, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 881–893 | Cite as

Marriage Duration and Divorce: The Seven-Year Itch or a Lifelong Itch?

  • Hill Kulu


Previous studies have shown that the risk of divorce is low during the first months of marriage; it then increases, reaches a maximum, and thereafter begins to decline. Some researchers consider this pattern consistent with the notion of a “seven-year itch,” while others argue that the rising-falling pattern of divorce risk is a consequence of misspecification of longitudinal models because of omitted covariates or unobserved heterogeneity. The aim of this study is to investigate the causes of the rising-falling pattern of divorce risk. Using register data from Finland and applying multilevel hazard models, the analysis supports the rising-falling pattern of divorce by marriage duration: the risk of marital dissolution increases, reaches its peak, and then gradually declines. This pattern persists when I control for the sociodemographic characteristics of women and their partners. The inclusion of unobserved heterogeneity in the model leads to some changes in the shape of the baseline risk; however, the rising-falling pattern of the divorce risk persists.


Divorce Marriage Multilevel hazard models Finland 



The author is grateful to three anonymous referees and former Editor Stewart Tolnay for valuable comments and suggestions on a previous version of this article. The author also thanks Statistics Finland for providing the register data used in this study, as well as Mrs. Marianne Johnson for valuable suggestions when preparing the data order. The analyses made in this study are based on the Statistics Finland Register Data at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (TK-53-1662-05).

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© Population Association of America 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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