or 100 000 married couples in a population. For instance Beaujot and Kerr 2004 show that in 2002 there were 1 050 divorces per 100 000 mar. ried couples in Canada compared to 1 302 in 1986 This is also an interesting measure but it does not. address the key question what chance do couples marrying this year have of staying married over the. course of their lifetime It does however provide information on trends for married couples. The most common method of measuring divorce is the yearly crude rate for every 1 000 or 100 000. persons in the population In 2005 this rate in Canada was 2 2 per 1 000 population compared to 2 9 in. 1990 and 3 6 in 1987 Tables 2 and 3 utilize this method. Although this method is valid and fulfills many purposes in terms of historical and international trends. it has its drawbacks For instance when we calculate divorces per 100 000 population children are. included as well as single and widowed persons All of these people reduce the divorce rate because they. can t divorce Moreover this calculation is vulnerable to shifts in demographic composition. But is this the entire story,No Several points need to be emphasized. 1 Predictions about divorce are just that predictions They are made on the basis of yearly trends. Unfortunately the yearly is often forgotten in heated discussions Thus predictions have to be. constantly revised to fit new realities,divorce facts causes and consequences 5.
t h e va n i e r i n s t i t u t e o f t h e f a m i l y. 2 As already emphasized some of the divorces that take place each year are actually second or third. divorces for some people So while the Total Divorce Rate tells us about the percentage of marriages. expected to end in divorce it does not tell us about the proportion of people who divorce In other. words during their lifetime some people contribute disproportionately to the divorce rate. 3 Consequently while some young people who marry for the first time may be worried about these pre. dictions it is important to keep in mind that the divorce rate for first marriages is somewhat lower than. the 37 9 shown in Table 1 probably closer to 33 In other words first marriages have a 67 chance. of lasting a lifetime Furthermore as we will see later on some couples are at even lower risk of divorcing. 4 Also missing from the portrait painted by current divorce statistics is the element of non marital co. habitation Cohabitation is increasing and is now more common than marriage in Quebec as a first. union and after divorce Currently 65 of couples living together in Quebec are married compared. to 87 in the rest of Canada Girard 2008 But when a cohabiting union breaks up the dissolu. tion does not appear in divorce statistics Therefore divorce rates do not provide an accurate picture. of conjugal dissolution rates cohabitations marriages that end. 5 An important question requiring additional research is whether and to what extent cohabitations. constitute hidden marriages and as such whether the dissolution of cohabitations can or should. be thought of as hidden divorces These are important questions not only for those trying to mea. sure the true extent of conjugal dissolution but also for researchers in family law gender equity and. children s rights The answer is not necessarily a simple one Including all cohabitations as a form. of marriage for instance may be misleading and so would be equating their break up with divorce. Ambert 2005b Indeed many cohabitations last a few months and merely constitute temporary. or day to day arrangements lacking any long term or life long commitment as is explicit in marriage. On the other hand cohabitations with children tend to be more stable Wu 2000 And cohabita. tions in Quebec are also somewhat more stable than in the rest of Canada particularly so when. children are born to the union These unions are more akin to marriages Kerr et al 2006. 6 Finally an unknown number of couples separate but never divorce This type of conjugal dissolution. may be as significant and consequential as a divorce yet it does not appear in divorce statistics It may. also be increasing among those who separate and go on to cohabit fairly rapidly after their separation. So when caveats 4 and 5 are put together it is certainly true that at least one out of every two unions. ends in dissolution with lower rates in the Maritimes and Prairies and higher ones in Quebec The per. centage may become even higher if younger cohorts continue to enter into cohabitation as a first union. in greater numbers,6 co n t em p o r a ry fa m i ly t r en ds. november 2009,Are divorce rates going up or down, They have gone down substantially during the 1990s and have remained at a lower level since 1997. with minor yearly fluctuations In Table 2 Statistics Canada presents us with the following crude rates of. divorce throughout the years, Table 2 Crude Divorce Rates per 100 000 Population since 1921. Year of divorces Rates per 100 000 population,1921 558 6 4. 1941 2 462 21 4,1961 6 563 36 0,1968 11 343 54 8,1969 26 093 124 2.
1981 67 671 271 8,1985 61 980 253 6,1986 78 304 298 8. 1987 96 200 362 3,1990 80 998 295 8,1995 77 636 262 2. 1997 67 408 224 8,2000 70 292 228 4,2002 70 155 223 0. 2005 71 269 220 7, Reform of Divorce Laws Divorce Act no fault Peak year Source Table 101 6501 Statistics Canada 2008. Divorce greatly increased beginning in 1968 when a new Divorce Act was passed which broadened the. grounds for divorce and made divorce available across Canada in fact Canada experienced a five fold. increase from 1968 to 1995 Divorce rates peaked in 1987 in Canada and in 1981 in the U S The 1987. peak in Canada reflected spouses waiting for and then using the new and even broader grounds for. divorce in the 1986 Divorce Act changes However as we have seen in Table 1 there are large provincial. variations over the past decade Quebec has consistently shown the highest rates while the Maritime. provinces Saskatchewan and Manitoba have shown the lowest. Whether divorce rates will increase or decrease in any substantial way in the future depends on the. complex interplay between numerous socio economic political cultural and demographic factors as. well as individual preferences and values For example as more young couples choose to cohabit before. marriage and as the children of divorce who are at a higher risk of divorcing enter into marriage them. selves there are chances that divorce rates could keep rising as has been the case for Quebec in particu. lar Or if the proportion of adults between 25 and 45 declines in the population the rates of divorce. will go down because this is the age range with most divorces Or yet if cohabitation increases and their. break up is not included in some form of statistics then in the long run real divorces will diminish but. divorce facts causes and consequences 7, t h e va n i e r i n s t i t u t e o f t h e f a m i l y.
union dissolution will increase As you can see predictions depend on many ifs. To conclude except for Quebec divorce rates have come down substantially since the 1990s But at the. same time marriage rates have come down thus reducing divorce risk while cohabitation rates have. risen especially in Quebec Therefore couple dissolution in general has certainly not decreased and may. actually have increased,How do Canadian rates compare with others. Keeping all of the above in mind in Table 3 United Nations statistics 2006 2008 give the following. crude divorce rates per 1 000 for selected western countries in 2002 and 2005. Table 3 Crude Divorce Rates per 1 000 Population for Selected Countries for the Years 2002 and 2005. Rates per 1 000 Population,Countries 2002 2005,Russian Federation 5 3 4 5. U S 4 3 3 6,Cuba 3 1 3 2,U K 3 1 2 8,France 2 7 2 3. Sweden 2 4 2 2,Japan 2 3 2 1,Canada 2 2 2 2,Portugal 1 8 2 3. Israel 1 7 1 7,Italy 0 7 0 8,Jamaica 0 7 0 7,Mexico 0 6 0 7.
1996 2003 Source United Nations 2005 2008, The first observation is that with the exception of Portugal divorce rates in Europe have increased. substantially in the 1990s not shown here but have remained stable or decreased in the 2000s Sar. don 2006 Although the American rate has declined it still is the highest rate in the western world. followed by the U K and Cuba Russia has even higher rates at 4 5 Thus although our rate is modest. compared to the U S and Russia it is in line with those of many other OECD western countries But. it should also be noted that the American rate includes a larger proportion of people who have divorced. many times than is the case in Canada Thus for Americans as well the risk for a first marriage of ending. in divorce is lower than indicated by their overall rate. 8 co n t em p o r a ry fa m i ly t r en ds,november 2009. What about same sex divorce, Same sex marriage became legal only in 2004 in some provinces and in 2005 for Canada as a whole At. this time although such divorces have occurred statistics are understandably not available Nevertheless. it is interesting to look at the numbers of same sex marriages in Quebec Girard 2008 which totaled. 245 in 2004 451 in 2005 621 in 2006 and 470 in 2007. As statistics become available it will be possible to examine the extent to which patterns and rates of. divorce among gay and lesbian couples resemble those of heterosexual couples Given that same sex. marriage has only recently become legal it is quite possible that a good proportion of recent same sex. marriages involve couples in long term relationships As such one could reasonably predict that the. divorce rate would be lower than that of married couples who are heterosexual It will take a few years. before meaningful statistics appear,How many people divorce more than once. Statistics Canada indicates that 16 of divorcing women and men in 2005 had been divorced at least. once before Statistics Canada 2008 These rates are lower in Newfoundland perhaps because of. emigration to other provinces and also because they have a much lower divorce rate to start with and. Quebec because the divorced tend to cohabit rather than remarry The highest rates of serial divorces. are in B C Alberta and Yukon Therefore over 20 of all divorces in Canada are a repeat divorce for at. least one of the spouses Both here and in the U S people who divorce many times seem to differ from. the once divorced on some dimensions Ambert 2005a 394 Booth 1999 Some have more personal. problems while others are less committed to marriage For instance Clark and Crompton 2006 have. found that people who experience multiple divorces are much less likely to believe that marriage is im. portant to them and to their happiness, After how many years of marriage do couples divorce.
The average duration of marriages ending in divorce in 2005 was 14 5 years or 1 7 years longer than. a decade ago Statistics Canada 2008 In Ontario it was 13 8 years compared to 16 7 years in P E I. Lengthier marriages before divorce are also occurring in other western countries such as the U K. As well Statistics Canada indicates that the highest number of divorces occurs after the 3rd and 4th an. niversaries or 26 1 and 25 8 respectively per 1 000 marriages After that the rate decreases for each. additional year married and by the 40th anniversary only 1 19 divorces occur per 1 000 marriages. How old are people at divorce, In 2005 the average age at divorce was 44 years for men and 41 4 for women and may soon rise to. reflect the fact that men and women now marry later at 29 5 years for men and 26 9 for women in 2005. in Quebec in 2007 it was 32 years for men and 30 for women while in France it was 35 6 years for men.

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