Gray divorce: Explaining midlife marital splits

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Recent research suggests that one out of every four divorces in the United States is now “gray,” meaning that at least one half of the couple has reached the age of 50 when the marriage breaks down. To understand why this age group—the Baby Boomer generation—is splitting up, this study conducted 40 in-depth, semistructured interviews with men and 40 with women who have experienced a gray divorce in their lifetimes. Respondents’ beliefs in an expressive individualistic model of marriage, where partnerships are only valuable if they help individuals achieve personal growth, were compared against their potential adherence to what I call a commitment-based model of marriage, where binding, romantic love holds couples together unless there is severe relationship strain. The results demonstrated that the commitment-based model most strongly governs marriage and the decision to divorce among Baby Boomers for both sexes, although some specific reasons for divorce differ for men and women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-72
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Women and Aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


  • Gray divorce
  • marital dissolution
  • sex


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