Military Women’s Divorce Rates

Aug 8, 2012 by

According to an article published by the Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Brookings Institution, statistics from the Pentagon show that women in the military get divorced at much higher rates than civilian women and their marriages are twice as likely to end in divorce as those of military men. The ratio jumps to three times as likely to get a divorce if the females are enlisted women.

The stress and strain on military marriages was not helped by the fact that the Pentagon numbers show that over 200,000 women have already served in the Afghanistan and Iraq warfronts. The numbers indicate that 7.8% of military women overall got a divorce in the last year compared with the 3% of military men who got divorced in the same period. The largest component of the U.S. military forces is the group of enlisted soldiers who are not commissioned officers. Of those enlisted corps, nearly 9% of the women got divorced within the last 12 months, compared 3% for enlisted men. When compared to people outside the military, military women get divorced at higher rates and military men get divorced at lower rates. Compounding the troubles for military marriages is the fact that nearly half of the married women in military service are married to someone who is also in the service. Men in the military don’t share that statistic, as fewer than 10% of all military men are married to someone in the service.

Many experts have weighed-in on the growing problem of military women’s marriages ending in divorce as the percentage has been increasing for a decade. It appears military women get more divorces due to a combination of different pressures. Because the military treats women the same as men in terms of duty assignments, the women can have a harder time meeting career expectations and fulfilling their traditional societal family roles at the same time.

Although comparing divorce rates between the military and civilian marriages is an inexact science, the numbers do show that the military women divorce at higher rates and military women between the ages of 40 and 50 are twice as likely to be in their second marriage as civilian women in the same age group. Military women married to civilian men have higher divorce rates too, and their civilian husbands are also more likely to be unemployed. The realities of military life for a family with a woman in the service often mean that in addition to being the primary wage earner, many female soldiers returning from overseas get little support to help them transition back to their roles as wives and mothers in the household. The situation shows the burden of divorce is not equally shared between men and women in the military today, and the women in uniform continue to bear most of the load.  


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