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Divorce rates: Another view of the data

Jun. 3, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
(Air Force photo)
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Does your job make you more likely to divorce your spouse?

A recent analysis by Air Force Times showed some of the busiest jobs in the Air Force have the most divorced airmen: Security forces, for example, had the largest number of divorcees — both male and female.

With security forces being among the largest career fields, this finding did not surprise readers.

“Of course there are more divorces for women in aerospace medicine and [knowledge operations] because there are more women in those AFSCs ... and no shocker there are more men in [security forces] and props [aerospace propulsion],” Ami Parrish wrote on the Air Force Times Facebook page.

Air Force Times looked at marital status — meaning divorced, single, married — by career field and identified the percentage and number of people divorced in each career field. The data pulled shows the marital status of members as of fiscal 2013.

But recent statistics provided by the Air Force Personnel Center paint a different picture.

AFPC looked solely at the married population of both enlisted airmen and officers and identified the percentage that got divorced in fiscal 2013 — a smaller data pool. AFPC’s divorce rates were broken out by gender, rank, and officer and enlisted Air Force Specialty Code.

According to both the AFPC and Air Force Times’ data, enlisted women have the highest divorce rates, but the picture varies from there. Here’s a look:

Top divorce rates for enlisted women:

AFPC data for fiscal 2013 Air Force Times’ analysis of rates as of fiscal 2013
Geospacial intelligence airmen first class: 13.8% Defense attachés: 46.4%
Aircraft metals technician senior airmen: 13.8% Group superintendents: 32.4%
Signals intelligence analyst senior airmen: 13.6% Enlisted aides: 25.9%

Top divorce rates for enlisted males:

AFPC data for fiscal 2013 Air Force Times’ analysis of rates as of fiscal 2013
Mental Health Service senior airmen: 8.33% Flight attendants:14.7%
Nuclear weapons airmen first class:8.16% Military training leaders: 10.9%
Signals intel analyst senior airmen: 8.02% Airman dorm leaders: 10.7%

Top divorce rates for female officers:

AFPC data for fiscal 2013 Air Force Times’ analysis of rates as of fiscal 2013
Public affairs captains: 14.7% Operating room nurses:20.2%
Cyberspace operations first lieutenants: 9.68% Flight nurses: 16.4%
Clinical social worker captains: 6.98% Health services administrators: 14.6%

Top divorce rates for male officers:

AFPC data for fiscal 2013 Air Force Times’ analysis of rates as of fiscal 2013
Pharmacist majors: 6.25% Academic program managers:13.7%
Physician assistant first lieutenants: 4.88% Physicians assistants: 6.8%
Residency trained flight surgeon lieutenant colonels:4.76% Clinical nurses: 5.6%

Given the many ways to calculate and measure divorce within populations, there will be discrepancies, experts say.

Overall, 4.3 percent of the enlisted force and 7.5 percent of officers were divorced as of fiscal 2013, according to the Air Force Times data.

What’s most telling about the new data from AFPC is that the members who got divorced in 2013 were most likely at the lower ranks: E-3s and E-4s, and first lieutenants and captains.

Financial benefits are a primary incentive for military couples to marry, said Amanda McCorkindale, a former Air Force captain who is a clinical psychologist at Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. Younger members especially take advantage of these incentives, she said.

“I think that younger military members get married because they can bump up their living conditions, their benefits and more,” McCorkindale said. “But when you get married young, it increases the likelihood of divorce,” which leads to an increase in the divorce rate, she said.

Times of economic decline are another factor in rising divorce rates, said Mark Arend, attorney for McKinley Irvin Family Law in Seattle and a former Air Force officer.

“Divorce became ‘popular’ when dealing with property during economic downturns,” he said.

“Probably the single best solution for reducing the divorce rate is full disclosure from a couple, and time,” Arend said. For any couple, knowing assets right up front will let the couple work through financial problems that may arise in the future, he said.

McCorkindale suggests “de-incentivizing” marriage for younger military members so marriage doesn’t become synonymous with benefits. “It doesn’t change the mental health aspects or the quality of life aspects of relationship status, but it could maybe reduce the divorce rate across the board,” she said.

Arend said his firm represents dozens of military couples, and while different factors trouble military families, he finds that “more and more couples tend to accept the status quo and say, ‘Well, sure I can marry now, but divorce is easy.’

“There’s no stigma with being divorced anymore,” he said.

View AFPC’s officer divorce rates.

View AFPC’s enlisted divorce rates.

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