Women's Education, Marital Violence, and Divorce: A Social Exchange Perspective


Department of Sociology and Crime, Law, and Justice, Pennsylvania State University, 211 Oswald Tower, University Park, PA 16802 (dkreager@psu.edu).


Drawing on social exchange theories, the authors hypothesized that educated women are more likely than uneducated women to leave violent marriages and suggested that this pattern offsets the negative education–divorce association commonly found in the United States. They tested these hypotheses using 2 waves of young adult data on 914 married women from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The evidence suggests that the negative relationship between women's education and divorce is weaker when marriages involve abuse than when they do not. The authors observed a similar pattern when they examined the association of women's proportional earnings and divorce, controlling for education. Supplementary analyses suggested that marital satisfaction explains some of the association among women's resources, victimization, and divorce but that marital violence continues to be a significant moderator of the education–divorce association. In sum, education appears to benefit women by both maintaining stable marriages and dissolving violent ones.