The structure of the family unit has changed substantially over the past few decades. It was once the standard for the wife to stay home with the children and keep house. In 1950, there were just eighteen million in the American workforce. By 2000, that number had grown to sixty-six million. Projections indicate that in the next few years, women will make up 51% of the American workforce. These changes have not altered the fact that people are still getting married and building their lives together. However, a recent study suggests that there is a link between a woman’s professional success and divorce.
In 2018, Swedish researchers released a study that followed thirty years of Swedish register data that detailed the careers of individuals and tracked their progress. The employees were an average of fifty years old and had been married for about twenty years. The results of the study indicate that if a woman becomes successful in her career, it could become problematic for marital harmony. The study determined that in private firms, women who were promoted to CEO were twice as likely as men to get divorced within three years of their promotion.
The researchers determined that the change in financial success after a promotion was likely not the cause of these divorces. Instead, the researchers determined that if the couple focused more energy and resources on the husband’s career early on in the relationship, they were more likely to divorce if the wife was promoted and successful later on. Moreover, couples who focused equally on both spouses’ careers were not more likely to get divorced if the wife became successful in her career.
The researchers developed three theories as to why these promotions resulted in higher divorce rates. First, the promotion could be unexpected and even unwelcome when a couple has spent time focusing on the husband’s career. Next, the wife’s promotion likely results in having to reallocate household responsibilities, which could create even more stress if in the past the husband was not responsible for many domestic chores. Finally, they determined that women tend to leave marriages that offer very little flexibility and support for her developing career.
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