Skip to content

Journal Article

Can personality explain the educational gradient in divorce? Evidence from a nationally representative panel survey


Publication date

Jul 2017


The social demographic literature on divorce suggests that the lower educated are more likely to have personality traits that reduce relationship stability. However, few empirical verifications of this proposition exist. To fill this void, we look at the distribution of personality traits across educational groups of married individuals in Britain. Using data from the British Household Panel Survey (N = 2,665), we first estimated the effects of the “Big Five” personality traits agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience on divorce and subsequently examine their distribution across educational groups. We find that in particular women’s personality traits differ by education. We also observe that personality traits affecting divorce risk are distributed unevenly over educational groups, but they do not favor the higher educated in general. In sum, the data do not support the hypothesis that the lower educated in Britain have personality traits that reduce relationship stability.

Published in

Journal of Family Issues

Volume and page numbers

38 , 1339 -1362





Psychology, Education, and Family Formation And Dissolution


Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to Univ. Essex registered users* -


Research home

Research home


Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest