One quarter of couples married in the early 1990s are divorced 20 years later

wsdlogo3One in six couples who married around 1970 were divorced 20 years later. The ratio for couples married in the early 1990s will be one in four.

Marriage still popular, but less enduring

Most young people dream of living with a partner. Single people in their twenties who prefer to remain single are extremely rare: 90 percent want to live together and most of them want to marry, too. Three in four male singles in their twenties and 85 percent of their female counterparts want to marry. Despite the quest for the ideal partner and the desire to marry, marriages appear to be less enduring than in the past.

One in six couples who married in the late 1960s or early 1970s were divorced within 20 years. One quarter of couples who married in the early 1990s are or will be divorced in the years to come. 

Share of divorces within 20 years

Share of divorces within 20 years

Family Formation Survey

Data on relations and family formation in the Netherlands are based upon the Family Formation Survey 2008 (OG2008) conducted by Statistics Netherlands. The aim of the OG2008 is to collect additional information on relation and family formation on top of the information drawn from the municipal population registers (GBA).

The survey is conducted every five years and the most recent survey was conducted in the period March–August 2008. Eventually, 3,814 men and 3,997 women in the age category 18-62 were interviewed. The GBA functioned as framework for the sample survey. All persons living in the pre-selected municipalities and born in the period 1945-1989 qualified for the sample survey.

Participants in the OG2008 were interviewed on a face-to-face basis by Statistics Netherlands by means of an electronic questionnaire. In the end, 60 percent of selected persons actually participated in the survey. The non-response group consisted of 4,408 persons, of whom 69 refused to participate, 14 percent were not at home and the category ‘other’ included 17 percent.

Projected number of divorces 

For marriages in particular years, it is possible to trace back, whether these marriages were dissolved by divorce or death.  The survey data allow so-called ’cohort comparison’. Couples are monitored over a period of time to establish, whether they are still married or divorced.

Couples who got married in the period 1990-1994 and were still together in 2008 were then married for 14 to 19 years. The risk of divorce for these couples before their twentieth marriage anniversary could not be established in 2008, but Statistics Netherlands could estimate the risk on the basis of data regarding couples who got married in the period 1985-1989.

Jan Latten and Arie de Graaf