New research indicates couples married more than 20 years are now twice as likely to divorce than they were just a generation before.
One clear pattern to the timing, researchers say, is parents staying together until their children are grown.
This comes from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, which compiles the information from extensive public data and annual surveys.
In 1980, the AIFS report found 13 percent of 20-year marriages ended in divorce.
The latest finding has that figure more than doubling to 28 percent. The results are from 2011 – the most recent statistics available.
“In 1980, 13 percent of 20-year marriages ended in
divorce. That figure is now at 28 percent.”
Professor Alan Hayes, director of the AIFS, said in most cases it was the wife who instigated the proceedings. More than 60 percent were requested by the woman, catching many husbands off guard.
“It comes as a shock to most men. They may form a relationship but not reside in the same household,” Hayes said. “In the past, they were in the same household but unhappily married.”
Hayes says when these couples do stay together, it’s usually for the same reason.
“I think there is an element of people sticking together for the kids,” he said.
While more women asked for a divorce, the study indicated men had an easier time adjusting to the change.
Divorced, middle-aged men were found to be more likely to remarry and were faster to re-commit to a partner than their female counterparts.
The study also found the number of divorces involving children under 18 has declined overall. In 1971, two-thirds of divorcing couples had young children. The current figures are slightly less than half.