Over the last 10 years, the rate of divorce for active-duty members of the military has declined slowly. According to a recent article in Military.com, the divorce rate for active-duty service members declined further in 2018, marking a particularly low divorce rate for active-duty troops. The data comes from the U.S. Department of Defense, and it shows that only about 3% of active-duty service members who were married at the beginning of 2018 began or complete divorce proceedings in 2018. That number is well below the average annual divorce rate in the U.S., based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What does the declining military divorce rate tell us about divorce trends more generally? What else do you need to know about military divorce?
Low Divorce Rates Coupled with Low Marriage Rate
One of the facts to know about the low rate of military divorce among active service members is that the rate of marriage is also low. The article points out that, over the last 10 years, the rate of divorce has fluctuated, but it has remained low-especially compared to the average divorce rate among the U.S. civilian population. However, one of the possible reasons for the low military divorce rate is that the marriage rate among service members is also quite low. Indeed, as the article points out, “at the start of fiscal 2018, only 740 female officers in the Marine Corps were married.”
Even taking into account the relatively small number of married persons in the military, the divorce rate still shows a decline. The largest group to track in terms of marriage and divorce is enlisted male soldiers. Among that group, the divorce rate has declined from 3.3% in 2009 to 2.7% by 2018. However, divorce rates are very different among female troops. In 2018, 6.3% of women in the military went through a divorce, which is more than double the rate of divorce for male service members.
In sum, the divorce rate for active-duty male service members is very low and has been declining over the last decade, but that figure is not representative of all active-duty service members. To be sure, enlisted female soldiers experience a much higher divorce rate than their male counterparts.
Complications of Transition Back to Civilian Life
Another important factor to consider is that the declining divorce rate in the military cited above only takes into account active-duty troops. It does not “reflect the challenges placed on military marriages after transition back to civilian life.” Currently, according to the article, there are no studies in place that are addressing the divorce rate among former active-duty service members and the relationship.
Commentators emphasize that there is a need to analyze military divorce rates among active-duty troops in relation to military divorce rates once service members return to civilian life in order to gain a better understanding of the links between military service and divorce.
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