SINGAPORE - A bigger percentage of married couples are going their separate ways in recent years, especially among those who tied the knot more recently, according to new data in a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) report.
The report, which tracked 29 cohorts of all couples who wed between 1987 and 2015, also found that marriages among those who wed more recently break up earlier compared with those who were married for a longer time.
The data also appeared to support the idea of the proverbial seven-year itch, with the highest proportion of couples ending their marriage between the fifth and 10th year.
In 2015, MSF first released data on the dissolution of marriages - which refers to divorces or annulments - of resident couples by marriage cohort from 1987 to 2012.
It tracked the percentage of Singaporeans and permanent residents whose marriages ended for a "better insight on marriage stability".
In the latest report, it released data for those who wed up to 2015, which showed that a higher percentage of recent marriages are ending compared with those who wed much earlier.
For example, among those who wed in 2006, 16 per cent split up before their 10th wedding anniversary - or nearly double the 8.7 per cent in the 1987 marriage cohort, that is, those who got married that year.
Of the 1987 cohort, 18.9 per cent went their separate ways before their anniversary in 2016. Yet for those who wed between 1991 to 2003, who have been married for less time, more than 18.9 per cent had already split up by 2016.
Social workers who work with divorcing couples attributed the trend to factors such as an increase in family stress factors, less quality time as more dual-income couples focus on their careers, shifting perceptions and less stigma towards divorce, and poor conflict management skills, among others.
Care Corner Singapore chief services officer Agnes Chia said that in the 1980s, unlike today, people may have been more apprehensive about getting a divorce, with many worrying about life post-divorce and the financial burden.
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said younger couples could be less bound by tradition and the idea that marriage is a lifetime commitment. That could make them more likely to want to get out of a bad marriage, which could explain the higher rates of divorces among those who wed more recently.
Associate Professor Tan added that with dual-income couples now the norm, time spent caring for the relationship after getting married often takes a backseat to other pressing needs. Such couples are then in a poorer position to resolve conflicts in key areas like financial or caregiving matters.
The MSF report also found that the proportion of total marriages that dissolved between the fifth to 10th wedding anniversary was the largest among the cohorts studied.
For example, of those who wed in 2001, 6.4 per cent ended their marriage in under five years, compared with 9.6 per cent who did so between the fifth and 10th-year mark and 5.1 per cent who did so between the 10th and 15th-year mark.
In many cases, couples married for between five and 10 years tend to have young children, which presents another set of challenges.
The couple will need to juggle the stress of building their careers and raising a family, said Mr Arthur Ling, deputy executive director at Fei Yue Community Services.
When asked if the data helps to prove the idea of the seven-year-itch, Ms Chia said the duration does coincide with a period of more stress factors.
She said: "We need to strengthen the life stages of adulting, coupling and parenting, if not if we allow the different stressors to come in and exacerbate the situation, the risk of marriages ending up splitting is higher."