I’m not going to bury the lede, here. U.S. researchers just released a study looking at which party is more likely to divorce the other following an affair. The conclusion of the study, supported by the National Institute for Child Development, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation, is pretty straightforward.
Results suggest that it is more common to leave because one is having an affair, or to have an affair because one has decided to leave, than it is to discover one’s spouse having an affair and initiate a divorce.
In other words, the one taking action in the affair is the one taking action in the divorce.
But what’s really interesting about this study, is not this single finding, but the stuff buried inside. I’ll refrain from making any comparisons to calzones, but the tables below are where it gets good.
What Are We Looking At?
Data, from 747 divorcing couples in the U.S.
What Does It Say?
If you look at the OR column and note the factors with at least one asterisk, it tells which were positively correlated with the wife (versus the husband) wanting a divorce. The more asterisks, the more unlikely this positive correlation is due to random chance.
In words, it might look like this:
The wife is approximately twice as likely to be the one wanting the divorce more when she is younger than the husband; put another way, the husband is much less likely to leave a wife who is younger than himself.
Women who were married and divorced from a previous husband are approximately four times more likely to be the one wanting the divorce more in the more recent marriage;
Even race was positively correlated with women wanting divorce.
What Else Is Interesting?
One of the most fascinating things, to me, is what isn’t correlated. Wanting to divorce your husband wasn’t correlated with differences in finances or spats over household tasks. It also didn’t correlate to education or annual earnings.
What About The Husbands?
There are tables for that too. But quite frankly, I’m more interested in the women.
What Does It Mean?
Of course, the other part of these studies, and why people criticize sites like FiveThirtyEight, is the lack of context for this data. So while the numbers exist, it doesn’t mean they say anything meaningful about the relationship between the two things being measured. As the authors say:
We have avoided causal language, as we cannot be sure whether this means that one is more open to affairs because of having decided to leave a marriage, that having an affair makes one decide to leave to live with the new partner, or that both affairs and divorce are driven by the same antecedents.