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Opinion: Boomers' singular history impacts attitudes toward divorce

In our immediately preceding blog post, we noted a phenomenon that one sociology professor and author terms a “counterintuitive” reality in the realm of family law.

That is this: Although certain evidence has shown over time that marriages are more susceptible to breakup within their first decade, data recently indicate that the only demographic to actually show a spike in its divorce rate over the past two decades is the 50-and-older crowd.

That group is, of course, the baby boomers, and writer Pepper Schwartz has an interesting take on why what she calls the “50-plusers” are leading the pack when it comes to divorce.

Bottom line: They’re just different.

Really.

In fact, and when compared with other age groups, Schwartz says that the boomers have experienced a comparatively headier dose of dramatic and impactful social, political and other dislocations (think the Vietnam War, political assassinations, civil rights, women’s liberation, Woodstock and more). That “unique social history,” she states, has rendered boomers more amenable than other generations to experimentation, rejection of the status quo … and divorce, even in their later years.

Schwartz contrasts that collective embrace -- not for all boomers, of course, but for many -- of change and what she calls boomers’ ready willingness for “redefining the parameters of personal relationships” with the greater restraint of so-called “30-somethings.”

After all, those younger people are products of a high rate of boomer divorces from bygone years, which Schwartz says makes them “more sober about marriage than boomers were at the same ages.”

Additionally, the economy these days is far from being as warm and welcoming as it was when boomers grew up and came of age. That reality makes many younger persons focus on personal security and taking careful steps moving forward.

In short, notes Schwartz, it contributes to a conservative posture across many realms, including attitudes toward divorce.

Source: CNN, "Why are baby boomers so divorce-prone?" Pepper Schwartz, Dec. 9, 2013

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