Max Rady College of Medicine

Concept: Divorce

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Concept Description

Last Updated: 2007-05-17


    A significant minority of children are experiencing changes in family environment because of changes in their family structure while growing up, which may affect their transitions into adulthood. Parental divorce alters a child's family environment, thereby impacting the economic well-being and facets of a child's life course (Juby, Marcil-Gratton, & LeBourdais, 2005) .


    MCHP researchers measured changes in family structure for the 1984 birth cohorts (restricted to those born or adopted into a married or cohabitating two parent household in 1984 - see the Birth / Grade Cohorts concept for more information). With the exclusion of children for whom we had no educational data, children were randomly selected from households that had multiple children.

    The marital status variable derived from the Manitoba Health Insurance Registry at MCHP contains marital status information that parents have voluntarily reported to Manitoba Health. Divorce prevalence was measured by using the marital status variable recorded in the registry for each six-month period to identify changes in marital status over time. Parents who voluntarily declared to Manitoba Health that they were either married or common-law (cohabitating) at the time of their child's birth, but later declared themselves to be either single, separated, or divorced were categorized as divorced. Changes assessed by the marital status variable include divorce, widowhood and remarriage.


    For the 1984 birth cohort (restricted to those born or adopted into a married or cohabitating two parent household in 1984), about 20% of children in Manitoba experienced the loss of a parent through either divorce or death before June 2001.

    • The total prevalence of divorce, for parents of this cohort, was 16.72%.
    • For parents who had no previous marital relationship (i.e., neither spouse had ever been previously married), the divorce prevalence was 16.61%.
    • For parents where either of the spouses had previously been married, the divorce prevalence was 17.82% if the re-marriage produced no children. The divorce prevalence dropped to 10.30% if the re-marriage produced children.

    These findings regarding the prevalence of divorce in Manitoba (for parents of children in the 1984 cohort), were much lower than the expected findings. In Canada, 30% of children born between 1983-85 into a two-parent household experienced parental separation or divorce before the age of 15 (Juby, Marcil-Gratton & LeBourdais, 2005) . Although the divorce rate in Manitoba is known to be lower than the Canadian average (Statistics Canada, 2005 ), the extent to which this discrepancy may reflect inaccurate divorce prevalence statistics remains speculative. Unpublished data from National Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth (NLSCY) suggest the Manitoba divorce rate to be considerably lower than that of the national average.

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  • Juby H, Marcil-Gratton N, Le Bourdais C. When parents separate: Further findings from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (On-line report). Ottawa, ON: Department of Justice Canada, 2005. [Supplementary Content] (View)
  • Statistics Canada. Divorces, 2003 (Catalogue No. 84F0213XPB). Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada, 2005. [Supplementary Content] (View)


  • family
  • family structure
  • marital status
  • Marriage
  • population registry
  • socioeconomic status

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Manitoba Centre for Health Policy
Community Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine,
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences,
Room 408-727 McDermot Ave.
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB R3E 3P5 Canada