Although the divorce rate in the US has declined slightly in recent years, one segment of the population has doubled its rate in the past 20 years: the 50+ year old category. Research sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University will present their findings when they share their paper, “The Gray Divorce Revolution,” at Ohio State University in April.
“In 1990, only one in 10 people who got divorced was 50 or older; by 2009, the number was roughly one in four. More than 600,000 people ages 50 and older got divorced in 2009.” Wall Steet Journal online
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So what seems to be the issue? The generation experiencing this trend, the Baby Boomers, have different ideas for the core meaning of marriage. Brown shares this thought, “In the 1970s, there was, for the first time, a focus on marriage needing to make individuals happy, rather than on how well each individual fulfilled their marital roles.” This shift has caused discontent among many couples who are facing empty nests for the first time in many years. They begin pondering life in terms of having an ending and looking at their dreams: fulfilled or unfulfilled.
One common element of those divorcing later in life seems to be a previous marriage. “Fifty-three percent of the people over 50 now getting divorced have done so at least once before. . . Having been married previously doubles the risk of divorce for those ages 50 to 64; for those ages 65 and up, the risk factor quadruples,” says Brown. In addition, simply having less experience at being married may increase the chances for divorce. “Nearly one half of those who divorced in 2009 had been married fewer than 20 years; of those who stayed together, nearly three in five had been married for more than 30 years.” Family law attorneys from Jupiter to Wellington would agree that divorces in Palm Beach County are also reflecting this national trend.