Fewer married couples with children considering divorce amid COVID-19 pandemic, survey finds

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The number of married couples in the U.K. considering divorce has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey released by the Marriage Foundation. 

According to the UK Household Longitudinal Coronavirus survey, couples considering getting divorced dropped by two-thirds compared to the rate before the pandemic started. 

Researchers examined 3,005 parents who filled out a survey for the Office of National Statistics and found that twice as many married couples said their relationship had improved amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

“We've looked at a big household study and they looked at 3,000 parents who are both married and cohabiting, actually mums and dads. And in previous years, they've asked similar relationship questions. So we've got a comparison for what people look like before COVID times and then in June and September,” said Harry Benson, research director for the Marriage Foundation, in an interview with Premier News.

"What we found is that the degree to which couples, both married mothers and fathers, were seriously considering divorce was down by about half for fathers and about down by 80 percent for mothers. That's really important because this is people who are saying, 'We are seriously considering divorce most or all of the time,'” he said.

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Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of the Marriage Foundation, told Premier he believed the divorce boom that has been predicted due to COVID-19 is not happening and sees no indication that it will happen. 

“It seems that the centuries-old marriage vows 'for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health' still resonate and hold good for the majority of married couples who are hanging in there through thick and thin even whilst their relationships are being stress-tested," he said.

"Although the increased level of unhappiness among a small minority of parents most likely reflects the generally stressful and uncertain circumstances of lockdown, most other indicators of relationship stress are showing lower levels compared to normal.”

In the United States, divorce rates have been decreasing for many years, and the similarly-predicted surge in divorces did not happen as a result of the pandemic. 

In 2019, according to Census Bureau data compiled and analyzed by the Virginia-based Institute for Family Studies, the U.S. divorce rate hit its lowest level in approximately 50 years. The 2019 divorce rate was much lower than in 1980 when the National Vital Statistics reported that 22.6 divorces per 1,000 marriages occurred, the Institute for Family Studies report explained in November. The 2019 rate was, however, higher than the 1960 rate when 9.2 marriages per 1,000 ended in divorce.

The falling divorce rates are happening alongside falling marriage rates, the data showed.

In 2019, 33 out of 1,000 unmarried adults got married, which is slightly below 35 per 1,000 in 2010, and considerably below the 86 per 1,000 rate in 1970.

Institute for Family Studies Research Director Wendy Wang, who wrote the report, told The Christian Post in November that she did not believe the pandemic would have a lasting effect, and that evidence showed divorce rates would decline as a result of it.

“In fact, recent survey data shows the pandemic has actually brought more couples closer to each other,” Wang said. “Also, initial data from some states suggest that divorce filings have declined.

“A majority of married Americans say that the pandemic has made them appreciate their spouse more. And half agree that their commitment to marriage has deepened,” she added.

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