Is there a core and distinctly finite set of factors that can be advanced to explain why most parties in so-called “gray” (think of the 50-plus baby boomer demographic) divorces seek to dissolve their marriages?
And, to the degree that there are, are divorce-promoting considerations for this age group similar to those that yield divorces for younger married couples?
Two university law professors consider these and related questions in a study they recently completed. Their conclusions, which are based primarily on a synthesis of many already existing works, appear in an article published earlier this month by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS).
Here’s a fundamental learning pointed to by researchers Naomi Cahn and June Carbone: It is a dangerous assumption to simply regard the 50-and-older crowd as a fairly undifferentiated monolith, with the divorce propensity and motivations among couples in that demographic being somewhat similar.
“Divorce risk is not evenly spread among those aged 50 and older,” say the professors.
And what increases the odds of a divorce for that group — most specifically, for couples 50 and older in long-tenured marriages and with kids grown and out of the home — might surprise a few people, state Cahn and Carbone.
The researchers found these two factors to be especially prominent:
- A comparatively low level of accumulated assets (all else being equal, evidence points to a higher rate of enduring marriages when couples feel somewhat empowered through property they have acquired)
- Being previously divorced
The latter finding is notable, say the researchers, because it seems to have marked validity even for remarried partners who tied the knot 40 years or more ago. They are still more likely to divorce than first-time married couples.
Readers who are interested in looking at the researchers’ findings in some depth can do so by accessing the IFS article via the above linked language.