For many people, marriage begins as a source of satisfaction and fulfillment
but ends as a source of frustration and despair. Why does an endeavor approached
with so much optimism lead so frequently to disillusionment? Why do some marriages
end in divorce? (Karney and Bradbury, 1995).
Five major theoretical perspectives have influenced marital research. According
to social exchange theory, marriages end when the attractions of the relationship
are few, the barriers to leaving the relationship are weak and the alternatives
to the relationship are enticing. The behavioral theory has concentrated on
behaviors exchanged during problem-solving discussion and has been guided by
the premise that rewarding or positive behaviors enhance global evaluations
of the marriage, while punishing or negative behaviors do harm. Attachment theory
emphasizes that relationship satisfaction depends largely on satisfaction of
basic needs for comfort, care and sexual gratification (Hazan
and Shaver, 1994) and the success of a given relationship will rest on whether
each spouse trusts that the partner can fulfill those needs. Crisis theory derives
from Hill's efforts to explain how families react to stressful events. According
to this theory, declines in marital satisfaction and the occurrence of separation
or divorce reflect failures to recover from crisis. Cognitive dissonance theory
posits that individuals strive to maintain a sense of balance or consistency
among beliefs, feelings, perceptions and behaviors. The diminished emotional
commitment will likely be denied in order to avoid cognitive dissonance. The
continuation of the denial of cognitive dissonance becomes impossible, as depression
and a sense of loss of life purpose and meaning take hold of the individual.
Such a response is commonplace in marital erosion (Karney
and Bradbury, 1995).
Studies of the reasons of marital breakdown from the perspective of divorced
men and women have provided sociocultural, psychological and historical insights
into divorce (Gigy and Kelly, 1992). Salient among the
early studies of marital complaints at the time of divorce is William Goodes
research in 1948 on divorced women. The marital complaints mentioned most frequently
concerned non-support, heavy drinking and neglect (Goode,
1956). Twenty-five years after Goode's study, Kitson
and Marvin (1982) found that women cited ex-husband lack of communication
skills, internal gender role conflict, extramarital sex, distrust, immaturity
and drinking problems as their reasons for divorce. Kelly
(1982) found that women frequently complained of feeling unloved and having
their competence and intelligence constantly belittled by their husbands. Women
in Fletcher's (1983) study cited their spouse's general
and specific personality problems, negative attitudes, specific behaviors and
extramarital sex problems as their reasons for divorce.
Granvold (1979) also found that women cited reasons of lack of communication,
conflict over roles/responsibilities, lifestyle values, extramarital sex and
In Gigy and Kelly's (1992) study women were more likely
than men to mention not being loved or appreciated, spouse unable or unwilling
to meet major needs, feeling put down or belittled, role conflicts, spouse's
unreliability, spouse's extramarital affairs, spouse's alcohol abuse, violence
and spouse's drug abuse as reasons for divorce. Factor analysis revealed nine
dimensions underlying the checklist responses for 437 women divorcing in the
mid 1980's. The cited factors were unmet emotion/growing apart, lifestyle differences,
boredom, demeaning/violent relationship, financial/employment problems, spouse's
jealousy, substance abusing/unreliable spouse, career and role conflicts, respondent's
substance abuse/affairs and severe illness.
Chang (2003) examined self-reported reasons for divorced
Korean immigrant and non-Korean women. The majority of Korean immigrant women
in the study cited their ex-husband's concrete abusive/negative behaviors and
financial problems as their reasons for divorce, while non-Korean American women
tended to report abstract and affective reasons. Patterns of reasons for divorce
reported by women in the study seem to be related to their difficult post-divorce
Amato and Previti (2003) used national panel data collected
between 1980 and 1997 to classify 208 people's open-ended responses to a question
on why their marriages ended in divorce. Infidelity was the most commonly reported
cause, followed by incompatibility, drinking or drug use and growing apart.
In the study, people's specific reasons for divorce varied with gender, social
class and life course variables.
Savaya and Cohen (2003) compared reasons for divorce
among two groups of Arab women in Israel. The regular divorcees reported more
reasons for divorcing than the contract divorcees and were considerably more
prone to cite their husband's physical, sexual and verbal abuse, lack of commitment
to the marriage and the family and alcoholism and mental illness, as well as
interference by their in-laws. The contract divorcees were more prone to cite
failure to get along, lack of communication and conflicts over traditional and/or
Nassehy (1991) categorized the causes of divorce in
Iranian women as economic (i.e., incapability of husband to support the family,
voluntary or involuntary absence of the husband due to drug addiction, imprisonment
and abdonment), sexual incoherence (polygyny, extra-marital relations, lack
of physical attraction) and family conflicts, age differences and personality
Aghajanian and Moghadas (1998) reviewed of trends in
divorce for the last three decades in Iran suggest that the divorce rate has
been changing in response to social and legal changes and eight years of war.
Iranian women who divorced, compared with married women, suffer economically
and experience more psychological problems.
In their study, Zargar and Doost (2008) pointed out
that communication problems, addiction, interference of family members and mental
disorders of one or both couples are the most important divorce factors in Falavarjan,
Chlen and Mustaffa (2008) in a very recent study reported
the top three reasons for divorce in Malaysia as infidelity, no longer in love
and emotional problems.
Despite differing methodological approaches and samples, women's self-reported reasons for their divorce reflect socio-demographic changes and shifts in cultural attitudes. So, the present research was carried out to further examine the perceptions of divorcing women regarding the causes of their divorce and to identify underlying dimensions among the reasons cited.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Participants: The sample consisted of 592 divorce-seeking women from the 5 districts of Khuzestan Province which is located to the South of Iran.This sample was selected according to a multi-stage sampling method. During 2008-2009, the project was conducted in the family courts of the 5 Cities of Khuzestan. The age range for the women was 15 to 42 with a mean of 27.5. Respondents' education level was 9.6 years on average. Fifty-one percent of the women were childless and 41% had children.
Instruments: Two hundred divorcing women were interviewed for their reasons to divorce. These face to face interviews took place in the family courts' consultation rooms. The answers were then collected and closely reviewed for possible redundancies. A 145 item questionnaire was finally developed containing reasons for divorce based on the women's answers in the initial interviews . The item pool was then administered to the main sample of the study, i.e., the 592 divorce-seeking women, at the time of entry into the family court and their orientation meeting with the research assistant. She presented a standard introduction to the respondents, including a general statement regarding the nature of the research and detailed instructions for completing the questionnaire. Each item of the questionnaire was rated on a five-point likert-type scale (0-4) by the respondents. Analysis of internal consistency reliability yielded Cronbach's alpha coefficient of 0.6 for the 145 items. Also, the statistic technique of principal component analysis was used for identifying the underlying dimensions of the questionnaire's responses.
Based on factor analysis the data of 592 women were analyzed. Prior to the
factor analysis, Measure of Sampling Adequacy (KMO) and Bartlett's Test of Sphericity
were calculated as 894 (p<0001), respectively. A principal component analysis
with varimax rotation was used to determine whether the responses to 145 reasons
for divorce could be summarized into more basic, integrated dimensions, reflecting
the perceived causes of divorce. Four factors were extracted accounting for
a total of 41.74% of the variance. The scree test also suggested that four factors
be retained as is shown in Table 1 which ases a cutoff correlation
of 0.4, as an unacceptable minimum loading value.
||Factor item loading
The table also shows the factor scale items and factor loads. The first factor
can be labeled neglect of wife's wishes' including 40 items and accounting for
22.96% of the variance. The second factor can be termed husband and his family
lack of social skill. This factor includes 33 items and accounts for 9.40% of
the variance. The third factor represents husband's social abnormalities. This
factor includes 10 items and accounts for 5.14% of the variance. The fourth
factor denotes husband and wife's personal and family incompatibilities (mismatches).
This factor includes 10 items and accounts for 4.24% of the variance. Analysis
of internal consistency reliabilities yielded Cronbach's alpha coefficients
of 0.95 for the neglect of wife's wishes factor, 0.92 for the husband and his
family lack of social skills factor, 0.82 for the husband's social abnormalities
factor, 0.78 for the husband and wife's personal and family incompatibilities
(mismatches) and 0.96 for the total items.
The aim of the current investigation was to examine the perceptions of divorcing
women regarding the causes of their divorce and to identify underlying dimensions
among the reasons cited. The current study demonstrated that neglect of wife's
wishes (unmet emotional needs) is the most important divorce factor for women.
The findings are compatible with Attachment and Social Exchange theories (Karney
and Bradbury, 1995) those of Goode's (1948), Gigy and
Kelly (1992) and Chlen and Mustaffa (2008). They
also reported neglect and unwillingness to meet spouse's major needs as major
divorce factors among women. This factor also corresponds to the specific item
used in Gigy and Kelly's (1992), research i.e., not
feeling loved or appreciated by spouse, spouse not willing or able to meet my
needs. This factor refers to the fact that with the high expectation that women
bring with them into their marriages, there is no surprise that they will be
upset when they find that their needs are not met. They will sooner or later
think of divorce. Nearly all women express high satisfaction early after their
marriages. However, for many, their satisfaction lowers as they get farther
from being newlyweds. Women with unmet needs to respect, trust, intimacy and
husband's lack of commitment to family life will naturally come to detachment.
The results also show that husband and his family's lack of social skills is
the second important divorce factor for women. The findings are compatible with
the behavioral theory (Karney and Bradbury, 1995; Granvold,
1979; Savaya and Cohen, 2003;
Zargar and Doost, 2008). They also reported lack of communication skills,
conflict over roles/responsibilities, husband's physical and verbal abuse and
interference by their in-laws as major divorce factors for women. Social skills
play an important role in the maintenance of marital satisfaction. Couples,
who possess effective social skills experience many positive social and psychological
circumstances such as social support and enjoyment of time with one another.
So, husbands with lack of adequate social skills are likely to have partners
who are less satisfied with their relationship.
The findings of the present study also indicate that husband's social abnormalities
is the third divorce factor for women. The results are compatible with the Crisis
Theory and those of Goode's (1956), Kitson
and Marvin (1982), Fletcher (1983), Granvold
(1979), Gigy and Kelly (1992), Nassehy
(1991), Chang (2003), Amato
and Previti (2003) and Savaya and Cohen (2003).
They also demonstrated that drinking or drug use, extramarital sex, demeaning/violent
relationship and financial/employment problems are major divorce factors for
women. Social abnormalities, husband's drug abuse, unemployment, alcohol abuse,
lavish, committing crimes and unemployment, man's not living up to the unspoken
expectations the spouse holds increase the risk of divorce. Unemployed men are
likely to feel inadequate in their role as providers while their wives may get
confused, frustrated and angry. Unemployment is threatening to the man's self-worth
and is often associated with decrease in money and sexual activity and increases
depression, alcohol consumption and fighting for both husband and wife. Another
common symptom of family dysfunction is alcohol and drug abuse among men. They
learn to hide behind the bottle and drug instead of facing the reality; they,
even after one drink or drug, are no longer warm and fun. In other words, these
men are masters at creating stresses and crisis, such as unemployment, drinking
or drug use and committing crimes. They are so completely wrapped up in their
self destruction that they will soon loose touch with their wives.
Finally, the results show husband and wife's personal and family incompatibilities
as the fourth major divorce factor among for women. The results are compatible
with the cognitive dissonance theory (Donovan and Jackson,
1990) and those of Amato and Previti (2003). They
also reported husband-wife's incompatibilities as a major divorce factor for
women. Incompatibility is a broad and general reason. It may be related to differences
of spouse religiosity, customs, modernity, education, aspirations, values, social
and economical status of families of origin, appearances and lack of sexual
attraction. Mismatched couples are strangely disconnected. They seem as if they
have never been really married. They share few enjoyable interactions and have
little respect for each other; they cannot communicate; they disagree on fundamental
issues and their sex life is poor. There are few expressions of positive emotion;
there is little affection, little playfulness and little lightheartedness. After
a while, they are too hard and frustrated to be genuinely kind to each other.
Mismatched couples are joined together only by marriage, not by shared ideas
and ideals, similarity in appearances, compatibility in customs of families
of origin, similarity in sexual and physical attraction and similarity in economical
social status of families of origin are not traceable.
Although, marriage and divorce are considered cultural issues and are affected by socio-cultural factors, it seems that divorce factors are rather universal for women and are not that different from culture to culture. The results of this study show the fact that divorce factors for Iranian women are very much alike to those cited by other studies.
The findings of this study have theoretical and applied implications for family
psychologists, family therapists, marriage and remarriage-seeking women and
policy makers. The findings of this study confirm the extent to which the wife
in our society has shifted her philosophical beliefs regarding the evaluation
of marriage and decision to divorce. Whereas, before, divorce was a solution
more often limited to social and economic abnormalities such as unemployment
and alcohol and drug abuse, today, divorce for women is most commonly sought
because of a more general dissatisfaction with neglect of emotional and affective
needs, husband's lack of communication skills and personal and family incompatibilities.
Women are recommended to think long and hard before marriage, do not rush into
marriage, do not marry for wrong reasons, try to know their future husbands
well and learn to deal with stress. Policies should strengthen marriage and
reduce the risk of divorce. There are several suggestions: First, there should
be national attempts to reduce workplace demands and increase workplace flexibility,
so that married people can give more attention to the needs of their families.
Paid family leaves would reduce stress and help avoid crises when a child is
born or a family member is ill. Moreover, workshops can be set up to strengthen
and repair marriage. These can be held on weekends, or be taped and distributed
in the community. Finally, government agencies, community organizations and
religious groups can be funded to develop marriage promotion programs, especially
for low-income or half-educated couples. There can even be laws for not permitting
hasty marriages. A waiting period would give the couple time to participate
in premarital programs. This will give them time to think more on what they
are doing, after which they may either say no or keep their promises more seriously.
This study has a number of limitations. One is that, for the reason explained in the method section, it does not use a reprehensive or matched sample. The study was restricted to women. Despite these limitations, the study makes an important contribution to the understanding of divorce among women in Khuzestan, Iran. It is the first study, in Iran in which the authors are identifying divorce factors in female divorcees via factor analysis. Further research is recommended, using more representative samples of both male and female and regular and contract divorcees and comparing the weights of the various factors.
The present study indicated that four major factors may lead to divorce in Iranian women. These factors were identified as neglect of wife's wishes (unmet emotional needs), husband and his family's lack of social skills, husband's social abnormalities, husband and wife's personal and family incompatibilities. The findings of this study confirm the extent to which "the wife" in our society has shifted her philosophical beliefs regarding the evaluation of marriage and decision to divorce. This study has two major messages for the international society, Firstly, people should take into account similarities in personality characteristics, social skills, family status of their partners before getting married. Secondly, government agencies, community organizations and religious groups can be funded to develop marriage promotion programs.