bride and groom cake decorations in a smashed wedding cake
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
April 12, 2024 ·  4 min read

8 Things That Predict Divorce, According to Science

Predicting the outcome of marriage with absolute certainty is an impossible task. However, social scientists have made significant strides in finding factors that are connected to higher risk and, therefore, can make better guesses on how to predict divorce.1 These factors include various couple dynamics, including their age at marriage, educational background, job status, communication patterns, and levels of intimacy. By looking at these factors, researchers have shed light on the potential challenges couples may face in their marital journey. Let’s delve deeper into these factors and explore how they can impact the length of a relationship.

Age at marriage

Research suggests that the timing of marriage can influence the likelihood of divorce. Couples who marry in their teenage years or after the age of 32 are more prone to divorce compared to those who marry in their late 20s or early 30s. Teenage couples, in particular, face a significantly higher risk of divorce. A study led by Nicholas Wolfinger at the University of Utah revealed that after the age of 32, the odds of divorce increase by about 5% each year.

Age Gap Between Spouses

The age difference between spouses can also play a role in predicting divorce rates2. Studies have shown that the likelihood of divorce increases as the age gap widens. Even a one-year discrepancy in age makes couples 3% more likely to divorce, while a 10-year difference raises the likelihood to 39%.

Employment Status

The employment status of both partners can impact the stability of a marriage. A study conducted by Harvard University finds that couples where the husband doesn’t work full-time are at a greater risk of divorce in comparison to couples where the husband is employed full-time. This finding suggests that the traditional notion of the male breadwinner still influences marital dynamics.

Educational Attainment

Your educational background connects to the likelihood of divorce. Couples, where one or both partners are not high school graduates, are at a higher risk of divorce versus couples with higher levels of education. This correlation may be attributed to lower educational attainment often corresponding to lower income levels, which can contribute to increased stress within a marriage.

Communication Patterns

Certain communication patterns have been identified as predictors of marital success or failure. Renowned psychologist John Gottman has labeled specific behaviors as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” due to their strong association with divorce. These include contempt (seeing one’s partner as inferior), criticism (attacking a partner’s character), defensiveness (playing the victim during conflicts), and stonewalling (blocking off communication). Longitudinal studies conducted by Gottman and his colleagues have shown that these behaviors can accurately predict divorce with high accuracy.

Levels of Intimacy

Intimacy encompasses emotional and physical closeness between partners.3 While a decline in sexual intimacy can be an indicator of relationship trouble, it’s important to note that intimacy goes beyond just the act of sex. Reduced frequency or quality of sex and a lack of other forms of physical and emotional connection can indicate underlying issues within the relationship. Conversely, excessive affection during the early stages of marriage can also be a warning sign, as it may be difficult to sustain such intensity over time.

Daily Stress

The cumulative effect of daily stressors can take a toll on a marriage. Research has shown that seemingly trivial experiences, such as forgetting appointments or missing buses, can create tension and contribute to relationship dissatisfaction. Daily stress is a significant reason for divorce, often surpassing more major events like infidelity or falling in love with someone else.


Find out what it means (to each other). If partners are trying to control, manipulate, gaslight, or demean their spouse, they’re no longer respecting who the other person is. Marriage and family therapist Lesli Doares says “If either spouse is engaged in name calling or character assassination or is disrespectful in any way, it lays the groundwork for eventual divorce.” If you want to predict divorce, look to where there’s disrespect in the relationship. 

While these factors can serve as red flags for potential marital difficulties, it’s essential to remember that every relationship is unique. Context, individual differences, and other factors not captured in this analysis can significantly influence the outcome of a marriage. Additionally, predicting divorce solely based on these factors can oversimplify the complexities of human relationships.

It’s crucial to approach these findings with nuance and recognize that relationships require ongoing effort, open communication, and a commitment to addressing challenges. Seeking professional help from therapists or relationship counselors can provide valuable guidance in navigating these complexities and strengthening the foundations of a marriage. It is important to note that a greater chance to predict a divorce does not mean your relationship will fail. Ultimately, understanding these factors can serve as a starting point for couples to reflect on their own relationship dynamics and take proactive steps toward building a fulfilling and lasting partnership.

Keep Reading: Research Shows These 6 Habits Predict The End of a Relationship 


  1. 8 Things Science Says Predicts Divorce.” IFL Science. Shana Lebowitz. March 17, 2018.
  2. Best predictor of divorce? Age when couples cohabit, study says.” CNBC. Stephanie Hanes. March 14, 2014.
  3. 5 Early Signs of Divorce and How to Resolve Before It’s Over.” Psych Central. Hope Gillette. October 26, 2022