Rows about money predict later divorce

Couples who argue about financial matters may be more likely to get a divorce than those who row over other matters, new research has suggested. Carried out by Sonya Britt, Assistant Professor of Family Studies and Human Services and Programme Director of Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State University, the study found disagreements over money to be the top predictor of separations.

Published in the journal Family Relations, the research made use of longitudinal data from more than 4,500 couples as part of the National Survey of Families and Households.

It was found that money-related arguments are the main precursors to divorce for men and women, even more than fallouts regarding children, sex and in-laws.

Ms Britt noted people's financial arguments can be measured from as soon as they first tie the knot, adding that if "they were first together and already arguing about money, there is a good chance they are going to have poor relationship satisfaction".

Chartered Psychologist Kim Stephenson comments:

"This may be evidence for something that has been suspected for some time, but not demonstrated incontrovertibly.

"We know that the rate of 'financial infidelity' (lying, concealment, dishonesty generally about money) is on the increase in both the UK and US, based on figures since the financial crisis in 2008.  It's also been true for some time that financial issues are a major source of marital discord, for example, financial concerns are stated as the number one reason for couples to consult Relate.

"It would be useful to see the data and more detailed analysis from the study, however. For example, it would be helpful to know the method of calculation of 'predictor of divorce' and to know to what extent the greater number of arguments about money as distinct from other causes (such as in-laws, children, sex) might bias the perceptions of what proportion of divorces result from financial arguments.

"Similarly, it would be useful to understand the definition of 'longer time to recover' and the categorisation of the "seriousness" of an argument, given that an argument about sexual infidelity (for example) might still be a problem years later, while an argument about profligate spending, while involving areal crockery at the time might well prove to be a storm in an airborne teacup.

"There is the danger that what we've got is a self-fulfilling prophesy, the seriousness of the argument is measured by the probability of divorce, and since the majority of arguments are about money, then the majority of divorces must arise from money and therefore money is seen as the most serious and longest lasting problem.

"Finally, it would also be interesting to know to what extent there was a 'root cause' of conflict in the marriages under study.  It may be that finance is the cause of other problems, but it may also be a convenient scape-goat or label for deeper problems that are either not realised or not faced honestly."

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