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Major Causes of Divorce: Japan Gaining on America and Canada 2005–2020

Patty uses advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.

Status of Divorce Rates of America vs. Japan 2000 - 2012

Status of Divorce Rates of America vs. Japan 2000 - 2012

Divorce Rates in the 21st Century

By December 2012, the difference in divorce rates between the USA and Japan was the difference between 3.4 to 1.99, or only 1.41 per 1,000 population.

The rate decreased faster in America than it increased in Japan. One theory is that the Great Recession of 2008–2010 forced couples to stay together in order to survive financially. However, the American decrease began back in 1990 (see graph below).

The Japanese rate began rising in 1988, as young working adult women began to decide to put off marriage to somewhat later years, if at all, revolting against tradition.

Japan experiences a continually declining birth rate, an increasing elderly population, and one of the lowest fertility rates globally.

Types of Japanese Divorce

  1. Divorce by agreement (kyogi rikon)
  2. Divorce by mediation in a family court (chotei rikon).
  3. Divorce by decision of the family court (shimpan rikon)
  4. Divorce by judgment of a district court (saiban rikon)

Statistical Change 2000–2009

The US rate decreased and Japanese rate increased

  • USA = 3.4 per 1000, reduced from 4.5
  • JAPAN = 2.1 per 1000, increased from 1.9

The divorce rate in America began to rise again with economic recovery after the Great Recession of 2008–2010.

Divorce Rates of 2015

  • United States: 3.6 per 1,000 (small increase)
  • Japan: 1.84 per 1,000 (slight decrease)
American and Japanese Divorce Rates, 2002. US Census Bureau data and Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare information, 2002

American and Japanese Divorce Rates, 2002. US Census Bureau data and Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare information, 2002

21st Century Changes in Japanese Population

Japanese Baby Boomers are retiring, leaving fewer taxpayers to replace them. Japan reports some of the highest life expectancies globally, but low birth rates.

There were 1.19 million Japanese deaths in 2010, the most since 1947 when the records started. Japan is almost at Zero Population growth. In fact, in 2010, deaths outnumbered births by over 1.0 per 1,000 people.

The July 2010 Japanese population estimate/extrapolation = 126,804,433. This would be the 10th largest national population in the world.

  • In 2010, Japan reduced by 123,000 people, losing population numbers also in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 to cancer, heart disease, stroke, and others. The divorce rate already doubled from 1990–2000 as well.
  • Age 65+ = 25% of Japan's population in December 2010. Younger people are putting off marriage and children. [My note: Author: In fact, young women in 1980s Japan began to rebel against marriage and children, a trend that has extended 30 years. Japan is becoming a kind of nation of Senior Citizens.]
  • The year 2010 showed 706,000 recorded marriages, the lowest figure since 1954. Unwed pregnancies are an insignificant number, so fewer marriages = fewer children = fewer Japanese.

Japan’s Women Told to Breed, Not Lead

Jake Adelstein reported in "The Daily Beast" on June 21, 2014 that male Japanese congress members made sexist remarks in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to a female member during her presentation about raising children in Japan. The men said: “Hey, you should hurry up and get married!” and “Can’t you have babies?”

The calm represented by a Japanese sand garden can help relationships over rough circumstances.

The calm represented by a Japanese sand garden can help relationships over rough circumstances.

Divorce Statistics in the World

The above graph shows that American divorces decreased toward 2002, while Japanese divorces increased. Will they meet in the middle around 2010? Not quite, but the gap is narrowing and in 2007 was only a difference of 2.3 divorces per 1,000 population.

Read More From Owlcation

So many divorces occur in Japan that divorce ceremonies are now offered, beginning in 2010.

In order for a marriage relationship to succeed, I believe that there must be a foundation upon which partners build a relationship. They do this over time with experiences that add something to the foundation rather than destroy it. These experiences should not be a temporary tap dance across a foundation that is used as a stepping stone to other people and other tap dances.

A marriage foundation, in my mind, includes one or both of these:

  • A common set of core values between the partners, or at least several shared values; or,
  • A set of interests and passions that can join the partners together long term.

In my experience as a counselor and therapist, the largest two causes of divorce among the people I have seen have been:

  • A lack of foundation for the marriage, such as common beliefs and interests, similar life missions and visions, compatible goals, etc.; and
  • Abuse, including any verbal, emotional, physical, economic, religious, and sexual abuses.
2004 Report: Rutgers University. By 2002, 60% of women and 65% of men report being happy in marriage.

2004 Report: Rutgers University. By 2002, 60% of women and 65% of men report being happy in marriage.

What Is Marriage and How Has It Changed?

In 18th and 19th century America, and well into the 20th century, people did not often marry for love, faith-based foundations, or mutual interests. They married to join good families, to produce heirs, and to have children to work on the family farm. They often married fro survival, especially among the pioneers blazing trails to the American West.

To be sure, some people married for love, and some arranged marriages saw the partners come to love each other. However, this may not have been the usual pattern. Survival and the drive to reproduce are extremely strong; otherwise, the human race would become extinct.

As women began entering the professionals, obtaining the right to vote, etc., they expanded their mental horizons, some deciding that they could live without dependence upon a husband or their fathers as a breadwinner. During World War II, American women went to work in the jobs men had left behind when they entered the armed services.

After WWII, some women did not want to return to the roles of homemaker or mother. This may be one of the reasons that there were so many educational (or propaganda) films made in the 1950s that encouraged young women to accept the role of homemaker and to follow the etiquette of service to a husband.

At the same time, I never heard a good answer offered as to what a woman that has no family at all should do, instead of work and become successful.

We have many women living alone in an American society that has become more fragmented since the 1960s. Women can earn a living and support themselves without entering domestic jobs. Men can live alone and be happy dating, eating out, and sending their clothes to the cleaner, employing maid services, etc. - why can;t women?

Marriage becomes more of a choice, instead a matter of survival in today's America, although some individuals of both genders still marry in order to survive or for convenience.

I hear many people saying they married because they wanted to "be with" the other person. I don't think that is enough for a marriage. Some of these individuals become bored with their partners, but are also offended if their spouse forms a romantic relationship with someone else. These marriages may more about ownership, self-importance, fun or entertainment than about a healthy relationship.

In the 21st century, more people have the opportunity to openly define their own marriages and partner relationships than in the past centuries. I think they need to have some agreed-upon commonalities in order for these relationships to succeed.

I have seen an initial movement toward establishing the 3- or 5-year marriage contract, especially among science fiction fans. Science fiction has shown us a future world in which no marries or in which marriage is by short-term contract only.

Science fiction can become fact, although some might prefer a life-long marriage built on love and a faith-based foundation, but that model does not suit all people. Commonality and agreement between the partners entering marriages and partnerships remain vital for success.

Why Do We Divorce?

Top Four Opinions Gathered From eHarmony

1) "Unwillingness to communicate lovingly"

To me, this means that verbal abuse is present -- It means that the partners should plan and develop their life together in a positive way. An unwillingness even to communicate in a functional, non-abusive manner is a big red flag for serious problems because many forms of abuse begin with verbal.

2) "Unwillingness to commit"

The leadership of eHarmony says this is the acceptance of the marriage vows as life-long and permanent, except in cases of infidelity and abuse. In my experience, many people can forgive infidelity and move on. However, abuse is the deal breaker. Few abusers change for the good, as I learned in private and public practice 1983 - 2005.

3) "Unwillingness to compromise"

Compromise is hard. I think the couple should agree on major life components before marriage: finances, children, etc.

Example: I knew one family in which the wife stopped using birth control without the husband's knowledge and became pregnant purposely. What resulted over the next 10 years was that horrible abuse to the younger son could no longer be concealed when he abused the younger sibling. I had nightmares about this one.

4) "Unwillingness to put down weapons"

Some partners try to hurt the other partner in order to raise themselves up. This is not a marriage, but it is selfish and it is abuse. Partners need to fight fairly and move on after the fight and not dig it up again.

Opinions From "Americans for Divorce Reform"

These reasons are often heard from couples, but they are not proven statistically significant as yet. There are some similarities to those gathered by eHarmony:

  1. Money
  2. Poor Communication
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Change in Priorities
  5. Infidelity
  6. Failed Expectations
  7. Addictions
  8. Physical, Sexual, Emotional and other Abuse
  9. Lack of Conflict Resolution Skills

The relationship between a number of factors (religion, occupation, age, etc.) can be found on their website at

The Role of Abuse

Escalating Abuse in America

Abuse is a scourge in America. Increasing numbers of men and women are admitting that their partners are abusing them, often extremely, and seeking help.

No form of abuse is ever appropriate. Receiving abuse is never the victim's fault, although targets need to learn about abuse and actively avoid people that show red flags of it. Recognizing abuse should be taught to all children beginning in elementary school.

Abuse often does not show itself until after a marriage has occurred, because the abusing person was on good behavior in order to lure a target into a more permanent relationship. From this relationship, the abuser exerts control in order to feel better about himself or herself.

Much abusive behavior begins with verbal abuse. Be aware of the Cycle of Abuse

Much abusive behavior begins with verbal abuse. Be aware of the Cycle of Abuse

Abusers are sometimes diagnosed psychiatric disorders and many of these labels overlap. Some victims become addicted to discussing these psychiatric disorders, staying with the abuser and discussing symptoms with all who will listen. Co-Occurring Disorders (substance or alcohol abuse combined with at least one other major disorder) are common and a target of abuse cannot cure the abuser of them. In fact, some targets die of abuse.

As increasing numbers of individuals are educated about our national public health problem of abuse, then abuse may become listed among the top five reasons for divorce in America.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS


Ingenira on February 10, 2011:

A bit surprised that the divorce rate in Japan has escalated. I bet similar trend can be seen in other Asian countries too.

TopUniverse on September 06, 2010:

A must read hub for every bachelor. Thanks Patty Inglish MS for the useful and informative topic.

Laura Deibel from Aurora, CO on August 30, 2010:

Some people, I believe, merely grow apart over the years. These folks can sometime split without all the dovorce dirty tricks, etc.

Most people discount the real pain that divorce causes and underestimate how traumatic and life changing it is.

Sadly, with marital neglect, resentment and hostility take over without regard to the reality that marriages like any garden needs nurturing.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 23, 2010:

Useful thoughts, BDazzler. From clients and contacts, I've seen that one characteristic of many abuse cases is the accusation of targets of abuse as themselves being the abusers -- Abuse is as tricky and cunning as a drug addiction. I think also, that many families in the past have not been able to, or known that they should, teach children what a workable, healthy relationship of any kind looks like.

About individual cases - who knows about each one and all its intricasies? A couple I know that have actually been married 30 years is divorcing now, and I haven't the slightest clue why. They worked in business that helped people, an employee tried a fews years back to push the wife out of it, but was fired, and the wife took on the extra load. Burned out maybe. Maybe something else.

BDazzler from Gulf Coast, USA on March 23, 2010:

Like all of your articles, Patty, well researched and well presented. Having been through, what I now realize that (relatively speaking) was a mild divorce (no kids, and neither of us was left impoverished with no hope for recovery) ... Generalizations such as this article are a GREAT place to start but the layers of complexity of the human heart, not to mention the physical and economic realities, it requires great wisdom for specific individual cases. For example, false accusations of abuse are, in their own, way quite abusive.

I'm glad this article is a gateway to so many others. You have an excellent way of focusing on a particular topic without implying that you have presented "all the answers", allowing and encouraging more research into what is an emotionally sensitive subject.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 23, 2010:

I agree that abuse is criminal and hope it can be prevented in future generations. Thanks for your thoughts, Butch48.

Butch45 on March 22, 2010:

I like this hub to and agree with most of the content. I just think abuse is not a part of any marriage. I think of it as a crime like rape. It should be treated as a crime also and not as part of a partnership.

hinckles koma from nyc on September 28, 2009:

Thank you for your effort and hard work. Love your hub, a lot of interesting contact.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 26, 2008:

Data sources for above: Jap. Min. of HW and phone calls.

Quote from a 26-year-old Japanese woman office worker in the 2007: "I don't do any housekeeping, my parents do everything. On the one hand I don't think this is what an adult should do, on the other hand I don'tthink I have to change." Typical? I don't know. But the two lines on the pictured graph are close in 2008. I think they will meet within 5 years or less at this point. Depends on what the next US presidential administration does - ?reward folks for divorcing and living together by providing relatively high welfare payments to the divorced mom and kids and the dad stays in the home? This happened a lot in the 1990s. Maybe BOTH divorce rates will rise.Thanks.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 26, 2008:

Quote from a 26-year-old Japanese woman office worker in the 2000s:

"I don't do any housekeeping, my parents do everything. On the one hand I don't think this is what an adult should do, on the other hand I don'tthink I have to change."

Typical? I don't know.

But the two lines on the pictured graph are very close in 2008.


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 26, 2008:

Not from what statistics and missionary friends' reports in Japan have been telling me for the past 5 years --

18-to-30 year old women particularly are often refusing to marry in the cities and this began in the mid 1980s. Many others are divorcing or being divorced one or multiple times.  International business is taking women to Indonesia, China, South Korea, Malasia, USA, Australia and other countries.

I will look up the most recent stats and post them here.


Japan Divorces - 3 per 1000 population

USA Divorces - 4 per 1000 population

That's already PRETTY CLOSE in 2008.

No-fault divorce is on the rise in Japan, making it easier.


anime_nanet from Portugal on August 25, 2008:

All the things you said make sense, although I sense you diverged a bit from the beginning of the hub where you made a comparison between America and Japan. You stated the hypothesis that maybe the rates will be equal in 2010. I don't think they will, because in Japan, industrialized as it is, there's still a very strong sense of the passive role of the woman in the relationship (aka housewife). Girls of young age are still being educated for one aim: to look pretty so that they can find a good man with a nice job that can provide for her. Times are changing, but its gonna take way more then two years.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 25, 2008:

Insightful comment, Vanessa!

Marriage and partnership are much more than "let's be together" although a lot of people seem sadly to think it is only that.

Vanessa R on April 25, 2008:

I think that people should take more care in selecting partners, just even looking at celebrity marriages it is quite obvious a lot of them are a product of lust and ego. Of course something based on those emotions is going to break down!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 07, 2008:

Thanks for laying out your experience mens-divorce. Too many men and women don't understand marriage and go for the material or just security. It is one reason that so many remain single.

mens_divorce on March 07, 2008:

Great Hub, Patty... I just have this bad feeling that divorce is always going to become more common than really trying to work something out, whether it be through a therapist or a counselor. I tried for over a year to reconcile with my wife and she eventually just walked out on me. As is turns out, you just can't change a person. She had imagined a higher class, richer life for herself and I was not giving it to her quick enough (and I was only 28). She had me fooled for the longest time, but I found out the hard way that money was more important to her than our marriage. I won't be making that mistake again!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 15, 2008:

Thanks for the advice and link. Someone might need it.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 27, 2007:

Tahnks for leaving so much input, Zsuzsy. It is a lot to consider. As some people have said, there is also a lack of commitment - too easy to get married and sometimes too easy to get divorced.

IMO, I think Britney Spears started going downhill when her relationship with Justin Timberlake soured, and she has never recovered. I also think that some folks don't care who they are with, just as long as it is somebody - anybody.

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on November 26, 2007:

Patty! As always a very great HUB! I've been a divorcee and single parent for most of my life, yet I'm still hunting for answers of how to have changed him, away from his abusive ways. I've accepted long ago that, to end our marriage was the right and safe thing to do, for my children and myself, yet in some weak moments I still wonder what if... Your article is very insightful and true. Even though or maybe in spite of a bad marriage, I still believe that marriage has to be one man one woman...Any other is a farce of sanctity etc. I have worked and am functioning as a single person and parent (I just recently had my 25th anniversary of singlehood, it was a great party,but that's another story) sorry sidetracked...Most people who are single by choice or not "are okay to live by themselves". However seing that ancient couple, where he has a hard enough time to walk on his own, and still he get's to her side of the car where he helps her out, then to see them walk hand in hand to share a coffee and a muffin at the mall is heartwrenching; I bet that deep down 99% of us "singles" envy some of that togetherness, the marriage, the 'love'(or whatever it wants to be called) that's survived no matter how wrinkled the partner has become... Unfortunately, divorce fever has taken over, it almost seems like a fashion statement now-a-days. It's maybe odd coming from me, being a divorcee myself, but unless there is actual abuse (of any kind) maybe couples should try with more tollerance for each other...He squeezes the toothpaste in the middle just shouldn't be a good enough reason to divorce...(my opinion)

Again Patty this is a very great article that has probably ignited many thoughts and debates

regards Zsuzsy

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 26, 2007:

Earth Angel, you certainly have insight in listing those 5 items! In the 1990s, there was evidence (outdated now) that the healthiest people in America were, in this order for all ages 18 and above and all races:

Single Women

Married Men

Single Men

Married Women

I'm sure this is somewhat changed since single women make up the majority of the population over 85 years old and a lot of those 60 - 85. Lots of ailments.

Earth Angel on October 25, 2007:

Patty, This is a GREAT Hub!!

I am new to the Hub Scene and when I get a spare moment I love roaming around to areas of interest!!

I imagine there is a chart somewhere that plots the decline of long-term marriages and, 1) changes in the definition of a successful marriage besides just length of term; 2) the shift in society to admiring "individual" accomplishment over "team" accomplishment; 3) more focus on being an "I" than a "we;" 4) women being able to provide for themselves and their children; 5) an evidence and abundance of happy single men and women!!

I think we live in an amazing time where we are free to create unions based upon free choice, spiritual sensibilities and less dependency! Blessings, Earth Angel!!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 24, 2007:

How sad for you Natasha Bassett. My best thoughts and wishes go to you for a happier life in the very near future!

Natashabassett from Hayward on October 23, 2007:

yah this happen to me to. I got divorced and i am still drinking.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 04, 2007:

I have found out that the divorce rate in South Korea has rapidly increased. Divorces are very inexpensive, but judges have imposed a waiting period before filfin for divorce is possible, They say too many couples get into fights over the weekend and come to court on Monday mornings. In June, 2006, South Korea's divorce rate was 3rd highest in the world.

"...the main reason is disagreements between the mother-in-law and wife."

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 07, 2007:

Two of my friends who are from Korea have told me that divorce was/may still be illegal in the past there. I'll need to look up that info and see what the penalty was/is if it was truly illegal. I certainly agree with you, JB, about increasing numbers of people not taking marriage seriously.

JB on September 07, 2007:

My previous post was facetious. No, I don't think gay marriage is the cause of the "attack on traditional marriage" - traditional marriage is eroding because fewer and fewer people are taking it seriously, or they're thinking of it as a temporary contract that you can easily get out of. I'm not sure how people taking marriage so seriously that they are fighting to have the right to have it, as gays & lesbians are doing now, is doing anything but STRENGTHENING marriage, but as usual, religious zealotry has done so much harm in the name of good and continues to do so. Blaming gays/lesbians for marriage breakdown as so many are willing to do is just an excuse for homophobia, and to not deal with the problem head on. Telllingly, none of these "marriage advocates" ever seem to advocate banning divorce. Why? They are selfish and want to leave that option for themselves should their own marriage go sour.

Patty Inglish on September 07, 2007:

Hi JB, thanks for the comment. What's the best answer, do you think? Here's what I know, of my own knowledge, so far -- There is some discussion occuring in society that once gay marriage is legal, then all sorts of marriages can made legal - three people, larger groups, adults and children, etc. I don't know if that is the case, because I don't know enough law covering the subject. >>> Now, while my own belief is that marriage is between one man and one woman, I won't heap condemnation on others, but feel prayer for the good of all persons is best. It does seem, at times, that traditional marriage and family of two-perents-and-children is under attack or declining, though. Single parent families are numerous. What do you think? Best blessings and peace to you...

JB on September 06, 2007:

I was under the impression that gay marriage would be a threat to the sanctity of marriage and destroy all marriages.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 02, 2007:

Without enduring commitment, I actually see what's left as only entertainment, rather than marriage. I think cultures are already replacing other cultures in America as well. I look at the public assistance reform clients with high percentages of single-parent families with VERY large numbers of children and can see such a culture already replacing the nuclear family of two parents and 1 or a few children. Add to that the 60,000+ Somalis in our city, many of whom are widows with 12 -14 children -- culture is certainly changing here. Further, in my first college anthropology course, the first comment the professor made was that no one loves anyone; but rather, humans use one another for survival. There was an uproar from half the class, but it made us think. I believe America is still like more primitive cultures in which, when resources grow scarce, babies and elderly are left to die. USA sees thousands of abortions yearly (and my city experiences many babies in trash bins every week) and there is a move not only to reduce Medicare to the elderly, but to raise retirement age further - some would like it to be 75. Some don't want to retire anyway --  So, I think increasing numbers of the elderly at least will, indeed, need a partner or some sort of small group in which to live if they cannot afford a retirement/ nursing home or all those slots become filled and they have no family. And I think many elderly couples live together without marriage to avoid cuts in social security checks.

Daniel Greenfield on September 02, 2007:

the problem is that once you divorce an enduring commitment from marriage, you wind up with what is essentially temporary marriage

and while society has come a long way, the reality is that it's easy enough for people to find themselves in a situation where they need a partner in life

social changes have certainly altered the nature of the social contract but the longer term consenquences of it may simply be a drop in the birth rate of those cultures leading to their replacement with other cultures, something that is arguably happening in europe

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 30, 2007:

Well, maybe one day you WILL be! :) Thanks so much for hte comment.

Barry Rutherford from Queensland Australia on August 30, 2007:

Great blog. Pitty im not married I could put your advice to good use...

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