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J Fam Psychol. 2015 Jun;29(3):490-9. doi: 10.1037/fam0000075. Epub 2015 Apr 13.

Women in very low quality marriages gain life satisfaction following divorce.

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Department of Psychology, University of Arizona.
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado Boulder.


Although marital dissolution is associated with increased risk for poor mental and physical health outcomes, many people report improvements in functioning after divorce. To study the hypothesis that women in lower quality marriages would report the best outcomes upon separation/divorce, we investigated the combined effects of marital quality, gender, and marital status for predicting changes in life satisfaction (LS). Participants (N = 1,639; 50.3% men) were drawn from a nationally representative sample (Midlife in the United States Study), which included assessments of marital quality, marital status, and LS, at 2 time points (T1 and T2), roughly 10 years apart. Hierarchical linear regression analyses revealed an interaction between marital quality, marital status, and gender when predicting residual change in LS. Divorced women evidenced a negative association between marital quality and later LS, whereas continuously married women had a positive association between marital quality and later LS. In addition, women in higher quality marriages that become divorced showed the lowest LS, and women in lowest quality marriages show the highest LS among women with similar levels of marital quality. There was no association between marital quality and later LS for divorced or continuously married men. This work extends prior findings regarding gender differences in marital quality to postdivorce well-being, and suggests women in the lowest quality marriages may gain LS following divorce.

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