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Arguing About Money Is a Top Predictor of Divorce

Update Date: Jul 12, 2013 01:52 PM EDT

All couples argue, but what they argue about could predict their risk of getting a divorce.

Researchers from Kansas State University found that financial arguments is "by far the top predictor of divorce," according to Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies and human services and program director of personal financial planning.

"It's not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It's money -- for both men and women," Britt said in a news release.

Britt and her team looked at longitudinal data from more than 4,5000 couples as part of the National Survey of Families and Households. 

Even after accounting for income, debt and net worth, researcher found that couples who argue about money are most at risk for divorce.

"Results revealed it didn't matter how much you made or how much you were worth. Arguments about money are the top predictor for divorce because it happens at all levels," said Britt.

Researchers explain that it takes couples longer to recover from money arguments than any other kind of argument.  Financial arguments are also more intense, longer lasting and involve harsher language.

"You can measure people's money arguments when they are very first married," Britt said. "It doesn't matter how long ago it was, but when they were first together and already arguing about money, there is a good chance they are going to have poor relationship satisfaction."

The more frequently a couple argues about money, the greater their relationship satisfaction.  Researchers explain that even if divorce is not a possibility because of low income, the low relationship satisfaction could make matters worse.  Besides having a negative impact on children, increased stress leads to a further decrease in financial planning that could help better the situation.

Britt recommends new couples to seek a financial planner as part of premarital counseling.  She advises couples to pull each other's credit reports and talk through how to handle finances fairly for both individuals.

"We, as financial planners, can help clients reduce their stress through education," Britt said. "This is important because people who are stressed are very short-term focused. They don't plan for the future. If you can reduce stress, you can increase planning."

Britt notes that credit reporting sites may often have hidden agendas, and to avoid them she suggests people go to, which is required by the U.S. government to provide one free copy a year of an individual's credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies.

"If the money is not being treated fairly in the household, then the relationship satisfaction is going to be lower," she concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Family Relations.

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