Volume 37 - Article 38 | Pages 1275–1296  

Introduction to the Special Collection on Separation, Divorce, Repartnering, and Remarriage around the World

By Andrew Cherlin

This article is part of the Special Collection 21 "Separation, Divorce, Repartnering, and Remarriage around the World"


Background: This is an introduction to a special collection of articles that, in earlier versions, were presented at the International Seminar on Union Breakdown and Repartnering around the World, in Montreal, Canada, in 2015, sponsored by the Panel on Nuptiality of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.

Methods: This introduction synthesizes the contributions of the articles in the special collection and in the research literature.

Results: The rate of formal divorce is negatively correlated worldwide with indicators of social class such as education, as William J. Goode (1963, 1993) predicted. But the stable high-divorce societies he noted have disappeared, and stable low-divorce societies are rare. Rates of formal divorce have leveled off and even declined in nations that used to have some of the highest levels. However, the increase in the number of dissolutions of cohabiting unions and the increase in the formation of higher-order cohabiting unions means that total rates of union dissolution and repartnering, including both marital and nonmarital unions, have probably not declined over time and may even be increasing. Moreover, the negative correlation between education and divorce is not apparent for the dissolution of cohabiting unions.

Conclusions: In terms of formal divorce, we may be seeing a partial convergence internationally to levels below the highest rates ever observed but still relatively high. The rise of cohabitation, however, means that total rates of dissolution and repartnering remain high.

Contribution: This special collection provides a broad international overview of trends in union dissolution and repartnering.

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