The divorce rate among airmen today is almost 64 percent higher than in 2001, and is the highest in the military, according to a recent Defense Department report.
A decade ago, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the rate stood at 2.5 divorces per 100 marriages. In 2011, the number jumped to 3.9. The rate has climbed steadily in the past decade except in 2005 and in 2008, when it dropped ever so slightly, according to Air Force statistics obtained by Air Force Times.
... the divorce rate military-wide is the highest it’s been since 1999; 30,000 marriages ended in divorce by the end of fiscal 2011.
Of those, 7,534 were in the Air Force. Most of them — 6,743 — were enlisted airmen, for a divorce rate of 4.6 percent.
When broken down by career field, women — both enlisted and officer — have higher divorce rates overall than their male counterparts. Of the 20 highest divorce rates by career field and gender in 2010, the most recent breakdown by career field available, only two belonged to the men: Male officers who were aides-de-camp saw a divorce rate of 4 per 100 marriages and enlisted men in the medical career field had a divorce rate of 3.92 per 100 marriages. They ranked 18th and 19th, respectively.
... roughly one in every 27 married troops got a divorce in 2011. The percentage of marriages that ended in divorce during fiscal 2011 ticked up to 3.7 percent. The USMC rate was just slightly lower, 3.6. The officer corps divorce rate rose to 2.1 percent, up from 1.9 percent in 2010. The divorce rate for enlisted service members remained flat at 4.1.
The article on USAF divorce speculates about the reasons for divorces and for the increase, and then reports on the effects of it and what the Air Force is doing about it:
“When marriages are crumbling, it affects readiness, it affects unit morale, it affects unit cohesion,” he said. “When someone is going through a divorce, it makes it very hard for them to focus on their jobs. When an airman is going through a divorce, it affects all the airmen they work with.”
About 500 active-duty chaplains across the Air Force offer marriage counseling, but the Air Force is making a bigger push to keep marriages intact and healthy through Marriage Care retreats. Created three years ago and offered by the Chaplain Corps College, Marriage Care retreats were designed by Air Force chaplains specifically for airmen and their spouses. ... about 50 Air Force chaplains were trained to offer a Marriage Care retreat, and about 20 bases were involved in the effort. The Air Force is expanding the program as it trains more chaplains and puts more money into the program. ... in fiscal 2011 there were 31 weekend retreats, and more than 1,200 people, airmen and spouses, attended.
Breakdown by gender: it says that in 2010 "7.8 percent of women in the military got a divorce, compared with 3 percent of military men." That's consistent with earlier figures.
But the article also acknowledges, "A big reason for the plateau could be the military's recent proactive stance to lowering these divorce rates. There are several programs offering marriage support. A recent study showed that couples attending one such program suffer 33 percent fewer divorces than those who do not." More detail on that here.
Unlike many studies of marriage education, and indeed of almost any other kind of education or counseling for any kind of social behavior, this study was able to have a control group that did not take the classes, AND to randomly assign couples between the control group and the group that took marriage education, specifically "PREP for Strong Bonds" delivered by Army chaplains. One year later, 2% of the marriage-educated group divorced and 6% of the control group divorced.
This is not the first study using randomly-assigned control groups - earlier studies have likewise found that what's most effective for couples is curricula which are professionally developed, but which are delivered within a particular group, whether religious, ethnic or occupational.
By Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press – March 8, 2011
" Their marriages are more than twice as likely to end in divorce as those of their male comrades - and up to three times as likely for enlisted women. And military women get divorced at higher rates than their peers outside the military, while military men divorce at lower rates than their civilian peers. ... Last year, 7.8 percent of women in the military got a divorce, compared with 3 percent of military men, according to Pentagon statistics. Among the military's enlisted corps, nearly 9 percent of women saw their marriages end, compared with a little more than 3 percent of the men."
This excellent article goes on to discuss many effects and possible causes of this problem, several individual cases, and some efforts to help support veterans in their personal lives.
Excerpts: Forget everything you thought you knew about marriage and divorce in the Air Force. Most of it isn't true.
Airmen in career fields with the highest deployment tempos don't get divorced more than those who spend most of their time at home station. Fighter jocks, supposed playboys, actually get divorced less than the force as a whole. And those whose job is to care for others -- nurses, social workers, family support center staff and educators -- have the hardest time staying married.
As of August, 70.9 percent of officers and 56.3 percent of enlisted were married, and 4.4 percent of active-duty officers and 7.3 percent of enlisted airmen were divorced.
"How large is the problem in terms of marriage and divorce in the US military? Since the start of the campaign in Afghanistan in 2001, over 56,000 service personnel have gotten divorced, according to an Associated Press report in February 2006. There are about 3⁄4 of a million military personnel on active duty who are married, including almost 100,000 dual military couples. According to the Army, 6% of married officers and 3.5% of enlisted soldiers got divorces in 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available. The Army’s overall divorce rate for 2000, before the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, was 2.2%."
The full study, titled “Families Under Stress: An Assessment of Data, Theory, and
Research on Marriage and Divorce in the Military,” is available at for purchase on RAND's web site.
April 12, 2007
RAND STUDY FINDS DIVORCE AMONG SOLDIERS HAS NOT SPIKED HIGHER
DESPITE STRESS CREATED BY BATTLEFIELD DEPLOYMENTS
Despite greatly increased stress on the U.S. armed forces since the
start of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, divorce rates
among military families have increased only gradually, according to a
RAND Corporation study issued today.
After several years of decline, marital dissolutions among military
members began increasing in 2001, according to a study by the nonprofit
research organization that analyzed records from about 6 million men
and women who served in the United States military during the past 10
The steady increase in divorce, separations and annulments increased
the rate of military breakups to about 3 percent annually in 2005 --
the same level observed in 1996, when soldiers did not routinely face
the battlefield deployments that are common today.
Researchers examined overall trends in the breakup of military
marriages and the specific effects of deployment to Iraq and
Afghanistan. Contrary to expectations, married service members who had
been deployed were generally less likely to end their marriages than
those who had not been deployed, and longer deployments were associated
with greater reductions in risk.