Soldiers’ Divorce Rates up Sharply

The divorce rates of American soldiers are on the rise as the stress of their job increases, according to a new report.

Soldiers’ divorce rates up sharply (USA Today)

The number of active-duty soldiers getting divorced has been rising sharply with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. The trend is severest among officers. Last year, 3,325 Army officers’ marriages ended in divorce – up 78% from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, and more than 31/2 times the number in 2000, before the Afghan operation, Army figures show. For enlisted personnel, the 7,152 divorces last year were 28% more than in 2003 and up 53% from 2000. During that time, the number of soldiers has changed little. The Army has no comparable data for past wars.

The stress of combat, long separations and difficulty readjusting to family life are key reasons for the surge, Army officials say. “Rising through the ranks, every subsequent job gets more difficult, more intense and more demanding,” says Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman. “So the stressors are extreme in the officer corps, especially when we’re at war, and officers have an overwhelming responsibility to take care of their soldiers as well as the soldiers’ families. There’s a lot of responsibility on the leaders’ shoulders, which, I can assure you, takes away from the home life.”

Quite so. Cops and soldiers have always had relatively high divorce rates, simply because of the nature of their jobs. Soldiering is even worse because of constant moving of the family from station to station and periodic solo assignments overseas, to combat zones or hardship areas like Korea. In generations past, spouses, mostly women, accepted this as their lot in life. Nowadays, with both spouses having careers, the sacrifice demanded of the “dependant” are more than many are willing to bear.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Just Me says:

    Sadly I am not at all surprised at this.

    My husband did 6 1/2 years mostly during peacetime during the Clinton years, and that was horrible stressful on our family. I can’t imagine how stressful it is now.

    People often admire my ability to cope with my husbands working hours etc, especially while he was in school, my main response has been if we survived the Navy we can survive pretty much anything.

  2. Michael says:

    Gay marriage in Massachusetts. Civil Unions in Connecticut.

    A link maybe??

  3. LJD says:

    I have no idea what Michael is insinuating, although it seems to lack a good deal of respect for those in hardship for the benefit of the citizens of this country.

    Please get rid of the disgusting gay link, which is not labled NSFW. I have to go throw up now.

  4. JRI says:

    Where in iraq are you posting from, soldier?

  5. Ted says:

    can’t we just make divorce illeagle?

    I knnow that adeivsors to the president want to.

  6. tubino says:

    Another reason to note that “family values” and occupation of another country are not a good combination. Why do neoconservatives hate families?

    Michael: Divorce rates are higher in red states than in blue states. Why do conservatives hate their spouses?

    Massachusetts has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. Why do educated liberals love their families so?

    Doncha luv how facts contradict the talk-radio mythologies?

  7. tubino says:

    Ted ponders, “can’t we just make divorce illeagle? I knnow that adeivsors to the president want to.”

    Yeah, them and the Taliban too.

  8. LJD says:

    Actually, MA does have the lowest rate, however the red state to blue state comparison doesn’t fly. In order of the least divorces, CA is 21, ME is 22, OR is 35, WA is 38, just to name a few. (Really, there only are a few blue states)

    But far be it for the left to avoid making some shit up just because it sounds good. And by the way, I’m sure gays will be getting divorces just as much as heterosexuals.

    Why do neoliberals hate our country so? Dontcha just love how lefties hang themselves with their own “facts”.

  9. Kent says:

    One also wonders if the tendency in blue states is to not bother with marriage in the first place.

  10. The higher rates of divorce in “Red States” is largely due to the fact that people get married younger there. In fact the strongest correlation is between youth and divorce. Get married too young and you are likely to get divorced. So the idea that the blue states don’t bother with marriage is just a useless attack.

    As far as the high rates of divorce among soldiers, I suspect that the fact that there are not as many support mechanisms for military families as there once were. During WW2 and Korea more people served, spouses could more easily commiserate with society at large. Since military service is no longer the badge of honor it once was, there are fewer informal support mechanisms.
    Just a thought tho. I am sure the fact that divorce no longer carries the same social stigma it once did is also part of the problem.

  11. LJD says:

    The military has far more support resources than it ever has. The FRG, or Family Readiness Group offers classes on how families can cope with everyday deployment problems. The individual unit is structured like a family as well.

    Maybe it’s just because the Army makes sure the bitch gets half, regardless of who she beds during her husband’s deployment.

  12. Just Me says:

    The problem is that the military for the most part was designed for the majority of its members to be single. More soldiers than ever are married now (link I recently read looking for stats on enlistment from the south also mentioned that a higher percentage of military members are married than their non military counterparts of similar age).

    The military needs to do more to make pay higher, deployments shorter, and to make moves fewer, and also reduce the number of TDY’s.

  13. Tom says:

    Who cares.

    Oh the poor soldiers, oh the poor soldiers.

    Given them the shaft has been traditional republican policy for 100 years.

    “Military men are dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign
    policy.” — Henry A. Kissinger

    (quoted by Monika Jensen-Stevenson, Kiss the Boys Goodbye, Dutton, 1990,
    Page 97, citing The Final Days, Woodward and Bernstein (Simon & Schuster,

    “My answer is bring them on.”—On Iraqi militants attacking U.S. forces,
    George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., July 3, 2003

  14. Sorry – LJD property laws are set up by state, not the US Army. The Family Readiness Group is a relatively new invention that was necessated by the very problems I noted, namely that society as a whole doesn’t support the military. The FRG points to an attempted solution to a problem, it doesn’t indicate that more resources are available. In WW2 and Korea your support group was the neighborhood you lived in. People in the military were not a isolated segment of society. I know because I spoke extensively with my grandparents about what it was like then. It was very different. Now only the very poorest in society or those patriotic enough (like my brother after 9/11 leaving his high paying job behind) join the military. That’s a serious problem. People assume that someone else will carry the burden of freedom for them instead of stepping up to the plate.

  15. Does it have anything to do with military wives being such sluts?

  16. Joseph says:
  17. ALS says:

    “Does it have anything to do with military wives being such sluts?”

    What a loving, open-minded, non-judgmental liberal sentiment…

    Someone mentioned the liberals hanging themselves with their own words….