The Evolutionary Reason Why Women Initiate More Divorces Than Men

Who knew?

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According to a recent article in Medical Daily, women initiate more divorces in the United States, and experts say that evolutionary psychology has a hand in it. 

Evolutionary psychology is a theory of human behavior which incorporates the effects of evolution. As our ancestors confronted problems, they developed ways of solving these problems. Over time, the best solutions became part of our basic instincts.


Women are more likely to want a divorce than men, but men and women are equally likely to initiate a non-marital breakup, according to a new study

Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, cited that the existing idea behind women driving the divorce rate — because of sensitivity to the ups and downs of relationships — isn't exactly the case. If it were true, women would initiate divorce and breakups at an equal rate, but Rosenfeld didn't find that to be true.

"Women's tendency to initiate divorce was well known, but the gender neutrality I found for non-marital breakups was not, because previous surveys never bothered to ask people who wanted the breakup in non-marital relationships," Rosenfeld told The Huffington Post.


Rosenfield explained, "Women's inherent interest in marriage and commitment has usually been assumed to be higher than men's inherent interest in marriage and commitment. Women's supposed preference for marriage is a central feature of the gendered assumption of sex ratio theory, and men's supposed preference for commitment-free sexual relationships is a staple of evolutionary psychology."

For his research, Rosenfeld looked at 2,262 adults, ages 19 to 94, who had opposite-sex partners in 2009. By 2015, 371 of those people had split up and/or gotten a divorce.

"Women's and men's expectations about marriage have certainly changed since the second wave feminist revolution," Rosenfeld said. "Couples who shared a traditional ideology or traditional gender practice explicitly embraced or implicitly accepted some aspects of patriarchy within relationships."

But what is it about marriage that leaves women feeling less-than-satisfied and determined to end the relationship? Rosenfeld told The Huffington Post that the findings give validity to the feminist idea that women feel stifled and oppressed by traditional marriage.


"It supports the theory that sociologists refer to as the stalled gender revolution, meaning that as much as women's roles in society have changed, women's roles within the families have changed very slowly," he said, citing husbands and their expectations for their wives to do most of the housework and childcare, even when both spouses work.

Although women, like men, have an evolutionary need to procreate, they also need to move on. Evolutionary psychology tells us that men and women have consistently different dating strategies, so why wouldn't that affect marriage and divorce?