Date of Award

Spring 1984

Document Type



Sociology & Anthropology


The crude divorce rate in the United States increased from 2.5 to 5.3 per 1,000 population between 1965 and 1979. This increase in the divorce rate provided an impetus for an increase in research on the causes of divorce and subsequent re-marriage. The search for causes of divorce led to the discovery that certain types of marriages were more prone to divorce than other marriages. It was found that divorce occurred more frequently in marriages of shorter duration; childless couples experienced more divorce than those couples who had children; teenage marriages were also found to end in divorce more frequently than marriages that occurred when the couples were older; and more divorces occurred among the lower social class couples than couples in higher classes. These empirical generalizations are implied to be true for all areas of the country. The purpose of this study was to determine if these generalizations hold true for the County of Lewis and Clark in Montana. Any increase in marital instability has obvious significance for the adults and children involved. Divorce and desertion are major life transitions which have far-reaching social, psychological, legal and economic consequences. The rapid increase in both the number and rate of divorces has direct consequences for the extent to which children are involved in divorce, household composition, living arrangements for children and child custody. Change in marital instability has implications for the work of marriage and family educators, researchers therapists and counselors, and other practitioners.

Analysis of the Lewis and Clark County data seemed to indicate that in the Helena area divorce does occur more often in marriages of shorter duration and more teenage marriages end in divorce. But the affect of social class and presence of children on marital instability is not as clear. Some childless marriages may be more prone to end in divorce but having children under 18 years of age does not seem to affect marital instability. And divorce does not occur more often in lower class marriages, except under certain conditions.