Trajectories of life satisfaction before, upon, and after divorce: Evidence from a new matching approach.

Manon A. Van Scheppingen*, Thomas Leopold

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of the current study was to compare changes in divorcees’ life satisfaction to changes in a control sample of nondivorcees. Prospective longitudinal data came from 33 waves of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study. Divorcees (n = 787) were propensity-score matched to nondivorcees (n = 1,629) in the year of marriage. In this way, we created a clear starting point and time scale related to different phases of the divorce process. Piecewise growth models indicated gradual declines in the years before divorce, a sudden decline in the year of divorce, and gradual increases in the years after. The matched control sample of people who remained married throughout the study period showed gradual declines in life satisfaction, suggesting that some but not all of the declines found in divorcees were associated with the divorce process. In the year of divorce and the years after divorce, divorcees showed larger individual differences in change as compared with nondivorcees. Time-invariant moderators explained a small amount of variance in divorcees’ life satisfaction trajectories. Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for theory and research on hedonic adaptation during major life transitions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1444–1458
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Divorce
  • Hedonic adaptation
  • Life satisfaction
  • Longitudinal


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