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Baby Boomers: Divorce Trends, Distinct Attitudes, Social Change

Baby boomers are readily associated with many things, including the post-WWII prosperity of the 1950s, the social and political dislocations of the 1960s and their now immediate relevance as a large and aging group to debates concerning Social Security retirement and entitlement programs.

And, oh yes, divorce. Statistics clearly support the veracity of one social commentator's recent description of the boomers as "the most divorce-prone generation in history."

How prone? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, fully one fourth of all divorces in 2007 featured couples who had tied the knot 20 years ago or more. Although that undoubtedly includes a smattering of 30-somethings and quite a few more couples in their 40s, demographers state that it fully embraces the boomer generation.

We have discussed the phenomenon of "grey divorce" in a previous blog post (June 3). Researchers and a number of divorce attorneys note that it is connected to a number of diverse factors, including the growing financial power of women and couples simply growing apart after the kids are gone. One recently divorced boomer says the predominant factor underlying his divorce was "largely just kind of a disaffectation."

Other boomers echo that refrain, the "fade-away divorce as opposed to divorce by crisis."

As a result of that, many family law experts say that baby boomer divorces are often less acrimonious than those of other age groups and focused more centrally on not burning bridges but, rather, retaining what was good (e.g., memories, kids, grandkids) and just moving on.

For boomers, that "moving on" is marked ever more progressively by a failure to re-marry. Although the 50-plus segment of the American population is cohabiting at a faster growing rate than any other age group, those relationships are resulting in new marriages less frequently than in previous years.

Related Resource: Kansas City Star, "Gray divorces: Long-married boomers cut the knot" July 18, 2011

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