Failure of second marriages

The following statistics were complied from the National Center for Health Statistics (2002)

Fifteen percent of second marriages ended after 3 years and almost a quarter after 5 years.

Though not statistically significant, the remarriages of black women are more likely to end, and those of Hispanic women are less likely to breakup.

Remarriage and divorce

The divorce rate following re-marriage is higher than that for the first marriage. A 2002 study by the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the CDC in the USA) collected information on the failure of second marriages.

Age and failure of second marriages

The failure of a second marriage is more likely for women under age 25 at remarriage (47%)  than for women at least age 25 at remarriage ( 34%). This difference is slightly larger among white women.

Stressful events in the past may impact the stability of remarriages

Parental divorce

The probability of second marriage disruption is higher for women who did not grow up in a two-parent family (49%) than for women who did (33%).

Forced intercourse

Women who have ever been forced to have intercourse are more likely to experience second marriage disruption. The probability of second marriage disruption is about 25% higher for all women who have ever been forced to have intercourse, and even higher among white women (33%)

General anxiety disorder (GAD)

Women who have ever suffered from GAD (general anxiety disorder) are nearly 50% more likely to experience disruption of a second marriage than women who have never suffered from GAD

Children from a previous marriage and failure of the second marriage

Women who already have children at the time of remarriage are more likely to have their second marriage end in divorce than women who do not have any children at the time of remarriage. If the children were unwanted, the probability of the second marriage ending is even higher

After 10 years of remarriage, the probability of that marriage ending is

  • 32 percent for women with no children at remarriage
  • 40% for women with children, but none of whom were reported as unwanted
  • 44% for women with children, and any of whom were reported as unwanted (slightly higher, at 47 percent, among white women)

It is not surprising that the presence of children from a prior relationship can affect the stability of a second marriage, nor is it surprising that the presence of unwanted children may have a greater effect.

Other factors

The chance of failure of the second marriage

  • lower in the Northeast and higher in the Midwest
  • was higher wiith lower family income
  • higher for women without a high school education
  • higher for women with no religious affiliation
  • higher for women whose first birth was before or during the first 7 months of first marriage as opposed to after 7 months of marriage
  • higher for women who are older than their husbands


If a couple lived together before their first marriage, then they were more likely to divorce. Interestingly, this did not seem to be true of second marriages and cohabitation was even associated with a decreased chance of the second marriage failing though this difference was small and not statistically significant.

Note that this report is in PDF format.
Bramlett MD and Mosher WD. Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States . National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 23(22). 2002.