The Divorce Rate of Police Officers

Two policemen walking down the sidewalk
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It's a widely held belief that law enforcement careers lead to higher divorce rates than other occupations. Many law enforcement agencies go so far as to ask candidates to sign a statement before they're hired, acknowledging that they're aware of the greater potential for divorce.

In fact, researchers have discovered that the opposite is true. The police divorce rate is actually lower than the national average. It's closer to the bottom of the list when it comes to the correlation between occupations and divorce.

Perceptions Persist

People have accepted the notion that police divorce rates are high for a number of reasons. One of the most commonly cited is that the stress of the job contributes to destabilizing life at home.

Many people, including those in the industry, think that law enforcement officers are exposed to a much higher and different kind of stress than people in other professions. The difficulty associated with handling these stresses is regarded as a major reason for the perceived higher rate of divorce.

Another oft-cited reason people believe divorce is higher among law enforcement professionals is that the shift work and odd hours can cause problems at home. It can strain relationships when mom or dad isn't there at night to help with chores and the children, or when spouses aren't around to share quality time. Conventional wisdom says that strain can lead to divorce.

It's also believed that law enforcement occupations attract and employ personality types that are prone to divorce and to relationship problems.

The Statistics

Researchers at Radford University in Virginia poured over data in 2010 and came to the conclusion that the divorce rate among law enforcement officers is no higher than the national average. In fact, they found that the divorce rate for police is slightly lower than average.

A more recent study performed by Radford University Ph.D. Michael G. Aamodt from 2011 through 2013 also showed that the divorce rate among officers is lower than the national average, although it increased somewhat from 2010. But then, so did the national average for all occupations.

Divorce Rates Across Occupations

The national average for divorce across all occupations was 16.35% in the latter study, compared to 14.47% for those in law enforcement careers. The data included a divorce rate of 15.01% for police and patrol officers, as opposed to just over 12% for detectives and police supervisors.

The criminal justice jobs with the highest divorce rates were animal control officers at 19.02%, fish and game wardens at 25.53%, and parking enforcement officers at 26.25%. The law enforcement occupation with the lowest divorce rate was railroad transit police at 5.26%.

Based on the 2010 study, the five jobs with the highest rate of divorce are machine setters, gaming cage (casino) workers, massage therapists, and, topping the list, dancers and choreographers.

When comparing the numbers, law enforcement jobs don't even come close. The top five occupations for divorce showed rates between 32% and 43%, compared to the 14.47% for law enforcement workers.

Good News for Law Enforcement

People considering a career in law enforcement have a lot of things to think about and consider, but an elevated divorce rate doesn't have to be one of them. In fact, a law enforcement career may even lead to greater success both at work and at home.