What Are They Thinking? A National Study of Stability and Change in Divorce Ideation


divorce, divorce decision-making, divorce ideation, latent class analysis, latent transition analysis


This study reports on a nationally representative sample of married individuals ages 25–50 (N = 3,000) surveyed twice (1 year apart) to investigate the phenomenon of divorce ideation, or what people are thinking when they are thinking about divorce. Twenty‐eight percent of respondents had thought their marriage was in serious trouble in the past but not recently. Another 25% had thoughts about divorce in the last 6 months. Latent Class Analysis revealed three distinct groups among those thinking about divorce at Time 1: soft thinkers (49%), long‐term‐serious thinkers (45%), and conflicted thinkers (6%). Yet, divorce ideation was not static; 31% of Time 1 thinkers were not thinking about it 1 year later (and 36% of nonthinkers at Time 1 were thinking about it 1 year later). Also, Latent Transition Analysis revealed 49% of Time 1 long‐term‐serious thinkers, 56% of soft thinkers, and 51% of conflicted thinkers had shifted groups at Time 2, mostly in the direction of less and softer thinking about divorce. Overall, divorce ideation is common but dynamic, and it is not necessarily an indication of imminent marital dissolution

Original Publication Citation

Hawkins, A. J., Galovan, A., Harris, S. M., Allen, S. E., Allen, S. M., Roberts, K. M., & Schramm, D. G. (2017). What are they thinking? A national-sample study of stability and change in divorce ideation. Family Process, 56, 852-868.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Family Process




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor