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article imageOp-Ed: Empty nesters more likely to divorce but stats looking weird

By Paul Wallis     May 26, 2013 in Lifestyle
Sydney - A new Australian study has found that “re-evaluation and “re-prioritization” of marriages and relationships is more likely among the empty nesters. Yes, it’s another foray into the study of divorce, with some clinical vocabulary cluttering it up.
Sydney Morning Herald:
Research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found a sharp increase in the number of couples calling it quits after 20 years of marriage.
The number of divorces after 20 years of marriage rose from 13 per cent in 1990 to 28 per cent in 2011 while the number of divorces for shorter marriages fell in the same period.
Self-supporting logic? Yep. Before nest empties, married, after nest empties, not married. Women are more likely to initiate divorce, according to the study, which apparently reflects more economic independence. The number of other things it might reflect isn’t mentioned, then added:
Increasing longevity had also left middle-aged couples wondering whether they wanted to spend the next 30 or 40 years tolerating their spouse.
Ahem. There are more things to argue about when you’re not minding the eggs and hunting down the worms, in fact, for empty nesters. Busy people don’t get on each other’s nerves as much because they’re busy. Kids add dimensions, and when those dimensions are gone, the whole shape of the marriage is likely to change.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics site has some other information dated 2010, but in the same bandwidth as the new study:
In 2010, the median length of marriage before separation was 8.8 years, just over one year longer than in 1990 (7.5 years). The median length of time before divorcing increased by two years, from 10.2 years in 1990 to 12.3 years in 2010.
Couples are also now separated for longer prior to divorce. In 1990, the average length of time between separation and divorce was 2.7 years. In 2010 this gap had increased to 3.5 years.
(Those are averages, by the way. The length of time before divorce may also relate to legal time frames.) The “separation factor” is a natural extension of the study’s reference. It’s not mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald article, but it also means the actual length of functional marriages is a question to be answered.
Another grim fact from ABS indicates the empty nest is as much metaphor as folklore:
The reality of divorce means that many children live without regular contact with one of their parents (usually the father) after separation. In 2009-10, of the 5 million children aged 0-17 years, just over 1 million, or one in five (21%), had a natural parent living elsewhere. For four fifths (81%) of these children, the parent living elsewhere was their father.
Meaning the nest may be emptied by other methods of other things. A site called adds some very heavy data of its own:
• In Australia, every third marriage ends in divorce;
• About 29% of Australians never marry;
• During the past two decades, Australians started to marry less and divorce more;
• About one-third of children today are born outside the traditional marriage;
• Men are more likely to die than to divorce (33.4% chance for a marriage to end in divorce, and 47% chance for a man to die while married);
• Women are more likely to divorce than to die (33.4% chance for a marriage to end in divorce, and 22% chance for a woman to die while married) - this is due to longer life expectancy for women;
This is a social environment for context with the new study. Marriage was inevitable 60 years ago. Now, over a quarter of the population doesn’t marry at all. Stay tuned for someone finally trying to figure out a profile for male/female relationships which relate to the future. The image of marriage is now blurry at best.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Australian divorce statistics, Empty nest syndrome, separation period in divorce stats, future of marriage
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