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Men and Women Initiate Breakups Equally

Update Date: Aug 22, 2015 07:19 PM EDT
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Men and women are just as likely to initiate breakups, according to a new study.

While women are more likely than men to initiate divorces, new research reveals that women and men are just as likely to end non-marital relationships.

"The breakups of non-marital heterosexual relationships in the U.S. are quite gender neutral and fairly egalitarian," study author Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University said in a news release. "This was a surprise because the only prior research that had been done on who wanted the breakup was research on marital divorces."

The latest study involved data from 2,262 adults between the ages of 19 and 94 who had heterosexual relationships in 2009. 

Study data revealed that women initiated 69 percent and men initiated 31 percent of all divorces.

However, there was no statistically significant difference between unmarried women and men when it comes to initiating breakups.

"Women seem to have a predominant role in initiating divorces in the U.S. as far back as there is data from a variety of sources, back to the 1940s," Rosenfeld added. "I assumed, and I think other scholars assumed, that women's role in breakups was an essential attribute of heterosexual relationships, but it turns out that women's role in initiating breakups is unique to heterosexual marriage."

"I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality," Rosenfeld concluded. "Wives still take their husbands' surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare. On the other hand, I think that non-marital relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations, including women's expectations for more gender equality."

The latest findings will be presented at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).

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