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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

15 Ways to Predict Divorce

15 Ways to Predict Divorce
Anneli Rufus
Please review the divorce calculator mentioned at the end of this article, which contains a relevant cite from attorney Kelly Chang Rickert.
How long will your marriage last? Depends on if you smoke, which church you go to, and which state you live in. Anneli Rufus on the shocking statistics.

You can't guarantee the longevity of a marriage, but what you can do is play the odds.
Researchers have studied marriage success rates from nearly every conceivable angle, and what they've found is that everything from smoking habits to what state you live in can predict how likely it is that your union will survive. Here are 15 ways to gauge whether your marriage is for the long haul—or on the fast track to Splitsville.

1. If you're a married American, your marriage is between 40 and 50 percent likely to end in divorce.
After peaking at 50 percent in the 1980s, the national divorce rate has dropped steadily, but in the public's mind, that outdated "half of all marriages" figure still sticks—and scares. "Inflated divorce statistics create an ambivalence about marriage," says Tara Parker-Pope, author of For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. "The bottom line is that modern marriages are getting more and more resilient. With each generation, we're getting a little better about picking mates. A different kind of marriage is emerging in this century." (Source: David Popenoe, "The Future of Marriage in America," University of Virginia/National Marriage Project/The State of Our Unions, 2007)
2. If you live in a red state, you're 27 percent more likely to get divorced than if you live in a blue state.
Maybe that's because red-state couples traditionally marry younger—and the younger the partners, the riskier the marriage. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the states with the lowest median age at marriage are Utah, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. (Source: National Vital Statistics Report, 2003; cited in The Compassionate Community: Ten Values to Unite America, by Jonathan Miller and Al Gore)

3. If you argue with your spouse about finances once a week, your marriage is 30 percent more likely to end in divorce than if you argue with your spouse about finances less frequently.
Money woes kill marriages. The same study also found that couples with no assets at the beginning of a three-year period are 70 percent more likely to divorce by the end of that period than couples with $10,000 in assets. Most divorce risk factors—such as age and education level—correlate with poverty, says Statistics in Plain English author Timothy Urdan. "Whenever you see an explanation for anything, try to figure out what the explanations are for those explanations." (Source: Jeffrey Dew, "Bank on It: Thrifty Couples Are the Happiest," University of Virginia/National Marriage Project/The State of Our Unions, 2009)

4. If your parents were divorced, you're at least 40 percent more likely to get divorced than if they weren't. If your parents married others after divorcing, you're 91 percent more likely to get divorced.
This could be because witnessing our parents' divorces reinforces our ambivalence about commitment in a "disposable society," says Divorce Magazine publisher Dan Couvrette. "In most people's minds, it's easier to get a new car than fix the one you've got." (Source: Nicholas Wolfinger, Understanding the Divorce Cycle, Cambridge University Press, 2005)

5. If only one partner in your marriage is a smoker, you're 75 percent to 91 percent more likely to divorce than smokers who are married to fellow smokers.
"The more similar people are in their values, backgrounds, and life goals, the more likely they are to have a successful marriage," notes Tara Parker-Pope. From age to ethnicity to unhealthy habits, dissimilarities between spouses increase divorce risks. (Source: Rebecca Kippen, Bruce Chapman and Peng Yu, "What's Love Got to Do With It? Homogamy and Dyadic Approaches to Understanding Marital Instability," Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, 2009)

6. If you have a daughter, you're nearly 5 percent more likely to divorce than if you have a son.
This figure multiplies with the numbers of daughters or sons. "We think it happens because fathers get more invested in family life when they have boys," says Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History and director of research for the Council on Contemporary Families.
(Source: Gordon Dahl and Enrico Moretti, "The Demand for Sons," published in the Review of Economic Studies, 2005)

7. If you're an evangelical Christian adult who has been married, there's a 26 percent likelihood that you've been divorced—compared to a 28 percent chance for Catholics and a 38 percent chance for non-Christians.
That's according to the evangelically affiliated Barna Research Group, whose long-term clients include the Disney Channel. The same study cited a 30 percent divorce rate for atheists.
(Source: The Barna Group, "Divorce Among Adults Who Have Been Married," 2008)http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/15-familykids/42-new-marriage-and-divorce-statistics-released

8. If you live in Wayne County, Indiana, and are over 15 years old, there's a 19.2 percent chance that you've been divorced.
This mostly rural county hugging the Ohio border, renowned in the 1920s as a KKK stronghold, leads the nation in percentage of divorced residents. Florida's Monroe County, which includes the Keys, holds second place at 18 percent. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 estimates)

9. If both you and your partner have had previous marriages, you're 90 percent more likely to get divorced than if this had been the first marriage for both of you.
"A lot of data shows that second marriages should be more successful than first marriages," says Tara Parker-Pope. But this statistic is skewed by serial marriers, "and no one has yet found a way to take the Larry Kings and Elizabeth Taylors out of the equation." (Source: Rebecca Kippen, Bruce Chapman and Peng Yu, "What's Love Got to Do With It? Homogamy and Dyadic Approaches to Understanding Marital Instability," Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, 2009)

10. If you're a woman two or more years older than your husband, your marriage is 53 percent more likely to end in divorce than if he was one year younger to three years older.
Wide age gaps between spouses can create sexual discord and other disagreements. "Our culture is so focused on personal satisfaction and happiness that some people feel this is a contributing factor in divorce," says lawyer Emily Doskow, author of Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce. "Each partner keeps saying, 'I know I could be happier.'" (Source: Rebecca Kippen, Bruce Chapman and Peng Yu, "What's Love Got to Do With It? Homogamy and Dyadic Approaches to Understanding Marital Instability," Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, 2009)

11. If you're of "below average" intelligence, you're 50 percent more likely to be divorced than those of "above average" intelligence.
Presented by University of Delaware education professor Linda Gottfredson, codirector of the Delaware-Johns Hopkins Project for the Study of Intelligence and Society, this figure joins assertions in Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's controversial 1994 bestseller The Bell Curve that those with IQs of 100 face a 28 percent probability of divorce in the first five years of marriage, compared to just a 9 percent probability for those with IQs of 130. (Source: Linda S. Gottfredson, "The General Intelligence Factor," Scientific American, Winter 1998, and Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles A. Murray, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, Simon & Schuster, 1994, page 176)

12. If you've been diagnosed with cervical cancer, your likelihood of getting divorced is 40 percent higher than standard rates; it's 20 percent higher if you've been diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Norwegian Cancer Registry researcher Astri Syse suspects that this is because these two cancers affect sexual activity and afflict mainly young people. Syse also found that breast-cancer survivors, an older group, are 8 percent less likely to divorce than their counterparts who have not had breast cancer. (Source: Astri Syse, "Couples More Likely to Divorce if Spouse Develops Cervical or Testicular Cancer," study presented at the European Cancer Conference, 2007)
13. If you have twins or triplets, your marriage is 17 percent more likely to end in divorce than if your children are not multiple births.
Multiple births bring money woes, which bring stress. "I always think of marriage as a bridge that connects two hills," says Brette Sember, author of The Divorce Organizer & Planner. "The bridge might be solid and well-made, but if an earthquake causes one or both hills to shake, the bridge is weakened." (Source: Stephen McKay, "The Effects of Twins and Multiple Births on Families and Their Living Standards," Twins and Multiple Births Association, 2010)
14. If you're a female serial cohabiter—a woman who has lived with more than one partner before your first marriage—then you're 40 percent more likely to get divorced than women who have never done so.
Although "playing house" seems like good practice for married life, it can also make living together seem less permanent. "People feel like, 'If it doesn't work out, we can just step out of this,'" says lawyer Emily Doskow. Statistics show that marriages preceded by cohabitation have better chances of success when couples became officially engaged before moving in together.
(Source: Daniel T. Lichter, Zhenchao Qian, "Serial Cohabitation: Implications for Marriage, Divorce, and Public Policy," Brown University Population and Training Center, 2007)

15. If you're in a male same-sex marriage, it's 50 percent more likely to end in divorce than a heterosexual marriage.
If you're in a female same-sex marriage, this figure soars to 167 percent.
A research team led by Stockholm University demography professor Gunnar Anderson based their calculations on legal partnerships in Norway and Sweden, where five out of every 1,000 new couples are same-sex. (Source: Gunnar Andersson, "Divorce-Risk Patterns in Same-Sex Marriages in Norway and Sweden," Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, 2004)
Want to assess your own marriage's chances of failure based on your personal demographics? Economist Betsey Stevenson created this "divorce calculator" for the Divorce360 website:

Anneli Rufus is the author of many books, including Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto and the Nautilus Award-winning Stuck: Why We Don't (or Won't) Move On, and the coauthor of still more, including Weird Europe and The Scavengers' Manifesto. Her books have been translated into numerous languages, including Chinese and Latvian. In 2006, she won a Society of Professional Journalists award for criticism.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Men who help with housework have happier marriages

Forget boxes of chocolates and romantic weekends away.
The secret to a happy marriage is to roll up your sleeves and help your wife with the housework.

Research shows that unions in which the men muck in with the chores and childcare are more likely to last the course.
And the more elbow grease a man puts in, the lower the odds of him heading to the divorce courts.

The results of the study of thousands of British couples will be music to the ears of millions of women.

Men, however, are likely to be a little less keen on the idea that they should be taking on their share of 'women's work'.
Researchers from the renowned London School of Economics, normally used to dealing with more weighty academic affairs, have turned their minds to the hoovering and washing up.

They tracked the fortunes of 3,500 married couples who had their first child during one week in 1970 - an age when most women with young children stayed at home.

When the children were five years old, the women were asked about how much their husbands did around the house, including helping with housework, childcare and shopping.

Just over half didn't help at all - or only assisted with one task.

A quarter carried out two tasks, and the remaining quarter did three or four, the journal Feminist Economics reports.

Around 7 per cent of the couples had divorced by the time the child was ten, rising to 20 per cent by the youngster's 16th birthday.

When the two pieces of information were crunched together it became clear that the more a man helped out, the more stable his marriage was.

It showed that although divorce became more common when the mother went out to work, this increase could be kept to a minimum by the father pulling his weight around the house.

Researcher Wendy Sigle-Rushton said: 'The results suggest the risk of divorce among working mothers, while greater, is substantially reduced when fathers contribute more to housework and childcare.'

Marriages in which the father stayed at home and took responsibility for the childcare and chores were as stable as those which followed traditional gender roles.

The finding, claimed Dr Sigle-Rushton, exploded the theory that marriages work best when comprised of a stay-at-home mother and a working father.

She added: 'The structure of the labour market, rates of female labour market participation, rates of divorce, and expectations about men's and women's gender roles have all changed considerably since 1975.

'But this study underscores the importance of taking into account relationships between men's behaviour and marital stability.'

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Science of a Happy Marriage

The Science of a Happy Marriage
Stuart Bradford
Why do some men and women cheat on their partners while others resist the temptation?
To find the answer, a growing body of research is focusing on the science of commitment. Scientists are studying everything from the biological factors that seem to influence marital stability to a person’s psychological response after flirting with a stranger.

Their findings suggest that while some people may be naturally more resistant to temptation, men and women can also train themselves to protect their relationships and raise their feelings of commitment.

Recent studies have raised questions about whether genetic factors may influence commitment and marital stability. Hasse Walum, a biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, studied 552 sets of twins to learn more about a gene related to the body’s regulation of the brain chemical vasopressin, a bonding hormone.
Over all, men who carried a variation in the gene were less likely to be married, and those who had wed were more likely to have had serious marital problems and unhappy wives.
Among men who carried two copies of the gene variant, about a third had experienced a serious relationship crisis in the past year, double the number seen in the men who did not carry the variant.

Although the trait is often called the “fidelity gene,” Mr. Walum called that a misnomer: his research focused on marital stability, not faithfulness. “It’s difficult to use this information to predict any future behavior in men,” he told me. Now he and his colleagues are working to replicate the findings and conducting similar research in women.

While there may be genetic differences that influence commitment, other studies suggest that the brain can be trained to resist temptation.

A series of unusual studies led by John Lydon, a psychologist at McGill University in Montreal, have looked at how people in a committed relationship react in the face of temptation. In one study, highly committed married men and women were asked to rate the attractiveness of people of the opposite sex in a series of photos. Not surprisingly, they gave the highest ratings to people who would typically be viewed as attractive.

Later, they were shown similar pictures and told that the person was interested in meeting them. In that situation, participants consistently gave those pictures lower scores than they had the first time around.

When they were attracted to someone who might threaten the relationship, they seemed to instinctively tell themselves, “He’s not so great.” “The more committed you are,” Dr. Lydon said, “the less attractive you find other people who threaten your relationship.”

But some of the McGill research has shown gender differences in how we respond to a cheating threat. In a study of 300 heterosexual men and women, half the participants were primed for cheating by imagining a flirtatious conversation with someone they found attractive. The other half just imagined a routine encounter.

Afterward, the study subjects were asked to complete fill-in-the-blank puzzles like LO_AL and THR__T.

Unbeknownst to the participants, the word fragments were a psychological test to reveal subconscious feelings about commitment. (Similar word puzzles are used to study subconscious feelings about prejudice and stereotyping.)

No pattern emerged among the study participants who imagined a routine encounter. But there were differences among men and women who had entertained the flirtatious fantasy. In that group, the men were more likely to complete the puzzles with the neutral words LOCAL and THROAT. But the women who had imagined flirting were far more likely to choose LOYAL and THREAT, suggesting that the exercise had touched off subconscious concerns about commitment.

Of course, this does not necessarily predict behavior in the real world. But the pronounced difference in responses led the researchers to think women might have developed a kind of early warning system to alert them to relationship threats.

Other McGill studies confirmed differences in how men and women react to such threats. In one, attractive actors or actresses were brought in to flirt with study participants in a waiting room. Later, the participants were asked questions about their relationships, particularly how they would respond to a partner’s bad behavior, like being late and forgetting to call.

Men who had just been flirting were less forgiving of the hypothetical bad behavior, suggesting that the attractive actress had momentarily chipped away at their commitment. But women who had been flirting were more likely to be forgiving and to make excuses for the man, suggesting that their earlier flirting had triggered a protective response when discussing their relationship.
“We think the men in these studies may have had commitment, but the women had the contingency plan — the attractive alternative sets off the alarm bell,” Dr. Lydon said. “Women implicitly code that as a threat. Men don’t.”

The question is whether a person can be trained to resist temptation. In another study, the team prompted male students who were in committed dating relationships to imagine running into an attractive woman on a weekend when their girlfriends were away. Some of the men were then asked to develop a contingency plan by filling in the sentence “When she approaches me, I will __________ to protect my relationship.”

Because the researchers could not bring in a real woman to act as a temptation, they created a virtual-reality game in which two out of four rooms included subliminal images of an attractive woman. The men who had practiced resisting temptation gravitated toward those rooms 25 percent of the time; for the others, the figure was 62 percent.

But it may not be feelings of love or loyalty that keep couples together. Instead, scientists speculate that your level of commitment may depend on how much a partner enhances your life and broadens your horizons — a concept that Arthur Aron, a psychologist and relationship researcher at Stony Brook University, calls “self-expansion.”

To measure this quality, couples are asked a series of questions: How much does your partner provide a source of exciting experiences? How much has knowing your partner made you a better person? How much do you see your partner as a way to expand your own capabilities?
The Stony Brook researchers conducted experiments using activities that stimulated self-expansion. Some couples were given mundane tasks, while others took part in a silly exercise in which they were tied together and asked to crawl on mats, pushing a foam cylinder with their heads. The study was rigged so the couples failed the time limit on the first two tries, but just barely made it on the third, resulting in much celebration.

Couples were given relationship tests before and after the experiment. Those who had taken part in the challenging activity posted greater increases in love and relationship satisfaction than those who had not experienced victory together.

Now the researchers are embarking on a series of studies to measure how self-expansion influences a relationship. They theorize that couples who explore new places and try new things will tap into feelings of self-expansion, lifting their level of commitment.

“We enter relationships because the other person becomes part of ourselves, and that expands us,” Dr. Aron said. “That’s why people who fall in love stay up all night talking and it feels really exciting. We think couples can get some of that back by doing challenging and exciting things together.”

Tara Parker-Pope’s new book is “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.”