gray divorce

A recent analysis found that divorce has increased among middle-aged and older Americans, even as younger generations are less likely to get divorced. According to Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research, divorce rates for 55+ Americans doubled and tripled for those over 65 from 1990 to 2021. Simultaneously, divorce rates among young adults have dropped.

Sociologist Brad Wilcox says the increase in divorce among Baby Boomers is due to various factors, from cultural shifts in attitudes toward marriage to where these adults are currently at in life’s journey. He told Fox News Digital, “There’s been an uptick in divorce among Baby Boomers since the 1970s. They were part of a generation that came of age in the 1970s and late 1960s when there was a much more individualistic spirit that was coursing through American life. It was called ‘The Me Decade’ by Tom Wolfe, who was a famous writer at that time.”

At the Institute for Family Studies, Wilcox analyzes marriage, family and divorce trends in the United States. He says time has shown that Baby Boomers are more likely to get divorced than other generations, in part because of this independent streak that’s shaped this generation. He said, “So from the 1970s onward, we’ve kind of seen that the Baby Boomers have been much more likely to get divorced.” But other factors are driving the “gray divorce” trend, he says. After their kids have moved out, many Americans in their 50s and 60s are more comfortable getting divorced.

Wilcox argued, “I think more and more couples have some appreciation for this idea that it’s better for the kids’ sake to remain married, that your kids are more likely to flourish in school and life if you remain married.” Putting kids’ priorities above the marriage relationship puts many couples at risk, but it particularly hurts couples in their 50s, Wilcox said. His data shows couples who neglect investing time, energy, and attention to their spouses in favor of their kids struggle to “keep that spark alive in their marriage.”

He also said that self-centered mindsets and misguided “romanticized” views of marriage can also lead couples to divorce. Wilcox said, “After kids are gone, then they’re more likely to say, ‘Well, I’ve basically done what I can and should for my children. And now, it’s time for me to experience romance’ at age 58 or, 65, or even 72. So that’s a big part of the dynamic that is playing out as well. Obviously, there are cases, too, where people have been putting up with alcoholism or physical abuse or other more severe patterns in a marriage for many, many years. And they’re just like, ‘Well, I’ve had it, I’m out.'”

Sociologists say increased life expectancy and financial disputes also drive the “Gray Divorce” trend. However, divorce later in life can have a “devastating” financial impact, particularly on women, one study found. Divorce can take a heavy toll on most couples, but ensuing conflicts over homes, retirement savings and the assets invested in over a decades-long relationship can have an even more crushing impact on older couples.

“When people are getting divorced, even at a later age, they often pay a hefty financial penalty for it,” Wilcox said. Certified Financial Planner Patti Black told USA Today that couples should consider carefully the financial costs before calling it quits.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad