According to a study done by The National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the divorce rate among couples 50 and older more than doubled between 1990 and 2009, while the overall divorce rate held steady over the same time period. For those 65 and older, the rate of divorce nearly tripled. And according to a 2004 AARP study, 66% of these “gray divorces” are instigated by the wife.
The age group with the greatest decline in divorce rate was the youngest bracket, ages 15-24. Over the 20 year period, the divorce rate in this age range dropped by 33%. These numbers may suggest that older generations care less about marriage than younger ones, but that is not the case. What is happening is that more and more young couples are choosing to live together rather than tie the knot and make it official.
Donna Holland, assistant professor of sociology at Purdue University Fort Wayne in Indiana, says, “In the big picture, yes, it looks like we have become more conservative, but we’re really just opting for a different model. If cohabitating couples had chosen to marry instead of live together, overwhelmingly our divorce rates would be much, much higher.”
Holland believes it is tolerance that is transforming society’s entire approach to marriage, “Friends and family are not pushing people to stay married or mandating they get married in the first place,” she says. “Things are more flexible than in the past.”
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