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Divorce following the September 11 terrorist attacks


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We investigated the effect of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on marital stability. Previous research showed rates of divorce changed in opposite directions following natural disaster versus terrorist disaster. Using a prospective, longitudinal design and time series analysis, we examined rates of divorces filed by month, with respect to the World Trade Center attack in New York City (NYC). To examine whether effects radiated beyond NYC according to geographic proximity or psychological proximity, we examined four other counties of varying distance from NYC. Results showed geographic and psychological proximity effects. Following a major manmade disaster characterized by death, divorce rates decreased in NYC and Bergen County, NJ, geographically proximal locales, and in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, psychologically proximal locales.
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Divorce following the September 11
terrorist attacks
Catherine L. Cohan
The Pennsylvania State University
Steve W. Cole
HopeLab Foundation and the University of California, Los Angeles
Robert Schoen
The Pennsylvania State University
We investigated the effect of the September 11, 2001 terror-
ist attack on marital stability. Previous research showed rates
of divorce changed in opposite directions following natural
disaster versus terrorist disaster. Using a prospective, longi-
tudinal design and time series analysis, we examined rates of
divorces filed by month, with respect to the World Trade Center
attack in New York City (NYC). To examine whether effects
radiated beyond NYC according to geographic proximity or
psychological proximity, we examined four other counties of
varying distance from NYC. Results showed geographic and
psychological proximity effects. Following a major manmade
disaster characterized by death, divorce rates decreased in
NYC and Bergen County, NJ, geographically proximal locales,
and in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, psychologically proximal
KEY WORDS: disaster • divorce • September 11 • time series analysis
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships Copyright © 2009 SAGE Publications
(, Vol. 26(4): 512–530. DOI: 10.1177/0265407509351043
This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R03
HD044694–01). We wish to thank Mark Alleva, Robert M. Boyke, Darrin Goldman, Barry
Goldstein, James McElligott, Peter Sorrento, and James Stadel for their generous assistance
with data collection. Address correspondence to Catherine Cohan, The Pennsylvania State
University,Survey Research Center, 406 Marion Place, 330 Building at Innovation Park, Suite
105, University Park,PA 16802, USA [e-mail:].Paul Mongeau was the Action
Editor on this article.
When spouses vow to stay together “for better and for worse” they are
probably not anticipating that “worse” might mean the experience of a
natural or man-made disaster. Disasters affect individuals, families, com-
munities, and in the case of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack – an
entire nation. A primary focus of disaster research has been to identify the
mental health consequences for individuals following natural and techno-
logical disasters. However “.. . the experience (of disaster) cannot be
expressed entirely in diagnoses of psychopathology” (Vlahov, 2002, p. 295).
An exclusive focus on individual mental health outcomes will underestimate
the full psychosocial scope of a disaster for adults in close relationships.Our
primary goal is to determine whether the September 11 disaster precipi-
tated changes in rates of marital instability in and beyond New York City
(NYC). The nearly 3000 victims of the World Trade Center (WTC) attack
resided primarily in New York and New Jersey. Individuals in the family-
building years (ages 20 to 44) were disproportionately affected (Johnson,
Stress and marital instability
Depending on the context, disaster can trigger marital instability or soli-
darity. Rates of divorce can increase following major social, political, and
economic events. Crisis situations can generate economic problems, mental
health problems, and marital distress that can disrupt the family. Major
sociopolitical events such as World War II and the Vietnam War preceded
an increase in divorce rates (Lipman-Blumen, 1975;South, 1985). Poor econ-
omic circumstances also hasten the breakdown of marriages. For example,
significant income loss and unemployment are related to increased risk of
divorce (South, 1985;Yeung & Hofferth, 1998). Thus post-September 11 job
losses in NYC (Woodberry, 2002) and the worst unemployment in over
three years (Dillon & Schoolman, 2002) may have damaged marriages.
The disaster literature suggests an effect on marital instability via mental
health problems, which are associated with marital distress (Beach &
O’Leary, 1993; Davila & Bradbury, 1998; McLeod, 1994) and in turn divorce
(Karney & Bradbury, 1995). Mental health problems, such as post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, are common after a disaster (e.g.,
Rubonis & Bickman, 1991), primarily in the subsequent 12 months (Norris
et al., 2002). Mass violence disasters have a more negative effect on adjust-
ment than natural disasters, presumably because of the greater trauma
and demoralization due to murderous intent (Norris et al., 2002). Post-
September 11 research showed mental health consequences in NYC and
across the country. One to two months after the attack, rates of probable
PTSD were higher than normal in NYC (Galea et al., 2002; Schlenger et
al., 2002) but were within normal limits in other major metropolitan areas
(Schlenger et al., 2002).Depression was two times the normative rate (Galea
et al., 2002), and substance use increased significantly in NYC (Vlahov et
al., 2002). Three national surveys conducted within weeks of September
11 showed Americans across the country felt distressed after the attack
(Schlenger et al., 2002; Schuster et al., 2001; Silver, Holman, McIntosh,
Cohan et al.: Divorce following September 11 513
Poulin, & Gil-Rivas, 2002). Distress increased with proximity to NYC and
degree of loss. More television viewing about the attacks was related to dis-
tress, suggesting that the vicarious disaster exposure was potent.Although,
on average,the elevated distress among Americans across the United States
after September 11 did not reach clinical levels, it could still have an im-
portant effect on daily activities, such as strained social relationships and
decreased work productivity (Stein et al., 2004).
The elevated mental health problems in NYC may have translated into
increased marital distress and consequently increased marital disruption
and divorce. Of particular relevance to the current research is the Cohan
and Cole (2002) study that examined the effect of Hurricane Hugo in 1989
on divorce rates in South Carolina. Using population-level vital statistics
data for all 46 counties from 1975 to 1997, ARIMA time series analyses
showed a geographic proximity effect such that the divorce rate increased in
1990, the year following the hurricane, in the 24 counties declared Federal
disaster sites but not in the other 22 non-affected counties. In sum, marital
stability is vulnerable to disasters,major sociopolitical events, and economic
downturns, all characteristics of the September 11 attack.
Stress and marital solidarity
Two perspectives suggest that marital solidarity may occur after disaster.
As the original author of attachment theory, Bowlby (1969/1982) theorized
that, in response to threat,universal behavioral strategies evolved for infants
to maintain proximity to their caregivers for the purpose of security, safety,
and survival. Bowlby (1988) also maintained that the attachment system is
active throughout the life span.Adults exhibit proximity and support seeking
in response to stress that can be conceptualized as attachment behavior
(Hazan & Shaver, 1994). Under severe threat, Bowlby posited that danger
triggers efforts to be physically close to a “trusted person” (1969/1982,
p. 207). “When sirens scream of approaching disaster, minds turn to loved
ones. If they are near enough, mothers run to protect their children, and
men seek their families. They huddle together and support one another
through the stress” (Hill & Hansen,1962, p.186). In sum, attachment theory
suggests that, at extreme levels of danger, adults’ and children’s modal
response is proximity seeking to provide physical safety and emotional
comfort. Affiliation following extreme threat may translate into maintain-
ing marital bonds by being less likely to divorce. Given the emphasis on
direct threat and survival, attachment theory would predict decreases in
divorces in affected areas but not in non-affected ones.
Terror management theory posits that reminders of mortality may increase
affiliation.According to the theory,a fundamental aspect of the human con-
dition is an existential fear of death (Pyszczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon,
1999; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991). In response to reminders
of death, close relationships can buffer that fear through literal protection,
emotional comfort, and as a symbol of ongoing life (Mikulincer, Florian,
& Hirschberger, 2003, 2004). To reduce death anxiety after being primed
with thoughts of death, people may be motivated to protect serious close
514 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26(4)
relationships with long-term committed bonds by avoiding “interpersonal
conflicts that can destroy these meaningful bonds which involve a strong
sense of connectedness and commitment and provide a sense of continuity
and lastingness” (Mikulincer et al., 2003, p. 25). Laboratory research showed
that undergraduates primed with reminders of death reported greater desire
for intimacy with and greater commitment to their current partner (Florian,
Mikulincer, & Herschberger, 2002; Mikulincer & Florian, 2000), compro-
mised their standards for a partner (Hirschberger, Florian, & Mikulincer,
2003), and sat close to others rather than alone (Wisman & Koole, 2003).
Given that death and the threat of death are central to the September 11
disaster (Pyszczynski, Solomon, & Greenberg, 2003), terror management
theory would also support the prediction that the September 11 disaster
would lead to an increase in marital solidarity and a decrease in divorces.
Given the emphasis on reminders of death, terror management theory would
predict decreases in divorces at large because affected and non-affected
areas were all exposed to graphic reminders of death.
In contrast to the Cohan and Cole (2002) study that showed increased
divorces in the year following natural disaster, a study of divorce rates and
the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing showed the opposite result. After the
bombing, divorce rates decreased (i) in the 7 counties in and around Okla-
homa City compared to the other 70 more geographically distant counties
in Oklahoma and (ii) in the 13 metropolitan Oklahoma counties compared
to the nonmetropolitan ones (Nakonezny, Reddick, & Rodgers, 2004). The
pattern of change in divorce rates showed a proximity effect as well as a
metropolitan effect. Interestingly, counties geographically distant from
Oklahoma City but similar in terms of metropolitan status also showed the
decline in divorce. This result is so striking because effects are restricted to
geographic proximity with most disasters (Galea & Resnick, 2005). The
metropolitan effect may have occurred if residents of other metropolitan
counties saw themselves as similar to those in Oklahoma City and thus felt
vulnerable. In other words, though geographically distant they presumably
experienced a psychological proximity to the bombing and behaved similar
to people with direct exposure to the bombing.
Divorce as a function of proximity to disaster
Where we observe change in divorce rates and the direction of that change
are two aspects of the spatial analysis that can provide theoretical insight
into how the September 11 disaster affected people and their marriages.
Proximity effects are the norm for natural and technological disasters such
that those directly affected suffer negative consequences but those beyond
do not (Galea & Resnick, 2005). The detectable (albeit subclinical) eleva-
tions in distress far from the site of the September 11 attack (Schlenger et
al., 2002; Schuster et al., 2001; Silver et al., 2002) were remarkable in terms
of disaster research and lend credence to the possibility that marriages
across the country far from the direct exposure of the attacks may have
been affected as well. Studies of mental health reactions to September 11
and the Oklahoma City bombing divorce study (Nakonezny et al., 2004)
Cohan et al.: Divorce following September 11 515
suggest that responses to terrorist disasters are affected by two kinds of
proximity – geographic proximity and psychological proximity. Observed
change may occur according to a spatially-ordered process like exposure to
trauma in which there are changes in close physical proximity to the affected
areas but not elsewhere, as with natural disasters. For example, mental
health problems occur as a result of direct exposure and related social and
economic disruptions and dissipate as one goes farther from the disaster
site (Galea et al., 2002; Hanson, Kilpatrick, Freedy, & Saunders, 1995).
The notion of relative risk appraisal helps to explain how psychological
proximity may occur. Marshall et al (2007) posited that relative risk ap-
praisal may have mediated the September 11 disaster and responses to it,
especially for those with indirect exposure. People tend to overestimate
their risk of personal harm from rare, novel, and frightening events – char-
acteristics of terrorism. Indirect exposure, such as through visual images of
the disaster, can generate appraisals of higher risk and greater distress
(Marshall et al., 2007). Perceived risk may be increased by relative proxim-
ity, perceived similarity, or a unique threat. Citizens of Los Angeles, who
felt “a dark shiver of vulnerability,” had a particular reason to feel at greater
risk (Ness, Schevitz, & Aguila, 2001, p. A24). Three of the four hijacked
airplanes were bound for Los Angeles. People in other urban areas with
high-profile landmarks, such as the Sears Tower in Chicago, also feared
attack (Yednak & Mellen, 2001).Those with indirect exposure who perceive
a high risk for terrorist attack may feel a psychological proximity to the
WTC attack that results in similar responses as those with direct exposure
and an actual degree of threat.
The current study and hypotheses
To examine whether the September 11 terrorist attack had a significant effect
on marital stability, we used a prospective longitudinal design to examine
population-level vital statistics divorce data by county. We examined coun-
ties with varying degrees of spatial proximity from NYC. We examined
county data for NYC, Bergen County, NJ (a commuter county across the
Hudson River from NYC), and three major counties [Cook (Chicago)
County in Illinois, Los Angeles County in California, Philadelphia County
in Pennsylvania]. Population-level vital statistics data allowed us to examine
an objective behavioral outcome (divorce) indicative of marital instability
and to observe a major family transition that occurs infrequently in small
samples.To document overt action toward divorce, vital statistics data have
the advantage over survey data of avoiding problems with inaccurate recol-
lections for the dates of separation and divorce (Bumpass & Raley, 2007).
The prospective design provided a baseline before the disaster against
which to compare subsequent divorce rates.
The literature suggests the September 11 disaster will affect divorce in
different directions and with different patterns. The natural disaster and
stress literatures suggest that divorces will increase following September 11
in a pattern characterized by geographic proximity. If geographic prox-
imity and direct exposure explain the results, we would expect the most
516 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26(4)
pronounced increases in the divorce rate in NYC, perhaps increases in
Bergen County, NJ where there was loss of life but no material damage,
and no changes in divorce rates in urban counties not directly affected. On
the other hand, the attachment and terrorist management theory literatures
suggest that following a terrorist disaster divorces will decrease locally or
at large, respectively. Furthermore, behavioral responses to the September
11 attack may be mediated by psychological proximity and relative risk
appraisals (Marshall et al., 2007). If so, we would expect to find changes in
divorce rates in locales with greater perceived risks. In this respect, Los
Angeles serves as a theoretically discriminating case. Because three of the
four hijacked airplanes were going to Los Angeles, the perceived risk among
citizens of Los Angeles may have been greater than other large urban areas
that were geographically closer to the attacks, like Chicago. Put another
way, the impact of September 11 on divorce rates in Los Angeles has the
potential to distinguish the effects of spatial versus psychological distance
on marital dissolution because those two distances are dissociated for Los
Angeles but overlap for NYC and Bergen County, NJ.A psychological prox-
imity effect would be evidenced by observed changes in Los Angeles, which
was indirectly involved in the attack, but not in Chicago, which was not.
Data and design
The purpose of the current study is to examine how a violent man-made
disaster, the September 11 terrorist attack, affected divorce rates. Our first
goal was to determine if the September 11 attack had any detectable impact
on divorce rates in NYC. Our second goal was to determine whether attack-
related changes in divorce were uniformly distributed across other urban
counties, or whether they showed a spatial gradient that was most pro-
nounced in the immediate vicinity of “ground zero.” Our final goal was to
determine whether any gradient in dissolution rates was driven primarily
by spatial proximity (i.e., direct disruption of social or economic life) or by
psychological proximity (i.e., greater perceived risk). We assessed these
questions by comparing pre- and post-disaster divorce rates using longitu-
dinal population-level data in counties that varied in geographic distance
from NYC. We examined Bergen County, NJ because it experienced the
greatest number of deaths from September 11 among New Jersey commuter
counties (New Jersey Center for Health Statistics) but did not experience
the physical destruction that NYC did. We examined Cook (Chicago)
County Illinois, Los Angeles County California, and Philadelphia County
(Pennsylvania) because they were the comparison sites for the Schlenger
et al. (2002) study of psychological reactions to the September 11 attack
and varied systematically in spatial distance from NYC.
The current study included two important empirical refinements over
the Cohan and Cole (2002) and the Nakonezny et al (2004) studies. We
examined (i) monthly rather than annual divorces and (ii) rates of divorces
Cohan et al.: Divorce following September 11 517
filed rather than divorces completed. First, the Cohan and Cole study
examined annual rates of divorce and the Nakonezny study examined
annual rates and rates averaged over five years post-disaster. To increase
temporal precision, the current study examined shorter periods of time –
divorce statistics by month. [See Rodgers, St. John, & Coleman (2005) for
a time series analysis of births by month following terrorist attack.] For
most counties we examined rates of divorces filed by month from January
1995 to December 2005. There were two exceptions. Data on divorces filed
for Philadelphia were available from August 1995 to December 2005, and
data on divorces filed for NYC were only available from January 2000 to
December 2005.
Second, the Cohan and Cole (2002) and the Nakonezny et al. (2004)
studies examined rates of divorces completed. The length of time it takes to
obtain a divorce varies widely by jurisdiction and by couple from months
to years. Therefore when rate of divorces completed is the outcome, it is
not possible to identify when those divorces were initiated relative to the
disaster. For example, an annual measure of divorces completed in 2002
would include divorces initiated prior to September 11 and divorces initi-
ated after September 11, which would mar the integrity of the goal to under-
stand the temporal association between disaster and divorce behavior. To
examine precisely when a couple took action to end their marriage legally
with respect to the onset of disaster, the current study examined rates of
divorces filed. Research on the Marital Instability Index (Booth, Johnson,
& Edwards, 1983) supports the validity of filing for divorce as a measure of
marital instability. People who took overt actions toward divorce, such as
filing for divorce, were more likely to divorce compared to those who
contemplated divorce (Booth, Johnson, White, & Edwards, 1985).
Monthly divorce rates were computed by dividing the number of monthly
divorces filed at the county level by annual population estimates for that
county. County population estimates were obtained from the U.S. Census
Bureau. County-level divorce data were obtained from the following sources:
Circuit Court of Cook County, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Center
for Health Statistics of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior
Services, New York County Supreme Court, and the Philadelphia Family
Court. The demographic covariate data were obtained from the following
sources: age, education, and race were obtained from the American Com-
munity Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau; income was obtained from the
Bureau of Economic Analyses of the U.S. Department of Commerce; and
unemployment rates were obtained from state labor agencies.
Data analytic strategy
Divorce rates were analyzed as in a previous study of disaster-induced
changes in marital outcomes using Autoregressive Integrated Moving
Average (ARIMA) time series methods that incorporate spatial dose-
response profiles (Cohan & Cole, 2002) and adjust for seasonal effects,
secular trends, and autocorrelation. ARIMA regression models analyze the
association between an outcome sequence (e.g., divorce rates over time)
518 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26(4)
and a sequence of explanatory variables (e.g., the occurrence of a terrorist
attack). Time series data often show autocorrelation (correlations among
successive residuals) and ARIMA models explicitly model autocorrelation
to prevent correlated residuals from violating the independence assump-
tions underlying statistical inference (Cryer, 1986). Once autocorrelation
among residuals is eliminated, accurate confidence intervals and significance
levels can be calculated for regression coefficients summarizing the relation-
ship between outcome incidence and time (i.e., the magnitude of secular
trend, a slow steady change in incidence over time) or between outcome
incidence and a transient event, such as the September 11 terrorist attack.
Under the ARIMA approach,outcome incidence is first plotted as a func-
tion of time in order to identify secular trends, outliers, heteroscedasticity,
and any other features of the data that might complicate modeling (e.g.,
changing patterns of secular trend, changes in outcome variability over
time). A preliminary model incorporating any visible secular trend is then
fit to the data, and the residuals are examined for mutual independence
using autocorrelation functions and partial autocorrelation functions (see
Cryer, 1986).If residual autocorrelation is present, two types of parameters
can be added to the model to capture autocorrelation in the deterministic
portion of the model and thereby remove it from the stochastic residuals.
Autoregressive (AR) terms relate outcomes at time tto those one lag back
at t-1 (or two lags back, or more), and are indicated by partial autocorrela-
tion among outcomes. Moving average (MA) terms relate residuals at time
tto those one or more lags back, and are indicated by partial autocorrela-
tion among residuals. To remove secular trends, analysis may focus on the
integrated (I) series, which is obtained by taking the difference between
each observation and the one preceding it (the first difference). Because
time series data for each county may show different temporal behavior,
different ARIMA models are appropriate for each county series analyzed.
When reporting results, we describe the ARIMA models in terms of the
number of AR terms, the degree of integration, and the number of MA
terms. Thus an ARIMA (2, 1, 0) model employs two autoregressive (AR)
parameters, is fit to the first difference of the series (I), and employs no
moving average terms (MA). We selected as the most appropriate model
that which was most parsimonious (i.e., has the fewest AR or MA terms)
and fit the data well (i.e., no significant autocorrelation remained in the
residual series).
Exploratory analyses of divorce rate time series for several of the coun-
ties studied here revealed two periods of increased divorce rates prior to the
September 11 terrorist attack (Cohan, Cole, & Schoen, 2007). One period
occurred between April and October 1997 and a second between January
and April 2001, which coincided with transient changes in federal immigra-
tion policy. To be cautious and to remove the possible influence of “policy
spikes” from the underlying secular trends on divorce, we included in our
initial ARIMA models indicator variables capturing those systematic influ-
ences (i.e., one parameter taking a value of 0 prior to April 1997, 1 between
April and October of 1997, and 0 thereafter, and a second indicator taking
Cohan et al.: Divorce following September 11 519
a value of 0 prior to January 2001, 1 between January and April 2001, and
0 thereafter). Inclusion of indicator variables capturing those systematic
effects ensures that (i) their impact is removed from the stochastic series of
residuals, and (ii) subsequent assessment of divorce rates following Septem-
ber 2001 are not confounded by policy-induced disturbances.
Three considerations guided where we would look for changes in rates
of divorces filed. First, we started with September 2001, the month of
greatest impact, given the onset of post-disaster effects is prompt rather
than delayed (Norris et al., 2002). Second, if there was a significant effect
for September 2001, we would follow up with an examination of October
2001 and so on for as long as the previous month showed significant changes.
Third, we used visual inspection of the time series.
After describing the general behavior of an outcome series with an appro-
priate ARIMA model controlling for federal immigration policy timing, we
examined the effect of the September 11 terrorist attack by adding to the
model an indicator variable that took the value 0 prior to September 2001,
the value 1 during September 2001, and the value 0 thereafter. Indicator
variables representing persisting effects in subsequent months were also
added to gauge the length of time over which the outcome series departed
from its basal behavior following the terrorist attacks. Residual autocorre-
lations were examined following the addition of all monthly indicator vari-
ables to ensure that the final model continued to fit the data well. In the
context of the finalized model, statistical characteristics of each indicator
variable (parameter estimate, standard error, pvalue) were interpreted to
assess the statistical significance and effect size of the September 11 terror-
ist attack on marital dissolution rates.
Following basic analysis of the divorce time series for each county studied,
we also carried out “spatial dose-response analyses” and “psychological
dose-response analyses” comparing the magnitude of change in divorce
rates in highly proximal counties versus more distal counties. If there is a
September 11 effect we would expect any significant change in NYC to
remain significant after controlling for divorce rates in a more distal county.
On the other hand, if some other national sociodemographic trend accounts
for any change in NYC then we would expect significant changes to become
non-significant after controlling for another urban county. These analyses
took the time series of divorce rates in a proximal county as the primary
outcome while controlling for the parallel time series of divorce rates in a
distal county. This approach is equivalent to the analysis of the difference
in divorce rates in proximal versus distal counties (Cohan & Cole, 2002).
To the extent that the September 2001 indicator variable remained statis-
tically significant after controlling for correlated changes in distal county
divorce rates, we concluded that a significant dose-response relationship
existed (i.e., the magnitude of September 11-associated change in divorce
rates in the proximal county significantly exceeded that observed in the distal
county). In initial analyses, NYC served as the proximal county, and varia-
tions in the selection of the distal counties (e.g., Philadelphia, Los Angeles)
served to distinguish between the effects of spatial versus psychological
520 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26(4)
proximity. Subsequent pair-wise comparisons among other counties (e.g.,
analysis of the Los Angeles divorce series, controlling for that of Philadel-
phia) served to further refine conclusions from the primary analyses.
We used the SAS PROC TIMEPLOT to examine the data and PROC
ARIMA to estimate models by conditional least squares.For a more detailed
description of ARIMA modeling, see Cryer (1982). All significance levels
were based on two-tailed tests.
Did the September 11 attack affect divorce rates in New York
Monthly rates of divorces filed in New York County (Manhattan) between
January 2000 and December 2005 are shown in Figure 1. In ARIMA time
series analyses, results revealed a statistically significant decrease in NYC
divorce filings during September 2001 (p= .0013). The magnitude of change
was substantial, with filing rates falling by –.24 per 1000 residents (32.4%)
below the value expected based on background secular trends as estimated
by the best-fitting ARIMA (2,1,1) model. Table 1 presents results of time
series analyses for all counties analyzed. First, sub-normal divorce filings
persisted only for September 2001. October 2001 rates did not differ sig-
nificantly from that expected on the basis of secular trends and seasonal
variation (p= .56). Thus, NYC divorce rates dropped in a significant and
punctate fashion in the immediate aftermath of the September 2001 terror-
ist attacks. Second, inspection of the New York County time series sug-
gested that after an initial decline in divorces filed in September 2001, there
might be an increase in divorces in 2002. Because we did not have an a priori
reason or previous empirical evidence to examine a portion of the year, we
tested for change in divorce rates across all of 2002 by aggregating the 2002
monthly data. There was a non-significant up tick in divorces in New York
County in 2002, (p= .1437, +.0468, SD = .0315).
Although the pronounced transient decline in NYC divorce rates could
be predicted by psychological theories, an alternative explanation is the
effects of civil service disruption. The New York County Supreme Court
where divorces are filed was closed for one week after September 11 (James
McElligot, Chief Matrimonial Clerk, New York County Supreme Court,
personal communication, August 2005). Although the 32.4% decline in
divorce filings observed exceeds the 23.3% which would normally accrue
in NYC during one week, it is conceivable that lack of access or opportunity
could contribute to the decline observed.To distinguish whether the decline
in divorces was attributable to psychosocial influences of the disaster versus
civil service disruption, we carried out parallel analyses in Bergen County,
NJ, a commuter county for NYC where many of the dead had resided.
Although disaster exposure was similar to NYC residents, this New Jersey
county suffered no disruption in civil services.ARIMA time-series analysis
of monthly divorce filings in Bergen County, NJ showed a statistically
Cohan et al.: Divorce following September 11 521
522 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26(4)
Rate of divorces filed by month 2000 to 2005 for New York County (Manhattan)
Divorce rates
September 2001
Month and year
Cohan et al.: Divorce following September 11 523
significant decrease in September 2001 (p= .021), followed by a slight (but
non-significant) return toward basal rates in October 2001 (p= .191). Thus,
transient decreases in divorce filings in close proximity to the September
2001 terrorist attack were not solely attributable to the effects of civic
disruption on filing opportunity.
Divorce rates in other urban counties
To determine how broadly divorce rates were affected in the aftermath of
the terrorist attacks, we examined county divorce filings for Cook, Los
Angeles, and Philadelphia Counties. As shown in Table 1, Philadelphia and
Los Angeles showed marked and statistically significant declines in
divorces filed in September 2001 (p= .013 and .016, respectively). Divorce
rates showed a subsequent trend upward in October 2001, and this effect
was statistically significant in Los Angeles (p= .009) but not in Philadel-
phia (p= .236). The results for Los Angeles are consistent with the hypoth-
esis that perturbations in divorce following the terrorist attacks were driven
by psychological proximity rather than direct physical effects of the attacks.
Contrary to a strict metropolitan effect, there was no change in Cook
County (Chicago) for the rate of divorces filed in September 2001.
We conducted additional tests to evaluate the veracity of the results. To
rule out the alternative explanation that sociodemographic conditions
drove the results and to test internal validity, we added five demographic
covariates to our analyses that are related to divorce, following those
included in the Nakonezny et al. (2004) study of divorce after the Oklahoma
City bombing. After controlling for trends in age, education, income, race,
and unemployment, September divorce declines remained statistically signi-
ficant in all cases in which they were originally significant (Bergen County,
New Jersey; Los Angeles County, California; New York County, New York;
Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania); all ps < .05) and non-significant in
Results of ARIMA analyses for September 2001 divorce rates
Regression coefficients
Location Model Raw (SE) Zp
New York County, NY 2,1,0 –.243 (.092) –2.65 .010
Bergen County, NJ 3,1,0 –.077 (.033) –2.34 .021
Cook County, IL (Chicago) 2,0,2 –.009 (.015) –0.56 .579
Los Angeles County, CA 3,1,2 –.046 (.019) –2.44 .016
Philadelphia County, PA 2,0,0 –.041 (.016) –2.54 .013
New York (controlling for Philadelphia) 2,1,0 –.236 (.084) –2.83 .006
New York (controlling for Los Angeles) 2,1,0 –.249 (.091) –2.73 .008
Los Angeles (controlling for Philadelphia) 3,1,2 –046 (.018) –2.45 .016
Philadelphia (controlling for Los Angeles) 3,1,0 –.034 (.018) –1.87 .065
Note: The numbers in the Model column represent the number of Autoregressive terms, degree
of Integration (differencing) of the original time series, and number of Moving Average terms.
Cook County (p= .32). To examine potential threats to statistical conclusion
validity, residuals were verified to show non-significant autocorrelation (by
Ljung-Box test over 1–24 month lags), heteroscedasticity (by Portmanteau
Q-test), and no departure from normal distribution (by Bera-Jarque test)
following the estimation of each model.
Divorce rates as a function of spatial and psychological proximity
Significant decreases in divorces filed in Los Angeles and Philadelphia in
September 2001 suggest that indirect exposure appeared to play a central
role in post-attack divorce dynamics.We next sought to determine whether
such experiences propagated as a function of spatial proximity or psycho-
logical proximity. We gauged the effects of spatial proximity by comparing
the intensity of September 2001 divorce perturbations in NYC versus the
progressively more distant cities of Philadelphia and Los Angeles. As
expected,ARIMA models assessing each pair-wise difference between cities
showed the magnitude of perturbation in NYC was significantly greater than
that in Philadelphia (analysis of NYC rates controlling for Philadelphia; p=
.001) and Los Angeles (NYC controlling for Los Angeles; p= .008; see
Table 1), supporting the view that proximity to the terrorist attack rather
than a broader sociodemographic trend accounted for the change.
The pattern of results showing significant change in September 2001
divorces for Philadelphia but not Chicago supports a spatially-driven
psychological gradient in which the impact of the terrorist attacks decays
in proportion to geographic distance from the site of the attacks. However,
the significant change in divorces in Los Angeles is contrary to a purely
geographic effect and is consistent with a psychologically-driven gradient
in which psychological proximity to the attack determines the magnitude
of behavioral impact. Philadelphia and Los Angeles were both removed
from the site of the direct attack and thus showed a less dramatic impact
than NYC. However, the relative magnitude of divorce perturbations in
those two cities provides an opportunity to discriminate the effects of
spatial gradients from psychological symbolic gradients because they show
different relative ordering in spatial versus symbolic distance. Philadelphia
is relatively close to NYC in geographic terms (about 100 miles away), and
a strictly geographic gradient would imply greater perturbation in divorce
rates in Philadelphia than in Los Angeles to the extent that relative prox-
imity increases perceived risk. On the other hand, Los Angeles had a unique
risk and was “closer”to the terrorist attacks than Philadelphia because three
of the hijacked planes were destined for Los Angeles, whereas none were
going to Philadelphia.Thus,comparison of the relative magnitude of divorce
perturbations in Los Angeles and Philadelphia provides an opportunity to
determine whether the magnitude of impact decays in direct proportion to
geographic distance, in which case Philadelphia rate changes would exceed
Los Angeles rate changes, or in direct proportion to psychological distance,
in which case Los Angeles rate changes would exceed Philadelphia rate
change. Consistent with the latter hypothesis, the empirical magnitude of
divorce perturbation in Los Angeles significantly exceeded that observed
524 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26(4)
in Philadelphia (see Table 1).The percent alteration in Philadelphia divorce
rates was smaller than that of Los Angeles in relative (15.4% drop from
historical September norms vs. 16.6%, respectively) and in absolute terms
(–.03 filings/1000 married individuals vs. –.06, respectively). Consistent with
the hypothesis that Los Angeles divorce rates in September 2001 contained
a distinct dynamic component not present at the same time in Philadelphia,
ARIMA analysis of Los Angeles rates continued to indicate a significant
decline in September 2001 after controlling for concurrent changes in
Philadelphia rates (p= .016). Philadelphia divorce rates did not provide a
significant increment to predictive power above and beyond the basic effects
of the September 2001 indicator variable (p= .167). In contrast, changes in
Philadelphia divorce rates were rendered marginal by controlling statisti-
cally for Los Angeles rates (p= .065), whereas Los Angeles rates remained
a significant predictor of the Philadelphia time series (p= .012). These
results imply that the impact of the terrorist attacks on marital dissolution
rates decayed more so as a function of the strength of the psychological
proximity to the attack than as a function of geographic distance.
To study the effect of an exogenous shock on marriage, the current study
examined the effect of the September 11 terrorist disaster on an objective
indicator of marital instability, rates of divorces filed by month, for NYC.
The time series methods adjusted for seasonal effects, secular trends, and
autocorrelation. To examine whether effects radiated beyond “ground zero”
according to spatial proximity or psychological proximity, we also examined
Bergen County, NJ (a commuter county for NYC) and three metropolitan
counties of varying spatial distance (Cook County in Illinois, Los Angeles
County in California, and Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania). Two pre-
vious studies of disaster and divorce make different predictions about the
direction of change in rates of divorce. Following natural disaster, divorces
increased according to geographic proximity (Cohan & Cole, 2002), whereas
following a man-made bombing disaster, divorces decreased according to
geographic proximity and metropolitan status (i.e., psychological proxim-
ity; Nakonezny et al., 2004).
The results of the current study are consistent with the observation that
“. . . a disaster is more than an individual-level event, but it is also a
community-level event with potential psychological consequences even for
those persons who experience no direct losses” (Norris, 2002, p. 310). In
NYC there was a significant decrease in the rate of divorces filed in Sept-
ember 2001. Similarly, there was a significant decrease in divorces filed in
September 2001 in Bergen, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles Counties. There
were no changes in Cook County (Chicago). Similar to a study of divorce
following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, people with geographic and
psychological proximity to the September 11 attack, who would have filed
for divorce in September 2001 had the disaster not occurred, decided to
Cohan et al.: Divorce following September 11 525
postpone or forego a divorce. The consistency across locales in the timing
and direction of the change in divorces filed lends credence to the robust-
ness of the effect.
The decline in divorces following terrorist disaster is in contrast to the
increase in divorces following natural disaster (Cohan & Cole, 2002) and
suggests there were different dynamics for marital stability for different
disasters. Hurricane Hugo involved massive physical damage that required
significant rebuilding but minimal loss of human life (32 deaths in South
Carolina; South Carolina Governor’s Office, 1991) because the storm was
predicted and people evacuated. When the context of the disaster centered
on chronic post-disaster rebuilding stress, marriages were more likely to
unravel. In contrast, the September 11 disaster killed approximately 3000
people without warning by a malicious human agent. When the context of
the disaster centered on death, fewer people filed for divorce.
An important finding for the disaster literature is that the effect of mass
violence can move people to alter their behavior, even through indirect
exposure to the disaster. The decline in divorce rates in NYC and Bergen
County, NJ are consistent with a geographic proximity effect. The relative
geographic proximity of Philadelphia to NYC (e.g., easy access by road or
train, personal connections) and the unique threat of the crash of United
flight 93 in Pennsylvania may have contributed to increased perceived risk
and the subsequent drop in divorces filed there. The significant result for
Philadelphia together with the nonsignificant result for Chicago suggests
that the impact of September 11 on divorce dissipated with spatial distance.
However, the nonsignificant result for Chicago coupled with the significant
change in Los Angeles suggests there was also a psychological proximity
effect and that it was more nuanced than simply perceived risk due to
metropolitan status. For the disaster literature, the decline in divorces filed
in Los Angeles County in September 2001, on the opposite side of the
country from NYC, is a remarkable exception to the geographic proximity
effect found with most disasters. The results suggest that a mass violence
disaster can affect behavior when the exposure is vicarious and the prox-
imity is psychological (Galea & Resnick, 2005). Because three of the
hijacked airplanes were going to Los Angeles, the threat of death was
presumably higher for that county than a geographically closer county like
Chicago.The pattern of results in the current study of mass violence corrob-
orates an earlier study on divorce following the Oklahoma City bombing
(Nakonezny et al., 2004) such that when there was specific intent to kill
large numbers of people, divorces declined in areas geographically
proximal as well as areas that were geographically distant but psychologi-
cally proximal. Thus vulnerability to mass violence deaths, with or without
accompanying infrastructure destruction, was associated with a decrease in
divorces filed, divorces that would have been filed had the September 11
attack not occurred.
Examination of monthly rates of divorces filed in the current study yielded
greater precision compared to two previous studies of disaster and divorce
that examined annual rates of divorces completed, with implications for
526 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26(4)
refining theory (Cohan & Cole, 2002; Nakonezny et al., 2004). We found a
significant one-month decline in divorces.The decline in NYC at the height
of the trauma is consistent with an attachment theory interpretation. Our
pattern of results is similar to Bowlby’s observation that family members
will stay in close proximity for “days or weeks” following a disaster because
affiliation is comforting during disaster (Bowlby, 1973, p. 167). Marital
preservation appears to be an immediate response to mortal threat, but
relaxes once the threat is less acute. Under conditions of extreme stress,
uncertainty, and threat, people maintain the status quo and refrain from
making a major life change. “Goals, during crisis periods, are easily rank
ordered and commonly focused upon survival or sustenance of the social
system and/or individuals within it” (Lipman-Blumen, 1975, p. 891). Inten-
tionally or unintentionally, humans may take quick measures to conserve
resources following a severe exogenous shock. In a parallel finding that
reflects unconscious efforts to conserve resources under stress, the odds of
a male birth fell significantly in NYC and California in the three months
after the September 11 attacks, consistent with other studies of major
stressors and the human sex ratio in the population (Catalano, Bruckner,
Marks,& Eskenazi, 2006:Catalano, Bruckner, Gould, Eskenazi,& Anderson,
2005). From an evolutionary perspective, fetal loss of weak males may
increase the chance that females will survive to reproduction in a stressful
The decline in divorces in Philadelphia and Los Angeles was consistent
with the terror management theory position that reminders of death can
lead to actions to counter the existential fear of death. Increased commit-
ment to a romantic partner may be one way to mitigate those fears. How-
ever, the length of the significant decline appears more like the attachment
theory idea of maintaining security and stability rather than the terror
management theory idea of increased commitment, which implies a longer
effect. Furthermore, the non-significant effect in Chicago,which was exposed
to September 11-related images of death, runs counter to the terror manage-
ment theory idea that reminders of death should bolster marriages at large.
It suggests that an additional dose of perceived risk was required for change
in divorce behavior in locales without direct exposure. For example, Los
Angeles was the destination location for three of the four airplanes and
Philadelphia is relatively close to NYC and the crash of United flight 93.
There are several cautions to consider when interpreting the results. First,
it is difficult to tell from the population-level data how long the September
11 effect on divorce persisted for the people who did not file for divorce in
September 2001 and whether they decided to forego divorce permanently
or temporarily. For people whose divorces were deferred temporarily, it is
logical to expect that those divorces filed at a later time were spread out
over a number of months, which would make it impossible to detect a
particular rebound with the time series analyses. In Los Angeles there was
a significant increase in divorces in October 2001, which probably repre-
sented the rebound from the divorces deferred in September 2001. So in
Los Angeles it appears that couples temporarily postponed divorces during
Cohan et al.: Divorce following September 11 527
“the brunt of the storm” as predicted by attachment theory rather than
preserved their marriage through a disaster-inspired shift in long-term
commitment, as would be suggested by terror management theory. Second,
individual-level data are necessary to test whether the processes we posited
were the mechanisms for the observed population-level declines in divorce.
Alternative explanations could include urban chaos or downward social
comparison (Buunk, 2006; Taylor, Buunk, Collins, & Reed, 1992), that is,
perceiving one’s distressed marriage as better than nothing in light of the
young, happy families that were devastated by the disaster. Third, we con-
ducted a number of analyses to show that the results were a consequence
of the September 11 terrorist attack. Yet the possibility remains with corre-
lational data that an unexamined variable caused the results.
The September 11 terrorist attack was a disaster like no other in the US.
The study points to the power of a manmade disaster that focused on inten-
tional killing to alter behavior among people directly and indirectly
affected.The pattern of results indicates that the threat of death, even when
experienced vicariously, moved people to alter their path and refrain from
filing for divorce. Future research can examine how the context of disaster
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... Yet, a close interdependence with one's partner also puts individuals at risk for stress transmission (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2020;Larson & Almeida, 1999). Previous research on life events such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters has shown that they have major potential to disrupt couple dynamics, for the good and bad (Cohan et al., 2009;Fredman et al., 2010;Marshall & Kuijer, 2017). In this paper, we examined how stress and relationship functioning (as indicated by overall relationship satisfaction and relationship quality) interacted over time in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing on data collected from young to middle-aged adults who lived with their partner in 2018/2019 and in the early stages of the pandemic (May-July 2020). ...
... A salience of the fragility of life might prompt individuals to turn to close others to seek connection, security, and comfort (Marshall & Kuijer, 2017;Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). In line with this idea, studies have associated other life events such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters with increased relationship quality and reduced divorce rates (Cohan et al., 2009;Fredman et al., 2010;Nakonezny et al., 2004). We found that, on average, individuals reported lower relationship satisfaction, lower appreciation, and lower intimacy during COVID-19, as compared with pre-COVID levels. ...
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Individuals all across the world experienced significant disruptions in their personal and family life with the outbreak of the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The current study investigated dynamic associations between stress and relationship functioning over time in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perceived stress, relationship satisfaction, and relationship quality (appreciation, intimacy, conflict) were reported by 1483 young to middle-aged participants who were in a romantic relationship and lived with their partner in 2018/2019 and in May-July 2020 (a few months after the onset of COVID-19). Data were analyzed using bivariate latent change score models. Relationship functioning (satisfaction, appreciation, intimacy) showed small decreases from before to during the pandemic. Contrary to expectations, levels of perceived stress also decreased on average from before to during the pandemic. Changes in relationship functioning were correlated with changes in stress over time, so that participants with greater decreases in relationship satisfaction, appreciation, and intimacy and greater increases in conflict from before to during the pandemic showed lesser decreases/greater increases in stress. Higher pre-pandemic relationship satisfaction was associated with greater decreases/ lesser increases in stress from before to during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic levels of other measures of relationship functioning or stress were not associated with changes in outcomes over time. Results add to the literature demonstrating that stress is closely intertwined with the functioning of intimate relationships. Furthermore, they suggest that greater relationship satisfaction may serve as a protective factor for stressful life events.
... Lifethreatening traumatic events can affect the ways of thinking and preferences for families and ties with other people. For example, Cohan, Cole and Schoen (2009) showed that hurricane Hugo reduced the number of marriages and children, while Cohan et al. (2009) found that the 9/11 terrorist attacks reduced the rate of divorce. Empirical studies on family formation during pandemics and major disasters have also been conducted. ...
... Lifethreatening traumatic events can affect the ways of thinking and preferences for families and ties with other people. For example, Cohan, Cole and Schoen (2009) showed that hurricane Hugo reduced the number of marriages and children, while Cohan et al. (2009) found that the 9/11 terrorist attacks reduced the rate of divorce. Empirical studies on family formation during pandemics and major disasters have also been conducted. ...
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Using monthly panel dataset of prefectures in Japan, this study explored the effects of stay-at-home policies on the flows into and out of marriage. It was found that these policies significantly reduced both outcomes. According to our estimates, a nationwide state of emergency reduced the number of marriages per 1000 population by 10.4%, while that of divorces was reduced by 27.0%. Moreover, the prefectures designated as the special-precautions area suffered additional reductions with 6.1% and 8.9% for those of marriage and divorce, respectively.
... Caruana [9] noted increased family-cohesion levels during the postdisaster recovery period. In the aftermath of both the September 11 and Oklahoma terrorist attacks in the United States, divorce rates in surrounding areas decreased [10,11]. Different effects may reflect the different backgrounds of these two types of disasters [5], which led to the differentiation of couples' relationships in this study. ...
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Purpose: This study explores changes in couples' relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic, and analyzes the differences in the changes across three types: positive communication, criticism/defense, and demand/withdrawal. Method: A total of 600 (567 valid) Chinese respondents participated in this study, and a questionnaire was utilized to determine changes in their overall relationship, verbal and nonverbal communication, emotion, and activities with their spouses. Results: The average score of items related to positive communication is higher, compared with that of negative communication. Compared with the other two types of relationships, respondents with positive communication scored highest on all items related to positive communication and lowest on all items related to negative communication. Significant differences were noted between the positive communication types and the others. Conclusions: Results show that the relationships of couples included in this study have improved during the current pandemic. Therefore, improved consistency in the type of intimacy can lead to improved quality of couples' relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
... 9 It has also been reported that divorce rates decrease immediately after acts of terrorism. 10 In situations of sudden threats to survival, people are likely to seek a secure condition as well as bonding and healing with family and loved ones. On the other hand, in the case of natural disasters that have relatively little impact on life and death but continue to damage socioeconomic conditions over the medium and long term, difficulties that hinder the continuation of marital and romantic relationships, such as unemployment, household financial difficulties, and health problems, are likely to occur. ...
Objective: We examined the association between the presenteeism and the risk of divorce among Japanese workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: A prospective study of 27,036 individuals was conducted starting in December 2020, with 18,560 (68.7%) participating in the follow-up in December 2021. The Work Functioning Impairment Scale (WFun) was used to measure the degree of work function impairment. Results: Compared to the group with the lowest WFun score, the OR for the group with moderate WFun was 1.16 (95% CI: 0.74-1.82, p = 0.525), and the OR for the group with the highest WFun was 1.76 (95% CI: 1.18-2.62, p = 0.006). Conclusions: The present study suggests that supporting workers with presenteeism has important implications not only from the perspective of labor productivity in management but also for the individual's quality of life in terms of family relationships.
... L. Cohan and Cole 2002). Sebaliknya, tingkat perceraian menurun segera setelah dua serangan teroris (9/11 dan pengeboman Kota Oklahoma tahun 1995), dan akhirnya kembali ke titik awal (Catherine L. Cohan, Cole, and Schoen 2009). ...
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Maintaining the integrity of the household is not easy, the dynamics of life as husband and wife must be lived with patience and caution. However, this circumstances are sometimes seems insufficient to maintain the household. This indication could be seen that number of couples who prefer to end their marital relationship with dissolution. This article attempts to answer two main questions, namely: first, what are the main factors that cause the divorce in Rembang City; second, does the COVID-19 pandemic affect the divorce rate in Rembang City. This article is a qualitative research using a normative-empirical approach. The results of the analysis of this study show that the COVID-19 pandemic does not significantly affect changes in the divorce rate in Rembang City. This is due to the background of the Rembang community which is dominated by santri. Spiritual values are still a solid foundation that can maintain the unity of the household when some couples choose to divorce due to the economic and mental depression that caused by the pandemic. Mempertahankan keutuhan rumah tangga bukan perkara mudah, dinamika kehidupan sebagai suami dan istri harus dihadapi dengan penuh kesabaran serta kehati-hatian. Akan tetapi, sikap tersebut terkadang dirasa kurang cukup untuk mempertahankan rumah tangga. Hal ini ditandai dengan banyaknya pasangan yang lebih memilih untuk mengakhiri hubungan perkawinannya dengan jalur perceraian. Artikel ini berusaha untuk menjawab dua persoalan utama, yaitu: pertama, apa saja faktor utama yang menjadi alasan perceraian di Kota Rembang; kedua, apakah pandemi COVID-19 berpengaruh terhadap angka perceraian di Kota Rembang. Artikel ini merupakan penelitian kualitatif menggunakan metode pendekatan normatif-empiris. Hasil dari analisis penelitian ini menggambarkan bahwa faktor yang menyebabkan perceraian di Rembang adalah: kekerasan fisik dan psikologis, perselingkuhan, kurangnya tanggung jawab suami dalam menafkahi istri dan anak serta komunikasi yang buruk sekali pandemi COVID-19 tidak terlalu berpengaruh secara signifikan atas perubahan angka perceraian di Kota Rembang. Hal ini disebabkan oleh latar belakang masyarakat Rembang yang didominasi kalangan santri. Nilai-nilai spiritual masih menjadi landasan kokoh yang dapat mempertahankan keutuhan rumah tangga di saat beberapa pasangan memilih untuk bercerai karena depresi ekonomi dan mental yang disebabkan pandemi.
... The development toward gender equality could be facilitated or inhibited by the current pandemic. Indeed, natural disasters as well as social catastrophes (wars and revolutions) are known to impact relationships (e.g., Nakonezny et al. 2004;Cohan et al. 2009). Cohan and Cole (2002), for instance, studying forms of family-related behavior following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, concluded that this "natural disaster mobilized people to take action" (p. ...
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The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are not limited solely to health and economics; couples' relationships are also affected. There is, though, insufficient evidence as to how families are adapting to the new normal and the pandemic's long-term effects on relationship quality. We use novel population-level data collected in September 2021 in Italy as part of the Familydemic Survey to examine variation and correlates of relationship quality in the advanced stages of the pandemic. Our findings suggest that the pandemic is responsible for huge variations in family life. When children are involved, approximately 45-50% of couples experienced changes in their relationship satisfaction. Couples have attempted to adapt to the new reality, experiencing both gains and losses in relationship quality. For couples with less egalitarian gender attitudes, and for couples in which the pandemic has fostered preexisting domestic gender inequalities, relationship quality declined. For more egalitarian couples, and for couples in which the pandemic has offered the opportunity for a new equilibrium with a more balanced division of unpaid work, relationship quality improved.
Research on the effects of disruptive events on family-related decision making provides competing predictions with different channels, and the available evidence is mixed. This study focuses on the Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995, the most disastrous terrorist attack in modern Japanese history. The findings indicate that in the years following the sarin attack, marriage and divorce rates decreased in areas served by the affected subway lines relative to areas not served by them within the Tokyo metropolis. The effects do not appear to be driven by a change in population compositions. The negative effects of the sarin attack on marriage and divorce are weaker in areas with higher social welfare expenditures. The findings are consistent with the perspective that the sarin attack triggered perceived uncertainty, such that people adhered to their status quo; with the availability of social welfare, they perceived the impact as less pervasive.
The present study was aimed at analyzing differences between weekdays and weekends in psychological well-being, relationship satisfaction, and dyadic coping, as well as their associations, before and during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Italy. Individuals in a couple's relationship completed an online questionnaire before (N = 76) and during (N = 50) the COVID-19 lockdown. With regard to the first aim, participants in the COVID condition reported greater psychological well-being during weekends than during weekdays. In addition, participants showed greater relationship satisfaction during weekdays than during weekends, independently of the COVID-19 condition. As for the dyadic coping process, only in the Pre-COVID group, individuals communicated their stress more frequently during weekdays than during weekends. Finally, regardless of the COVID condition, they reported higher positive and common dyadic coping responses during weekends than during weekdays. As for the second aim, a positive effect of common dyadic coping responses on both psychological well-being and relationship satisfaction emerged during weekdays and weekends. Positive dyadic coping positively predicted relationship satisfaction during weekdays and weekends. Higher negative dyadic coping was associated with lower psychological well-being (in the Pre-COVID group only) and lower relationship satisfaction during weekends.
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Aims When assessing the ill-effects this pandemic has brought to humans, one of the most important factors is the psychological influence it has caused on married couples. The study is designed to understand whether they suffer from fears of financial situation/uncertainty and the role of resource availability on the level of adjustment of spouses. Objective The objectives of this study were to identify whether individuals suffer from fears of financial situation and uncertainty, to analyse the level of adjustment of spouses, to investigate the resources available for spouses, and to understand whether resource availability moderates the relationship between individuals' fears on financial situation/uncertainty and the level of adjustment of spouses. Methods An online survey was conducted among a chosen random sample and data were collected from 301 participants who were adults 25 years or older, residing in the Western Province of Sri Lanka. Statistical analysis was performed to identify the moderator effect of resources available for spouses. Results The results showed that COVID-19 created uncertainty and fear of financial situation among married couples and, it was concluded that cultural beliefs and support extended from their respective families contributed to the adjustment of Sri Lankan spouses, who managed to remain in stable relationships during the global crisis as a result. Conclusion The study concluded the support extended from the families and cultural beliefs contributed significantly to the adjustment of spouses who managed to stay strong during the global crisis.
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Introduction: Marriage, divorce and fertility are declining in Japan. There is concern that the COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated the decrease in marriages and births while increasing the number of divorces. Changes in partnership behaviours and fertility have significant implications for mental health, well-being and population demographics. Methods: Japanese vital statistical data were collected for December 2011-May 2021. We used the Farrington algorithm on the daily numbers of marriages, divorces and births (per month) in order to determine whether any given month between January 2017 and May 2021 had a significant excess or deficit. Analyses were conducted at the national and regional levels. Results: During the pandemic, significant deficits in the national number of marriages were noted in January 2020, April 2020, May 2020, July 2020, September 2020 and April 2021. Regional marriage patterns reflected national trends. Divorces were noted to be in deficit during April 2020, May 2020 and May 2021 at the country level. Regional analyses mirrored national divorce trends with the exception of Shikoku, which showed no deficits during the pandemic. Significant deficits in the number of total births were noted in December 2020, January 2021 and February 2021. Regionally, birth deficits were concentrated in Chubu, Kansai and Kanto. After the start of the pandemic, no significant excesses in marriages, divorces or births were noted at the national or regional level. Conclusions: Marriages and divorces declined during the pandemic in Japan, especially during state of emergency declarations. There were decreased births between December 2020 and February 2021, approximately 8-10 months after the first state of emergency, suggesting that couples altered their pregnancy intention in response to the pandemic. Metropolitan regions were more affected by the pandemic than their less metropolitan counterparts.
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Publisher Summary This chapter deals with terror management theory that attempts to contribute to the understanding of social behavior by focusing on the essential being and circumstance of the human animal. The theory posits that all human motives are ultimately derived from a biologically based instinct for self-preservation. Relative equanimity in the face of these existential realities is possible through the creation and maintenance of culture, which serves to minimize the terror by providing a shared symbolic context that imbues the universe with order, meaning, stability, and permanence. The theory provides a theoretical link between superficially unrelated substantive areas, and focuses on one particular motive that makes it distinctly human and, unfortunately, distinctly destructive. Theories serve a variety of equally important functions, all of which are oriented towards improving the ability to think about and understand the subject matter of discipline. The chapter discusses the dual-component cultural anxiety buffer: worldview and self-esteem, the development and functioning of the cultural anxiety buffer for the individual, and a terror management analysis of social behavior in great detail.
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The Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995 was an act of terrorism that had many potential influences on the city and state, including influences on families. We analyzed divorce data from 1985 to 2000 for all 77 counties in Oklahoma to assess the divorce response to the Oklahoma City bombing. Our prediction was that divorce rates in Oklahoma would decrease in response to the bombing, a prediction derived from two different theoretical orientations, terror management theory and attachment theory. We test this prediction in the context of two relatively powerful quasi-experimental designs, an interrupted time series design, and a nonequivalent control group design. We analyze the time series data with polynomial regression. Results suggested that there were lower observed divorce rates following the Oklahoma City bombing than the prevailing 10-year cubic divorce trend would have predicted, with the effect dampening over time. We analyzed the nonequivalent control group design using an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) linear model to compare counties in and around Oklahoma City to those farther away, and to compare metropolitan to nonmetropolitan counties in Oklahoma. In each case, divorces were lower in the predicted directions.
A conceptual framework for analyzing role change (dedifferentiation) as a system response to crisis is presented. A typology of crises is developed to be used on conjunction with critical aspects of the social system at the time of crisis to predict both crisis period and postcrisis (reconfiguration) period role changes. The crisis framework is then applied to macro-changes in family structure in response to an archetypal crisis. World War II. Structural changes in the family are indicated by macrostructural data (i.e., marriage and divorce rates, as well as occupational role shifts for women). Although census data are not sufficiently detailed to permit more elaborate analysis, they generally indicate support for the hypotheses derived from the crisis/dedifferentiation perspective.
This paper challenges the longstanding belief that the divorce rate rises in periods of prosperity and falls during economic recessions. Time-series regression analysis of the postwar United States reveals small, but positive, effects of unemployment on the divorce rate. Substantially stronger influences on the divorce rate are changes in age structure and the labor-force participation rate of women. In addition, when other factors are held constant, the divorce rate shows a rise during the Vietnam War but not during the Korean War. The implications of these and alternative explanations for the postwar trend in divorce are discussed.
Although much has been learned from cross-sectional research on marriage, an understanding of how marriages develop, succeed, and fail is best achieved with longitudinal data. In view of growing interest in longitudinal research on marriage, the authors reviewed and evaluated the literature on how the quality and stability of marriages change over time. First, prevailing theoretical perspectives are examined for their ability to explain change in marital quality and stability. Second, the methods and findings of 115 longitudinal studies—representing over 45,000 marriages—are summarized and evaluated, yielding specific suggestions for improving this research. Finally, a model is outlined that integrates the strengths of previous theories of marriage, accounts for established findings, and indicates new directions for research on how marriages change. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Recent years have witnessed a proliferation of research on close relationships and the emergence of a new relationship subdiscipline within the social sciences. To date, the new science of relationships has been dominated by data. This article is based on the conviction that progress now hinges on the development of theory to organize and interpret extant findings and to guide future investigations. Through a selective but extensive review of the major bodies of empirical literature, we attempt to show that attachment theory can incorporate a broad range of findings on adult relationships. In addition, attachment theory addresses an impressive array of research questions concerning the functions, emotional dynamics, evolutionary origins, and developmental pathways of human affectional bonds. We conclude that a comprehensive theory of close relationships is both desirable and, with the integration of existing theories and concepts, currently achievable.