The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Easy Divorce?


Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson


Since the early 1970s, legislators have done the bidding of activists arguing that easy divorce will liberate women trapped in bad marriages. But a study by psychologists at the University of Colorado suggests that no matter how liberal the laws, divorce means psychological and emotional havoc.

To assess the psychiatric consequences of divorce, the researchers scrutinized data from a nationally representative sample of adults who had been married for at least 12 months. The researchers calculate that “marital dissolution was associated with a 3.7-fold increased risk for mood disorders, a 2.5-fold increased risk for anxiety disorders, and a 3.3-fold increased risk for substance use disorders.”

These findings lead the authors to conclude that marital dissolution is “a generic risk factor for psychopathology.” “If generic risks can be identified and altered in a population,” the Colorado researchers explain, “this can have a positive influence on a range of mental health problems.” In this instance, preventing marital dissolution would do the most to reduce mental-health problems.

The need to end the national epidemic of divorce is further underscored by earlier research cited by the authors. This research, these authors point out, has established that “maritally dissolved populations” suffer from “disproportionately high levels of mental health problems, comparatively lower levels of general well-being, and poorer physical health” than found among their married peers. In surveying the research, the scholars particularly highlight a study showing that “individuals with no past history of psychological disorder who were newly divorced were at 6 times higher risk for onset of any disorder compared with individuals who had remained continuously married.”

Those who have greased the machinery of divorce have made employment very secure for the nation’s psychiatrists. 

(Yael Chatav and Mark A. Whisman, “Marital Dissolution and Psychiatric Disorders: An Investigation of Risk Factors,”Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 47 No. 1–2 [2007]: 1–12.)

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