Risk Factors for High Divorce Rates

Divorce Rates

Even the most committed couples can grow apart, and this may lead people to wonder which factors make a marriage more likely to fail. While having one or more of these risk factors doesn't doom you to divorce, the following ten variables are among the most common risk factors for high divorce rates. If the odds seem stacked against you, it may be helpful to know which factors put you more at risk, so you can be aware.

Marrying Young

It probably comes as no surprise that tying the knot as a teenager makes you vulnerable to divorce later on. Marrying your high school sweetheart might be the stuff of fairy tales, but waiting until your 20s can improve your chances of domestic bliss. According to a U.S. Census Bureau study cited by Washington state family law attorneys, McKinley Irvin, couples who delay marriage until age 25 decrease their divorce risk by 24 percent.

Cohabitating Before Marriage

According to a University of Denver study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, living together before marriage isn't always a good test of a relationship's staying power. Couples in committed relationships cohabit for a variety of reasons. It's convenient, it conserves resources, and it gives both sides a chance to try out a marriage-like state before walking down the aisle. The study suggests that couples who feel the need to engage in a marriage "trial run" might already suspect their relationship is doomed to fail. Researchers found that this lack of confidence tended to carry over into the marriage.

Number of Previous Marriages

Sometimes the second or third time is not the charm. According to a study by the CDC, the divorce risk increases with each subsequent marriage. Many people jump into a second relationship too quickly, without having fully recovered from the breakdown of their first marriage. For other people, a second marriage is more difficult to hold together because it lacks a cohesive family unit, such as young children who need constant care and attention from two parents. Repeat marriages can also be troubled by the dynamic of the blended family, which can be complicated by ex-spouses and adult children from previous relationships.

Lack of Religious Affiliation

Faith seems to play an important role in preventing divorce. A number of studies published by Bowling Green State University suggest that married couples who practice some form of religion have lower divorce rates than the secular population. Furthermore, husbands and wives who share the same faith stay together more often than partners with dissimilar belief systems. Regular church attendance also seems to curb the impulse to call it quits when a relationship sours.

Money Matters

Poverty, suggests Jeffrey Dew of the National Marriage Project, is one of the foremost indicators of a high divorce risk. The more assets a couple brings into the marriage, the less likely they are to divorce down the road. There is also a direct correlation between the accumulation of material goods and happiness. When a couple accumulates significant debt, their marriage is automatically more likely to fail. Partners who are focused on buying things as a reflection of their self-worth are far less happy than their less materialistic counterparts. According to the study, fighting about money just once per week increases your divorce risk by 30 percent.


Children are a tremendous blessing, but having two or three at once can put any marriage on shaky ground. Multiples take more time, energy, and money than a single child. Many times, families with twins or more have undergone expensive fertility treatments in an effort to conceive, which has already strained their finances. According to research conducted by the University of Birmingham in England, the higher order multiples you have, the higher your divorce risk climbs.

Education Level

The higher your education level, the less likely you are to end up in divorce court, according to a study published in by the National Center for Family and Research. The research cites a number of factors that create a correlation between education and a relationship's longevity. Married couples with degrees earn more money and enjoy a higher standard of living. The study also found that well educated women tend to pick spouses whose education levels match or exceed their own.

Lack of Marital Education

According to the American Psychological Association, failure to participate in pre-marital counseling can significantly increase your divorce risk. Pre-marital counseling teaches couples effective problem-solving skills that are essential for diffusing arguments before they explode into full-blown marital disputes.

Parents' Divorces

Children of divorce face an uphill battle in their own marriages. When one spouse comes from a broken home, the chances of divorce increase by 50 percent. According to Professor Nicholas Wolfinger of the University of Utah, they climb an astounding 200 percent higher when both husband and wife come from households that suffered through a divorce.

Age Difference Between Spouses

Long before celebrities made serial May-December romances famous, people questioned the wisdom of pairing spouses from different generations. A Canadian study found a link between high divorce rates and couples with disparate ages. Divorce rates declined when the husband was between two to ten years older than the wife. By contrast, an older wife increased the likelihood of divorce.

Beating the Odds

As an institution, marriage has taken quite a beating in the last half century. If your family background and personal statistics put your relationship at greater risk, talk to your significant other about ways you can reduce your chance of divorce. No matter what your odds, there are steps you can take to build your marriage on a solid foundation.

Was this page useful?
Risk Factors for High Divorce Rates