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Effects of divorce on women
3 October 2011 | Love & Relationships
Divorce increases psychological problems among women.
Divorce increases psychological problems among women.

Divorce has far-reaching, long-lasting effects, both on the personal lives and well being of women who get divorced and on society as a whole. Many studies have concluded that divorce affects women more powerfully and more negatively than it affects men, personally, emotionally and financially. Some sociologists have concluded that divorce contributes to many societal problems, including what they call the "feminization of poverty."

Financial effects
A woman often encounters financial distress after divorce, because she loses her husband's salary as a source of income. A divorced woman is likely to end up in the bottom quartile of income distribution, explains the Centre for Economic Performance. An article published in the American Sociological Review concurs, concluding that the average divorced woman has less money than the average married woman, even when accounting for certain variables. The authors state that all women face significant "economic vulnerability outside of marriage."

Health-related effects
Divorced women experience mental distress and psychological problems, such as depression, both immediately after the divorce and for as long as a decade afterward. By the time 10 years have passed, they also are in worse physical health than married women, and their lives contain more stress, explains an article in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Effects on women vs. men
Divorce's negative effects harm women more than men. Because women usually take custody of the couple's children, they bear greater financial burdens and face more stress in their lives. Further, single women tend to experience poverty more than single men, largely because they earn less for the same jobs and because they often work in lower-paying careers, according to the Network on the Family and the Economy. Divorce often grants men more freedom and fewer responsibilities, whereas divorced women face greater hardships.

Influence of no-fault divorce
Since no-fault divorce laws were instituted, more people have ended their marriages; as a result, the overall number of women suffering the effects of divorce has increased, "The Law and Economics of Marriage and Divorce" explains. These laws have also made it more convenient and less injurious for men, who tend to earn more money, to abandon their wives, who earn less and are at more of a disadvantage after divorce.


Effects on society
Because divorce often hinders and harms women in several ways, the rise in divorce has also created a greater taxpayer burden, notes "The Law and Economics of Marriage and Divorce." Government welfare for single mothers and their children has continually increased in the United States. In the last 50 years, the percentage of single-mother households has risen from 8 percent to more than a quarter of the U.S. population, notes the Network on the Family and the Economy. Women account for 90 percent of those single parents. The government has also spent more money offering mental health services, since divorce increases psychological problems among women.

Expert insight
Some experts want to strengthen divorce laws--making it more difficult to obtain a divorce--in order to protect women, the American Sociological Review states. From a sociological standpoint, "The Law and Economics of Marriage and Divorce" agrees, stricter divorce laws could shield women from the disadvantages of divorce and could improve the quality of both men's and women's lives over the long term. When marriage seems more permanent, people feel more willing to invest in relationships and to cooperate in reaching long-term goals.

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