Is Today’s Divorce Rate Caused By More Women In The Workplace?

I had an argument with a female friend the other day and she has a theory that the divorce rate is so high these days because there are more women in the workplace now than in the last few decades.

Before I go any further with this article I want to say that I have no problem with women in the workforce and I’m not trying to start up a controversial post, but at the same time, the argument itself is pretty intriguing.

Related: Are Financially Independent Women A Turn On

Is Dual Income The Best Thing?

Back in the day, the man of the house was the breadwinner.  The wife would be the stay-at-home-mom, take care of the kids and have supper ready when the husband got home along with all the other stereotypes that feminists hate.  With more women in the workforce today, the household chores now have to be split up and there is bound to be more stress on relationships because of it.

If both parties get home at six o’clock in the evening and both are too tired to make supper, what happens?  Do they fight about it, or do they just order take out?  What about taking the kids to hockey practice or making sure they get to bed on time?  What happens if one parent has a rough day at work?  Having a dual income definitely has its costs.

Related: Cohabitation Agreements and Living Together Common Law- What you Need to Know

My Experience

In my family my mom is a nurse practitioner and she works long, hard days.  My dad, on the other hand, argued that his days were always harder since he is a farmer.  Technically he was the stay-at-home dad, but with four sons he had no shortage of help on the farm.

Our household was always busy and since there’s an eight year difference between the oldest brother and myself, we did most of the chores and my parents didn’t have to worry too much about the constant arguing over who was going to do what.

My girlfriend’s family is a totally different scenario.  Her mother was a teacher until she had her first child, and from then on she was a stay-at-home mom.  Her father was also a teacher, but at some point he began to farm during the summer and teach at the university during the winter (not a bad gig by the way).

Her mother works hard by making sure everyone’s needs are met in the household.  I actually get overwhelmed because she rattles off 20 questions at me to make sure I’m fed and comfortable and warm enough and anything else to make sure my stay there is a good one.  At the end of the day, this family is very happy one and the marriage has gone on for over 30 years.

Generation Y’s Family Dynamic

Much can be said about women in the workplace but when you take away the stay-at-home parent, the family dynamic has to change.  The simple fact is that one parent is no longer spending all day at home making sure everyone’s needs are met.  The families where both parents work and still manage to provide the same quality of life as a stay-at-home parent does usually has a pile of added stress in their relationship.  How could it not?

Related: How To Survive And Thrive As A Single Income Family

This is probably the reason many families these days have one or two kids instead of four or five.

Readers, what do you think?  Does today’s working world put stress on the “traditional family”?

Justin Bouchard is a co-owner and writer for My University Money as well as Young and Thrifty.  Together they provide saving advice for Generation Y and try to get you through school debt free.


28 Responses to Is Today’s Divorce Rate Caused By More Women In The Workplace?

  1. Dave Dineen says:

    The obvious answer to the question posed in the headline is: yes, there’s a correlation. But there’s also a correlation between the rising divorce rate and the growth of online banking. I think we can agree that online banking doesn’t ’cause’ divorce.
    So, you’ve asked the wrong question, because there’s no end to the things you could find that correlate to the divorce rate. But if you’re looking for proof of what causes divorce to increase, there’s a far higher standard of proof required than just showing correlation.

  2. Angela says:

    In response to your question about whether having both parents in a family work creates stress for the marriage, I would like to share my perspective.

    I agree with the author that it does add certain stress if both mom and dad are working but at the same time, it reduces other stress.

    Specifically, the long days of work and then parenting – school activities, making supper, helping with homework, bedtime – its much easier if one parent stays home and deals with the parenting (could be mom or dad by the way).

    However, having the dual income alleviates the stress that would be caused by trying to live off of one salary. I’ve heard that money arguments are the number one cause of divorce.

    Having two incomes for the first eleven years of our family allowed us to pay off the mortgage, save a significant nest egg and treat our family to wonderful vacations, camping trips and other adventures.

    Just speculating but I don’t think our marriage could have survived the stress of living on one salary.

  3. Carolyn says:

    No, today’s divorce rate is not CAUSED by women in the workplace. I think changing attitudes toward womens’ roles have ’caused’ (which implies a negative connotation, rather than a positive one) both women to enter the workforce, and for people to be more comfortable with the idea of divorce.
    If women aren’t working, that makes leaving a marriage for any reason extremely difficult. With no money or livlihood of your own, how are you supposed to support yourself and possibly your children, if you leave?
    I don’t think the ‘added stress’ of both parents working has caused a higher divorce rate, so much as it has allowed women to leave rather than suffer in silence.
    You could also correlate pretty much anything to the rising divorce rate – pre-marital sex, computer use, cell phones, the internet – whatever has also increased since then. At the end of the day we’re more willing to get divorced because it is easier and the stigma attached has drastically declined, not because women are working.
    P.S. People have fewer children, because they don’t need the extra help on the farm.

  4. krantcents says:

    I think it probably contributes to the situation. As a teacher, I see children who are problems in the classroom because of divorce. Dual income parents contribute to that as well.

  5. Miranda says:

    I think Carolyn makes a good point about it being more about options than anything else. We, as women, have more options than every before. I know several women of my mother’s generation who thought about divorce at some point, and were very unhappy, but stuck it out because they had few options for supporting themselves, and no assets of their own.

    And part of it is the lifestyle you choose to live. If you have a lot of kids and both parents work, then there are going to be a number of stresses on the relationship. I think you have to decide what’s best for your family. I’m the primary breadwinner, but I work from home. My husband is an adjunct college professor. We can, for the most part, arrange our schedules the way we like, and take on more or less work as we like. We also have only one child, which makes it easier in terms of getting kids to activities, and other things. We’re happy with our arrangement, in which household chores are done by everyone, and we both have “jobs” that we like.

    However, I know that not everyone would be happy with our setup. There are families of 4 – 8 kids in our neighborhood, and one income, and they are happy. I think you really need to look at what you want, and what both partners are satisfied with, and go from there.

  6. Francoise says:

    Interesting related article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter in Atlantic Monthly at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/
    Extensive interview of Slaughter in this Saturday’s (July 5) Toronto Star but at this time there’s no link.
    However, related pieces in The Globe and Mail at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/search/?q=Anne-Marie+Slaughter/article4365679/

  7. SE Book says:

    I believe it has affected the family dynamic to a point where it has made it easier for woman to leave situations they they do not like anymore. not as many woman depend on the husband to support them.

  8. Beth says:

    This conversation leaves me with more questions than answers. Are more women seeing divorce? Are more men seeking divorce? Are more couples mutually seeking divorce?

    I think saying that women have more financial independence therefore they can leave their marriages is simplifying things a little too much. I wonder if the reasons why people are miserable in their marriages — falling out of love, infidelity, abuse — are increasing too? What role does society’s changing expectations have? Changing laws that make it easier to get out of a marriage? Now to mention changing attitudes regarding self-fulfillment and commitment.

    Very confusing indeed!

  9. Justin @ MUM says:

    @ Carolyn – I’m not saying that the sole reason for climbing divorce rates are because of women in the work place… Its just one of the many reasons like you had mentioned. I also didn’t mean for it to imply negative implications in any way. I agree with all of your other points though, except the one about people having less kids because they don’t need the farm labour. I bet the religious views on contraception plays a role as well.

    @ Krantcents – As a teacher I could only imagine what you see…

    @ Beth – Ever read freakonomics? They linked the US law of being able to carry out abortions to the crime rate 20 years that declined 18-20 years after. Very neat read.

    • Beth says:

      Thanks for the book recommendation! It sounds like something that’s up my ally!

      Oddly enough, I’ve also heard that the declining crime rate has to do with our population aging. Crime is most commonly among young men, so as the baby boomers age, there are less young men and therefore less crime. Ha.

  10. My eyes are open says:

    There’s no easy answer, a lot depends on each individual in the couple, the flexibility of their workplaces, their commutes, what kind of child care is available to them. In the past, when ‘mom’ was available at home, she often internalized the stress, sometimes resorting to drink and/or drugs. Women had lower expectations for their lives and less education, many probably were content, but many others probably felt stuck.

  11. Laura says:

    There are many factors that lead to a couple’s divorce and I don’t think bring a working woman is one of the main reasons. Couples negotiate and compromise when making a decision that’ll fit their lifestyle. So if the woman has or wants to work, it should not become a stressor to the marriage and family. There has to be an arrangement that works for the family.

    If the woman in the workplace is indeed the cause of divorce, then probably the people in the relationship aren’t open-minded and adult enough in the decisions they’re making.

  12. Interesting question. I don’t think gender necessarily has anything to do with it; I know our household ran a little smoother when my husband stayed at home for a few years when our youngest son was born. Now, we both juggle to ensure everything gets done, and I don’t think either of us feels the division of labour is unfair, but it is definitely a lot of work with both of us working full time.

    I do agree with a lot of the comments though; being in the workforce and earning my own living allowed me to choose to leave my first husband because I could afford to support my first two kids on my own. Had I not been working, I would have been stuck.

  13. SE Book says:

    I think it might have made it easier for woman to leave but I don’t believe it has caused it.

  14. Robert in Toronto says:

    Feminist Ideology (Hate) & societal acceptance & promotion of Cluster-B Personality Disorders in females is the cause of the divorce rates. It is not possible to have it all without something breaking (usually the kids). I was a stay at home Dad because we wanted a family but she was unwilling to care for them. She is still neglecting them even though she has custody. Modern women are simply selfish monsters, you will be seeing a generation of real damaged kids very soon. Women’s delusional mental health issues are to blame.

    Calling irresponsible or selfish behaviour empowerment is delusional, you are monsters.

    Save your shaming language & accusations about over generalizing. Ladies, take responsibility for the consequences of your actions.. You ARE to blame (Bitter Fat Divorced Women), enjoy your Prozak.

    • Beth says:

      Wow… just wow. I’ve dated men with this attitude and while I understand a bad marriage can leave lasting scars, I don’t think it’s fair to condemn all women because of the actions of a few.

      Some women, like some men, can be selfish and cruel — but there are many of us who are neither. I’ve learned not to waste my time on people who are so hard-hearted they can’t see past their bad experiences. I hope in time you’ll find closure and healing.

      • Robert in Toronto says:

        “because of the actions of a few”

        Take the red pill & open up your eyes. Do a few years researching the state of mental health in North America.

        No I didn’t say ALL but lets just quantify it now shall we:

        70% of divorces are initiated by women based on their “feelings” not reponsibilities or commitments.

        41% (the majority) of violence against children is perpetraited by mothers.

        I could go on & on (& that is my damage). My experience is echoed in the facts of our society (54% divorce rate). At the heart of that, the MAJORITY, is the fact that MOST women are operating with a distructive mindset of selfishness. Look it up.. Cluster-B Borderline.

        As far as your dating history.. what has that got to do with anything? Get over yourself & your gynocentric viewpoint. I have. There is NO reason for a man to get married in this day & age because as you have pointed out it is a waste of time.

        Of the people who have long term marriages lasting more than 15 years.. ONLY 12% report being happy.

        Marriage has been destroyed.
        Families have been destroyed.
        Children are being destroyed.
        Feminism is at the heart of this.
        Women are monsters (but that is nothing new).

        Own it Beth. Me, I will not be dating & that is fine with me. You are only running into other guys like me BECAUSE of the prevelance of your own “sisters” monsterous behaviours. Get used to it because will not be getting any better.

  15. My wife and I both worked the first two years we were parents, but she’s been a stay at home mom for the last two years, so we’ve experienced both sides of the fence. I don’t know if stress really decreases with either scenario, it’s just different stress. If my wife isn’t tired from working all day as a teacher, she’s tire from managing the home for 10 hours straight with no relief. I don’t see either scenarios as easy.

  16. gigi says:

    Both my parents and grandparents worked out of necessity and all are/were happily married. Believing work leads to divorce is a very western, bourgeois, WASP-y idea. Some women don’t have the option to stay at home with their kids (myself included) and are able to manage just fine. What do I think leads to high divorce rates? Unreasonable expectations, lack of compromise, and greed.

  17. Real Person 1 says:

    Destroy the idea of marriage and let everyone shack up with whoever they want,and let the old raise the kids on government welfare. Bring in abortions for all and promote gaydom for teens.
    Keep everyone medicated and entertained 24/7 so they don’t notice or even care.
    Problems solved –
    … and quit blaming women.

    • Robert in Toronto says:

      My apologies for any offence above. Feminsism is a sick Ideology of hatered (do your homework, this is not equil rights), Women are simply females. Mentally healthy women work to maintain their relationships & sacrifice to ensure their children thrive.

      Women & men who support feminism are supporting an Ideology which is harmful to relationships, marriage, family & children. These individuals are monsters.

      People MUST actually do their homework as to what feminism is about today & the long term impact it is having. This Ideology is destructive.

      Myself, I married 27 years ago for the purpose of having a family. That was destroyed (& the kids are still suffering) at the hands of a TYPICAL woman. Maybe a better strategy than what you propose.. Micheal Jackson did this:

      - Decide that you want a family.
      - Hire a surrogate uterus
      - Hire a nanny (surrogate wife)
      - Live without problems

      The rest of the feminist women can do what they want as long as the state (& my taxes) do not have to pick up the child care costs.

      This sounds like a better solution given the fact that MOST children raised by single fathers have vastly fewer issues than children from single mother households. Yeah!

      • Echo says:

        @Robert – I just wanted to jump in here and say that we don’t tolerate trolls on this blog, so if you’re trying to antagonize the readers here, please stop.

        You’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m sorry you went through a difficult marriage, but your comments on women is an over-generalization and there’s no place here for attacking our readers.

        • Beth says:

          I think you’re closing the gate after the horse has bolted here.

          Robert’s comments are telling of his own character, not anyone else’s, but they do affect the integrity of this blog. If you didn’t tolerate hate speech, it wouldn’t still be here.

  18. TyDoe says:

    I mean its obvious, when you take in account various socioeconomic factors that have occured im the past 7 decades.And with that said, the question should be do you know what factors those are????

  19. Ken Maynard - Divorce Mediator says:

    With the higher divorce rate comes the need for a divorce process geared to better outcomes.

    Recently its was reported the average cost of a litigated divorce is $78,000 and the average cost of divorce in Ontario with mediation is less than $7,000. In Ontario our Chief Justice Warren Winkler is so concerned about the high cost of divorce in terms of money and time, he is proposing mandatory mediation and arbitration.

    Factoring in all the other benefits of mediation, it is incredible that anyone would choose to litigate over mediation. If you have children and are contemplating divorce you can choose litigation, or you can choose a more comfortable and affordable retirement.

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