Marital Separation, Divorce, and Health Consequences

Dmitry Tumin, Ohio State University
Zhenchao Qian, Ohio State University

Marital separation is legally and socially ambiguous. Does it indicate an end of a marriage or a process of reconciliation? Little is known about the duration of separation and why some initiate separation and others divorce right away. It is also unclear whether negative health consequences associated with divorce apply to separation. We explore marital separations in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort. Separation is commonplace: 60% of first marriages lead to separations and 54% of first divorces are preceded by separations. Minorities, women with young children, and the less educated tend to separate rather than divorce and tend to remain separated longer. Negative health consequences of separation are statistically indistinguishable from those of divorce. Our results suggest that disadvantaged, vulnerable populations tend to remain separated and the health consequences are likely to be longer lasting for them than for those whose divorces were not preceded by separation.

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Presented in Session 199: Family and Union Instability in the U.S.