Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Women Soldiers and Divorce

Female GIs Endure a Higher Rate of Divorce

For women in the military, there's a cold, hard reality: 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.

About 220,000 women have served in Afghanistan and Iraq in roles ranging from helicopter pilots to police officers. 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, meaning they aren't commissioned officers, nearly 9 percent of women saw their marriages end, compared with a little more than 3 percent of the men.
Research indicates that military women also get divorced at higher rates than their peers outside the military, while military men divorce at lower rates than their peers, according to a journal article published last year by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Brookings Institution. Directly comparing divorce rates between the military and civilian sectors is difficult because of the way the numbers are kept. It also noted that older military women -- ages 40-49 -- are about half as likely to be in their first marriage as civilian women of the same age.

The percent of military women getting a divorce has been consistently higher for at least a decade.

Like all divorces, the results can be a sense of loss and a financial blow. But for military women, a divorce can be a breaking point -- even putting them at greater risk for homelessness down the road.

It has an effect, too, on military kids. The military has more single moms than dads, and an estimated 30,000 of them have deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why military women are more burdened by divorce is unclear, although societal pressure is likely a factor.

"It's a strange situation, where there's a fair amount of equality in terms of their military roles, but as the military increasingly treats women the same as it treats men in terms of their work expectations, however, society still expects them to fulfill their family roles. And that's not equally balanced between men and women," said David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland.

One speculation is that while more traditional men join the military, women who are attracted to military life are less conventional - and perhaps less willing to stay in a bad marriage.

About half of all married women in the military are married to a fellow service member, compared with less than 10 percent of military men. While it can be an advantage to be married to someone who understands military life, balancing two military careers poses challenges.

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