Are the Negative Effects of Divorce on Well-Being Dependent on Marital Quality?


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We test the so-called escape hypothesis, which argues that for people from a poor marriage, a divorce has a less negative or even a positive effect on well-being. In an analysis of two waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (N =4,526), we find only limited evidence. When people divorce from a dissatisfactory or unfair marriage, they experience smaller increases in depression than when they divorce from a less dissatisfactory and less unfair marriage. For marital conflict, we find no interaction. Marital aggression seems to increase the negative effect of divorce, especially among women, suggesting that notions about the accumulation of problems after divorce need to be considered in combination with notions of escape.