Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

UAE divorce rates rival those in the West, study shows

The reasons why Emiratis are getting divorced share more similarities than differences to why Western couples chose to break up, according to new research.
Dr Nicole Bromfield, associate professor at UAE University in Al Ain. Delores Johnson / The National
Dr Nicole Bromfield, associate professor at UAE University in Al Ain. Delores Johnson / The National

AL AIN // Emiratis and Western couples share more similarities than differences in their reasons to divorce, research has shown.

The study, conducted by Zayed University, UAE University and Al Khwarizmi International College, found interference of family members, financial issues and lack of communication were among some of the biggest factors.

Dr Kennon Rider, an associate professor at Zayed University and a marriage and family therapist at the German Neuroscience Centre, said: “I think that one big conclusion is that Emirati divorces are similar in a number of ways to divorces anywhere else in the world, which indicates to me that culture plays less of a role than one might think.”

Whether the marriage was arranged or the couple chose their partner themselves is irrelevant, said Dr Rider.

“What does matter is age at marriage, conflict, poor communication and financial management skills,” he said.

“These are things we know negatively impact marriages in many environments and we also know that with education and better training and counselling these causes of divorce can be minimised.”

Figures in Abu Dhabi from the National Bureau of Statistics show that since 2008 about 40 per cent of Emirati marriages end in divorce, about the same as western countries.

Dr Rider, one of three academics at three institutions carrying out the research, said even though the study was small, with just 21 male and female participants being interviewed, it gave an insight into the causes of divorce in the country and going beyond the statistics.

“We actually know very little about what really causes divorce in the UAE,” he said. “We know quite a lot about divorce in the West because it has been examined extensively. Here, however, despite divorce rates that rival those in Europe and the US, we know so little.”

Dr Rider said the research showed Emirati couples were equally vulnerable to the influences of modern life, not least, social media and changes to the institution of arranged marriage.

“Specifically, the finding that men were troubled by their wives’ use of social media was extremely interesting,” he said.

“Very little has been done so far in looking at the negative effects of social media on marriages anywhere in the world, so this little study I think is pointing to research that will be done in the future, perhaps here in the Emirates since media use is so high.

“For the women, while not surprising, it was also interesting that they thought they should have known their partners better before marriage,” he said.

“From my work with students it is becoming clear that the younger generation of women, more educated and with higher expectations, are wanting more information about their potential spouses.”

Dr Nicole Bromfield, associate professor in the university’s department of social work said “the single biggest cause overall mentioned by both men and women was family interference”, in addition to disagreements related to issues such as how much money to spend on the wedding party or a disagreement over the in-laws as well as domestic violence, both physical and psychological, all factors experienced the world over.”

Dr Sanaa Ashour, assistant professor at Al Khwarizmi International College gathered the male respondents for the research and said men are equally as unwilling to discuss the subject of divorce.

“Finding men who are willing to participate in the study was extremely challenging,” she said.

She too says women suffer more than men, given the findings. “Women suffer emotionally more than men. Men get over divorce quickly and can easily remarry in a few months after their divorce, while it is harder for women to cope with her new life after divorce,” she said.

Divorce from Arranged Marriages: An Exploration of Lived Experiences has just been published in the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.

mswan@thenational.ae

Updated: May 22, 2016 04:00 AM

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