Generation X and divorce

I spent some time today searching for statistics on the divorce rates among Generation X. I didn’t find much. Google Generation X and divorce and what you get is the oft stated assertion that many GenXer grew up with divorced parents, and some rather snotty comments about how selfish and spoiled GenX is and therefore must have a lousy divorce rate, comments clearly made by Boomers. Perhaps it is still to soon for such data to be compiled. Or maybe I just suck at internet research.

Anyhoo… my purpose was to educate myself on the numbers since when I start blogging for JenX67 I’ll be mainly writing about being a divorced GenXer and a single dad. I figured I should know a little bit beyond my on experience. So much for that.

If anyone happens to know of any studies or even just news articles about Generation X and divorce, theirs not their parents’, I’d appreciated being  directed to them.

I did come across a collection of short stories and novella, though, that made me think of my most recent post about Omega Males. It’s titled Greetings from Cutler County, by Travis Mulhauser. And initially I was drawn to it because the stories are set in Northern Michigan. Reading the dust jacket flap only increased my interest, since it was clear these were “guy stories.”  But a specific kind of guy stories:

Most of the characters are young men who think of themselves as losers and outsiders. Short on cash, popularity, and the ambition needed for success, they nevertheless are able to examine their failings with the self-knowing humor and resignation of the perpetually thwarted ne’re-do-well.

That’s definitely a description of GenX Omega Male fiction. Hmm. Did I just invent a new sub genre? Quick! To the copyright office.

Maybe, because of the pending divorce and likelihood of losing my job, I’m just  feeling like I’m at a low point in my life but I get the sense that I’m really going to identify with these characters. Some of them anyway.


6 responses to “Generation X and divorce

  1. I don’t remember any studies about GenX and divorce. What I do recall is a poll showing GenXers highly valued family. If I remember correctly, the poll results concluded that GenXers were less willing to sacrifice family for career which would be the opposite of the Boomers.

    In what I’ve observed of people I know, GenXers do seem close to their families. I think this has been magnified by the fact it was more difficult for GenXers to gain a foothold in traditional careers and so put their focus elsewhere. Also, the job market has just become worse with the economic downturn and the younger generation leaving college. I know a number of GenXers who’ve moved back home. I also know of some GenX stay-at-home dads.

    As for divorce, I personally don’t know many divorced people. All the GenXers I know either never got married or have remained married. However, all the married GenXers I know were married in their late 20s or early 30s. I’ve heard that people who marry later are less likely to get divorced. So, I wonder if GenXers in general are more likely to marry later.

    Another interesting issue would be monogamy which would seem in some cases to be related to divorce rates. I was just thinking about a study I saw recently which showed that atheist liberals were more likely to be monogamous than any other group. Considering that, I wonder if GenXers in general are more likely to be atheist liberals.

    My hunch, anyways, is that GenXers probably have lower divorce rates. I think our cynical natures would help us to be more realistic about marriage. Since many of us came from broken families, our collective standards might not be that high. And because many of us missed out on stable families we might value them all the more now that we’re older.

    • I’ve read several studies and article that say precisely the same thing — GenXers favor family over career. I also ran across an article the other day, a fairly recent one too, that claims that marriage/divorce rates are returning to 1950s numbers.

      And that Generation Xer who do get married tend to stay together, which is encouraging overall, but disheartening to me personally since I’m one of those that could stay married.

      I will also be one of those GenXers who will be moving back in with my parents, another disappointing development. It’s one thing when you’re 20s to take up residence in Mom and Pop’s basement but a whole different story when you’re 42. But it’s really the only way I can save money, as much as freaking possible.

      Unlike you Ben, I seem to a lot of people who are getting divorced. Last year, when my wife and I separated and I got back in touch with old high school friends I was fairly stunned by the number of people that were divorced, in the process of divorced, seriously contemplating divorce, or “stuck” in an unhappy marriage. It felt like it was at least every other person, i.e. 50%, but I’m sure that’s not really true.

      That same article I referred to previously also had a side-bar that reported that atheists/agnostics have lower divorce rates and Born again Christians the highest divorce rates.

      While I do believe GenXer cynical/skeptical attitudes tend to make us more realistic about marriage, I’m not so sure I agree that coming from divorced families is necessarily a positive factor. My understanding is that people whose parents were divorced are more like to divorce. Perhaps this make it more “normal” or the effect of making instability something one expects or is weirdly drawn to. I don’t know. Just thinking out loud.

      • I’m not one of those who supports that society is in apocalyptic moral decline. Many factors of social health have shown improvement over recent decades. I’m not sure that GenXers and Millennials are themselves socially healthier than Boomers, but I think the younger generations in some ways take more seriously the issues of social health.

        The fact that you’re tormented by your own family issues might be related to this… or maybe not. The people you know seem to be different than the people I know and so it’s hard to generalize on either of our experiences.

        According to my own anecdotal evidence, I’m not sure if most of the GenXers I know are or ever have been married, but this could be because the town I live in. I saw a statistic about this town having the highest ratio of educated population in the US. Highly educated people marry later and people who marry later tend to divorce less. I went to highschool in the South, but haven’t kept in touch with anyone there. I’m sure the divorce rates of my Southern peers is much higher.

        “I’m not so sure I agree that coming from divorced families is necessarily a positive factor. My understanding is that people whose parents were divorced are more like to divorce.”

        I’m not so sure either. I have the same understanding that you have. However, there are obviously other factors or else divorce rates wouldn’t go up and down. I wonder if Strauss and Howe have looked at divorce rates to see if they follow any generational pattern.

        I must admit for me this discussion is conjectural. I’m not married nor do I desire to be. My parents in some ways sacrificed family for career, but they’re also conservatives who idealize “family values”. It’s against my parents principles to get divorced which is interesting considering my mother’s father was abusive to her mother and my father’s parents divorced when he was younger. I never wanted a marriage like that of my parents that somehow felt more like a formal agreement. I’ve talked to my brothers and they’ve shared similar criticisms, but it didn’t stop them from getting married.

        If it makes you feel any better, my best friend is in his 30s and lives at home and his older brother also lives at home. There are three brothers in total and none of them ever married. They’re apparently all bachelor momma boys or something. Even though their family has it’s dysfunctions, they’re a very close and relatively happy family… way closer and happier than my family.

        Traditionally, multiple generations lived together for their entire lives. It’s only in modern times that we’ve come to the expectation that everyone should be independent.

        This fits in with the discussion of success and the American ideal of the Alpha Male. Boomers seem particularly success-oriented and the Alpha Male seems to be an ideal that even Boomer females adopted, and so maybe in response Omega Male has become the default attitude of many GenXers. My parents are definitely success-oriented. Both went to college and both had careers. Together they showed all the outward signs of success. My parents would never let me move back home unless I was sick or dying because they believe in personal responsibility. According to my parent’s standards, my life isn’t exactly a success, but as long as I hold down a job I’m not an absolute failure in their eyes.

        It seems like you’re doing a lot of self-questioning right now. I hope you find something that works out for you.

  2. I agree: society is not in any kind of moral decline, although sometimes I still fear the apocalypse but that’s a whole other topic.

    It only seemed curious to me that suddenly I was encountering so many people my age who are in some stage of divorce. No doubt I over-dramatized at least to some degree.

    You’re point about younger generation being more concerned about social health is a good one. I tend to believe that as well, though I couldn’t point to any overwhelming evidence to support my opinion. It’s more of instinct really, or perhaps just a hope.

    Of course, I married later, in my mid-thirties, but my wife was ten years younger and the circumstances were less than ideal, which probably has more to do with it than anything else. Certainly these things are complicated and pointing to one or even a few factors is oversimplifying matters. In the end, though, reasons matter little, especially when you’re in it. All you know is you feel as if your world is being pulled apart, literally, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’s like watching the ground crack open beneath your feet and having little if any place to retreat or move to.

    I was one of the people who never panned to get married or have children, and sometimes I think that is the seed of my misfortunes now. It seems to me now that it may have been a naive attitude, or at least one I didn’t really think through. Perhaps it was merely a pose on my part, a stance I had to take “for the sake of my art,” i.e. my writing, which seems so lame now.

    The place where I think I may have gone wrong is that I wasn’t more assertive in actively choosing my life. And so a life was more or less chosen for me. And at some point I just through up my hands and said, fine, if this is, this is, I give up, but damned if I’m going to like it. It was like I was pulling the biggest pout of my life. Immaturity, I guess is what my problem was and perhaps still is.

    Question is: can I change that? Can I mature at my age? Grow up? Or am I doomed to be stuck in a state of man-boy-hood or whatever.

    I am not now nor will I ever be an Alpha Male. I don’t want to be that guy. But I’m not so sure that being the Omega Male is who I want to be either. Perhaps I could be a Beta Male, but even that might be out of my reach, beyond my abilities.

    As for Strauss and Howe researching divorce among generations, I don’t think they have. I’m not so sure anyone has. At leats, I can’t seem to find any such information, though I’m willing to concede that I just don’t know how to find it or even where to look.

    I’m willing to bet it is an untapped area of research. Whether it needs to be tapped or not is a different story.

    Finally, since were talking parents. Mine are Silent Generation who both grew up poor in West Virginia coal mine towns. They are old school Catholics as well. Very family values oriented, but in sense that there is very little they wouldn’t do for their children or family in general. They believe in personal responsibility but they also believe in charity begins at home, I guess, if that is the apt cliche.

    I’ll say I’m self-questioning. I can’t seem to stop it.

  3. I came across something recently that said Gen Xers were starting to divorce. I’ll try to find the link/source. I think the article stated that we would eventually match or exceed the divorce rates of the prior generation.

    • Thanks, Jen. I appreciate it. I’d be very curious to read that report.

      And based on my person experience only, it would not surprise me one bit.

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