Jaap Dronkers & Matthijs Kalmijn

The last decades have shown a rise in the rate of divorce in Europe. In all European countries, the probability of divorce or separation among married or cohabiting couples has increased, although in some countries more quickly and more radically than in others. At the same time in some European countries the rise of divorce rates stopped after the very strong increase of the ’70s and ‘80s, while in other countries the rise didn’t stop during the ‘90s. The rise in divorce or separation in (continental) Europe deviates from developments in the United States. The main difference is that in the US, causes and consequences of divorce are strongly connected with "old" forms of social inequality like class, education, income and ethnic group. There are some indications that this connection between old forms of social inequality and divorce is looser in (continental) Europe; for instance, the negative effect of divorce on the well being of children involved tends to be smaller in Europe than in the US. The topic of the cross-national research on divorce is "the relationships of divorce with economic and socio-cultural inequality and with the different social security and family policies within Europe".
Some demographers consider divorce to be a result of growing individualisation and secularisation in society. These two processes put pressure on the traditional values of marriage and raising children, leading to an increased divorce rate. If this is true, European societies with less secularisation and individualisation should have lower divorce . . . . .

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