16.9. The Finnish divorce in the early 2000s. Why are marriages dissolved? How is divorce perceived? How to cope with divorce?

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of psychology
Doctoral candidate: Jouko Kiiski, DTheol
Date and venue: Friday, 16 Sep at 12 noon in Metria M100, Joensuu Campus.

This study focuses on the Finnish divorce. In the first place, the research subjects were selected through purposive sampling within Finland, in tandem with the Finnish Population Register Centre. The sample consisted of 800 men who were born between 1967 and 1976. In addition, in the sample were included the ex-wives of the selected men. All in all, the respondents number 224 men and 311 women, which accounts for 33.4 per cent of the total sample. The data analysis was conducted largely with statistical methods. The answers to the open-ended questions by the respondents were analysed to add a qualitative aspect to the study.

The study considers the perceptions and experiences of the respondents on divorce, on the causes of divorce, and on coping with the transition. In addition, respondents were clustered according to the reasons for divorce. Eventually, within the data of the former couples, the differences and similarities in the accounts of the parties were compared.

Women were more proactive than men to initiate divorce. Respondents generally felt that their divorce was difficult, but that they coped very well. The mental stress caused by divorce resulted mostly in anxiety and mood swings, as well as in other negative emotions. The phase of life after divorce was associated with less livelihood concerns than was expected. Almost half of the respondents estimated that children were affected by the divorce, but the majority of the respondents considered their children to cope well with the situation. The respondents were generally quite satisfied with the dissolution of their marriage. The divorce was often regarded as a sensible solution, improving the quality of life and bringing necessary relief. The respondents were generally active in their search for a new relationship after the divorce.

The most common motives for divorce reported were lack of intimacy, a feeling of the couple having grown apart, and independence of the spouse. Somewhat weaker causes of divorce were gaining more personal independence, problematic behavior of the spouse, or problematic behavior of oneself. Women named more reasons for divorce than men, which may explain women’s activity in dissolving their marriages. The most helpful coping methods recognised by the respondents were orientation to the future, working through the divorce alone, and the help of support groups. The coping methods that were reported to give less aid were the avoidance of working through the divorce, religious support, and professional help. Women mentioned having more supportive factors in their divorce than men did.

The responses of the former couples had most similarities when handling initiating the divorce, or clear reasons for the divorce such as violence or substance abuse, or evaluating the difficulty of the divorce experienced by the ex-spouse, or evaluating the coping with divorce of the ex-spouse. Overall, however, the descriptions of the spouses' divorce and coping mechanisms had surprisingly few similarities.
Men and women were re-grouped on the basis of the causes of divorce into three clusters: the independence of the spouses as a cause, the non-functionality of the relationship as a cause, and non-specified causes. Although both men and women had identical clusters, their contents and connections to experiences, however, were somewhat different.

The study questions some of the divorce-related perceptions and previous research results. From the parents’ point of view, children cope with family breakdown better than expected. Divorce did not cause as great livelihood concerns as usually is suggested. Men survive the dissolution of marriage nearly as well as women. Dissolving marriage was for most a desired event, which eventually was seen as a positive and a good thing - not as a disaster. The study evaluates the significance of these results. New issues for further research are also suggested.

The public examination of DTheol. Jouko Kiiski’s doctoral dissertation entitled " The Finnish divorce in the early 2000s. Why are marriages dissolved? How is divorce perceived? How to cope with divorce?" will take place in the Philosophical Faculty at the University of Eastern Finland. The field of the dissertation is Psychology.

Professor Emeritus Isto Ruoppila (University of Jyväskylä) will act as the opponent and Professor Emeritus Hannu Perho (University of Eastern Finland) will act as the custos in the public examination.

Publishing year: 2011

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