"Gray Divorce" is a growing trend. in 2013, researchers Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin sociologists at Bowling Green State University, working under a grant, wrote Working Paper WP-13-03, published in March 2013 as The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce among Middle-aged and Older Adults, 1990-2010. They explored the significance of later life divorce. The authors said: "As early as 30 years ago, researchers argued that divorce among older adults would be a growing trend." These studies gave several educated guesses why this would occur.
- Remarriages are more likely to end in divorce than are first marriages
- The stigma of earlier times regarding divorce has disappeared
- Females, who are more likely to be employed and have greater autonomy now than in the days of Ozzie and Harriet , have greater freedom to seek divorce and live independent of a husband.
- People are living longer. This increases the likelihood that a marriage (or re-marriage) might end in divorce as opposed to ending by death of a spouse.
- Many people have greater expectations in life and want marriage with a spouse who is a real partner. If spouses "grow apart," one or both is more likely to see divorce and re-marriage or life as a single to be more appealing than an empty sham marriage.
In 2012, Brown and Lin published a study about the divorce experience of today's middle-aged and older adults by estimating divorce rates across socio-demographic subgroups and examining key correlates of divorce. Empirical evidence updating studies published prior to 1990 examined the changing incidence or rate of divorce as well as the risk factors associated with divorce for both middle-aged and older adult cohorts.
Brown and Lin concluded that the traditional focus of gerontological research on widowhood must be expanded to include divorce as another form of marital dissolution. Their research showed that divorce rate among adults aged 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010. According to their research, over 600,000 people aged 50 and older got divorced in 2010 but little is known about the predictors and consequences of divorces that occur during middle and later life. Demographic characteristics, economic resources, and the marital biography were associated with the risk of divorce in 2010. The rate of divorce was 2.5 times higher for those in remarriages versus first marriages (perhaps because once divorced, the perceived stigma of divorce had blurred or disappeared. The authors found, however, that the divorce rate declined as marital duration increased.
Brown, Susan L., and I-Fen Lin. The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults, 1990–2010
J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci (2012) 67 (6): 731-741 first published online October 9, 2012 doi:10.1093/geronb/gbs089