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Can 2 Questions Predict Divorce?

Posted by Jonathan W. Lounsberry | Mar 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

Recently, Erin Brodwin wrote an article for Business Insider reporting the results of a study conducted by University of Virginia economic researchers in effort to determine if answers to the following questions could predict divorce, or at least be strong indicators:

  • On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being much worse and 5 being much better, how do you think your level of happiness would be different if you and your partner separated?
  • How do you think your partner's level of happiness would be different if you and your partner separated? (Use the same scale.)

The researchers (Leora Friedberg and Steven Stern) analyzed the answers of 3,597 couples to the two unique questions from the  National Survey of Families and Households at two different points in time (between 1987-1988 and six years after the survey results were collected) to see their effect on asymmetric information and bargaining in the marital relationships.

According to the results of the study, approximately 7% of the couples surveyed ended their relationships in divorce. Ms. Brodwin's article does a nice job of explaining the overall breakdown of how the couples' responses correlated with whether their marriage ended in divorce. Her “big takeaway” from Friedberg and Stern's study is failure to properly communicate how you feel about your marriage with your spouse “could be a forerunner of trouble down the road.”

This is not a far-reaching conclusion, either. When spouses cannot accurately express their feelings about the other or their marriage, marital communication skills begin to degrade. An inability to accurately gauge your spouse's feelings or voice your feelings towards the marriage causes each spouse to question the other's actions. While this may not cause your relationship to end in divorce, it can certainly “… be a forerunner of trouble down the road.” An inability to properly communicate is a more likely predictor of divorce.

Keep in mind, answers to the questions referenced above may not predict whether a divorce is imminent; instead, they can give each spouse a clear indication of where the other stands and if both view their relationship in the same way.

Source: “How you and your partner answer 2 questions can help predict if your relationship will last”by Erin Brodwin, published at Business Insider and Leora Friedberg and Steven Stern, Marriage, Divorce, and Asymmetric Information, 55 International Economic Review 1155-1199 (2014).

About the Author

Jonathan W. Lounsberry

Senior Associate Attorney


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