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Working women more likely to seek divorce

Roger Dobson
Sunday 10 July 2005 00:00 BST

They are powerful and influential in the workplace, so they are not going to take any nonsense at home. Working women are more than three times more likely to be divorced than their stay-at-home counterparts, research published this week reveals.

Furthermore, the longer hours women work, the more likely they are to be divorced.

"Our findings suggest that there is something about wives' work that increases the divorce risk," say the researchers who will report their findings in the Oxford-based European Sociological Review.

Why going out to work should lead to a broken marriage is a mystery. But one possibility is that a financially-independent woman is better placed to walk out if she is unhappy, said Marilyn Stowe, one of the UK's leading divorce lawyers.

"I have noticed that if a woman goes out to work she is more likely to instigate divorce proceedings," she said. "The reason is that they are able to do it."

She added that working women have greater confidence in their ability to start again - to make new friends and find a new partner.

"You suggest going out to work to a woman who has been at home for 15 years and their response is often that of horror," she said.

With both partners increasingly going out to work to make ends meet, the findings could help explain the rising divorce rate.

The number of divorces in the UK rose in 2003 by 3.7 per cent to 166,700, the third successive annual increase.

The researchers from Vrije University in Amsterdam have other theories. They suggest that despite the increase in the number of working women, and the emergence of the "new man", wives are still under pressure to be home-makers.

"The wife's work could therefore lead to conflicts and competition, or threaten the husband's role as main provider," says the report. Another possibility is that men feel more able to divorce a financially-independent wife.

The research, based on a database of more than 2,000 people, including 1,000 divorced women, involved looking at working hours before and after divorce and quizzing the women about whether or not they anticipated their divorce. The research includes divorced women who did and who did not remarry.

"Women who work full-time have a higher risk of divorce," the researchers concluded. "Compared to non-working women, those with a full-time job have a 29 per cent higher odds of divorce. Women who work more hours are found to have a higher divorce risk."

To check that the results weren't due to women working because they were planning to divorce, the researchers asked the women how much or how little they had expected their divorce.

The results show that overall, full-time working women have a higher chance of getting divorced than non-working women.

Virginia Ironside, The Independent's agony aunt, suggested that women who go out to work have a better psychological support system.

"If you stay at home you don't have anything to judge your situation by," she said. "If you're working you can share experiences with other people and see what's going on in a visible way. You're less inclined to put up with something that you might put up with otherwise."

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