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Keywords:

  • divorce;
  • marriage and close relationships;
  • measurement;
  • panel studies;
  • relationship processes;
  • survey research

Researchers rely on relationship data to measure the multifaceted nature of families. This article speaks to relationship data quality by examining the ramifications of different types of error on divorce estimates, models predicting divorce behavior, and models employing divorce as a predictor. Comparing matched survey and divorce certificate information from the 1995 Life Events and Satisfaction Study (N = 1,811) showed that nonresponse error is responsible for the majority of the error in divorce data. Misreporting the divorce event was rare, and more than two thirds of respondents provided a divorce date within 6 months of the actual date. Nevertheless, divorce date error attenuated effects of time since divorce on outcomes. Gender, child custody, marital history, and education were associated with divorce error.