The Major Predictor of Divorce among Married Couples in the United States

Subject: Family
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1366
Topics: Divorce, Marriage, Parenting, Social Issues


The issue of divorce is one that has affected the American society in a greater way. Children from single-parent families face the great risk of living dissatisfactory lives, owing to the social and economic challenges that they face, which may not be the same for children with two parents. The available statistics have indicated that divorce in the U.S. is on the rise, considering that an estimated 50% of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce (Ni, 2013). According to an article published in The Psychology Today , 43% of all marriages in Australia, 47% of all marriages in the United Kingdom, 48% of all marriages in Canada an 53% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce (Ni, 2013). Such statistics serves to indicate that divorce is a serious matter not only in the United States but also in the rest of the developed world, which cannot be ignored. 

Purpose of the study 

According to a study undertaken by Gottman & Levenson (2000), through observing the traits such as the affective interaction between couples, marital satisfaction and thoughts of marital dissolution for a period of the first 14 years of the couple’s marriage, it is possible to predict divorce with 93% accuracy (p. 737). The study therefore suggests that the predictors of divorce in marriages are well known, and can easily be identified in the relationships between couples long before the coupled get divorced. After four decades of research on marriage and divorce, Dr. John Gottman, who is one of the most accomplished researchers and authors on matters of marriage and divorce, came to a conclusion that there was only one fundamental predictor of divorce among all married couples, which is contempt (Gold, 2016). This study therefore seeks to establish if contempt is the most important predictor of divorce among married couples in the United States. 

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Research question: Is contempt the most important predictor of divorce among married couples in the United States

Literature Review

Divorce among married couples in the developed world continues to emerge as one of the major social issues that are negatively affecting social progress. The first 7 years of marriage are the most critical, during which most of the divorces among the married couples occur (Gottman & Levenson, 2000). Some of the most important predictors of divorce among married couples traditionally have been issues such as low levels of marital satisfaction and persistent thoughts of marital separation, which have been found to be very reliable predictors of actual divorce (Gottman & Levenson, 2000). However, the contemporary research has indicated that there are far more primary predictors of divorce among married couples, some of which include lack of communication, lack of affection between the couples and defensiveness (Ni, 2013). However, one fundamental factor surpasses all in tilting any marriage towards divorce, regardless of whether the marriage is in its early 7 years of marriage which are at a high risk of encountering divorce, or whether the marriage is in its later years. Contempt, which refers to the perpetual feelings of anger and disgust towards the other person, has been cited as he most fundamental predictor of divorce among married couples (Gold, 2016). 

Contempt in marriage is the feeling and attitude of perceiving the spouse or the other marriage partner as inferior and unequal, while perceiving oneself as superior. Contempt is also the concept of a marriage partner being tougher on the person of the other spouse in the marriage, while being soft on the issue of contention (Ni, 2013). In this respect, the marriage partner tends to blame the other partner for certain mistakes, weaknesses and limitations observable in the marriage, as opposed to perceiving the issue or problem from a contextual perspective that may encompass other confounding factors and externalities. In a contemptuous communication, the argument about a mistake or an issue in marriage shifts from focusing on the issue to getting personal, thus becoming tougher, critical and demeaning of the person, as opposed to the issue or behavior in question (Gold, 2016). 

Contempt in marriage is a dangerous phase that indicates that the marriage has already surpassed the levels of the couples overlooking the mistakes of others or addressing them constructively. When marriage reaches the contempt stage, it indicates the fact that the marriage partners are already tired of one another, as opposed to being tired of the issues in their marriage (Ni, 2013). Stonewalling, which is basically lack of communication between the couples where the couples avoid discussing the problematic or painful issues surrounding their marriages has been identified as a major cause of divorce (Gold, 2016). Nevertheless, it is the communication with contempt that effectively indicates that a spouse has disconnected with the partner spouse’s needs and emotional, thus paving the way for a complete separation and divorce (Ni, 2013).


The study will apply a qualitative research design to conduct a survey of how contempt as a behavior among married couples is an important predictor that informs the divorce of the married couples. The survey will entail collecting data from previously married couples who have divorced in the last 5 years in the different states in the U.S. the details of the list of the married couples recently divorced will be obtained from the divorce files  that have been filed in different court registries in the last five years. The study will target to recruit 100 previously married individuals who are now divorced.


Random sampling will be applied to select the sample of 100 divorced individuals who filed for divorce and were effectively officially separated in the last 5-years.  The sample population of 100 divorced individuals will comprise of 50 men and 50 women. The random sample selection is applied to ensure that all divorced couples from all races, ethnic, social, religious and economic backgrounds have an equal chance of being recruited into the study. 

Data collection

The study will apply two data collection methods. First, the study will apply the questionnaire data collection technique, where open-ended questionnaires will be sent to 50% of the target divorced individuals, requesting them to fill-in the major factors that informed their decision of filing for divorce. The second data collection method that will be applied is interviews, where face-to-face interviews will be conducted the rest of the 50% of the study respondents, to get a better clarification of the factors that influenced the decision to file for divorce. The use of both questionnaire and interview data collection methods is aimed at establishing the reliability of the data collected, through defining the correlation between both categories of data collected through interviews and questionnaires. The selection of the interview or the questionnaire group of the study participants will be done through random sampling, to avoid any chances of study biasness. 

Data Analysis

Data analysis will be conducted through conducting a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) technique. Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) is a data analysis technique that measures which of the possible alternative conclusions is supported by the available data set (Rihoux, 2006). Therefore, the qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) data analysis technique will be applied to measure whether the available data collected thorough both interviews and questionnaires supports the conclusion that contempt is the most fundamental factor informing the decision to file for divorce among married couples in the U.S., or refutes this position.

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It is expected that the results of the data collection and analysis will give the indication of the major factors that informs filing for divorce among different couples in the U.S.  It is also expected that the results will define if contempt is the most important predictor of divorce among married couples in the United States.


Divorce among married couples in the United States is at its all-time high, estimated at over 50%. Divorce mostly occurs within the first seven years of marriage. Different factors such as lack of communication, lack of affection and contempt behavior have been cited by different studies as the major factors accounting for divorce among married couples. The study seeks to define the most important predictor of divorce among married couples in the United States.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Gold, M. B. (Feb 19, 2016). This Is the Number One Predictor of Divorce—and How to Fix It. Woman Today. Retrieved from:
  2. Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2000). The timing of divorce: Predicting when a couple will divorce over a 14-year period. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 737-745.
  3. Ni, P. (Mar 03, 2013). The #1 Predictor of Divorce (and How to Prevent It). Retrieved from:
  4. Rihoux, B. (2006). Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Related Systematic Comparative Methods: Recent Advances and Remaining Challenges for Social Science Research. International Sociology, 21(5): 679-697.


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