The recent tornado that ripped through Oklahoma City suburbs, killing dozens and leaving millions of dollars of destruction behind, will have ripple effects on families in more ways that just property loss and rebuild. According to Slate magazine, natural disasters have a profound effect on marriage, divorce, and birth. This can be determined using basic reasoning of the attachment theory, which according to University of Illinois researcher Chris Fraley is “the same motivational system that gives rise to the close emotional bond between parents their children, responsible for the bond that develops between adults in emotionally intimate relationships.” Simplified, according to Slate, “people seek security in the face of threats and grow closer to their sources of comfort.” Using this idea, divorce rates would decrease and marriage rates increase in the face of natural disaster—but it's not that simple.
“One of the least-known legacies of the 9/11 disaster,” according to Slate, “was its impact on divorce.” That month, there were 32 percent less couples filing for divorce in New York. The divorce rate even decreased following 9/11 in “so-called psychologically similar cities: Philadelphia, Bergen County, N.J., and Los Angeles.” After another great manmade tragedy, the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995, the divorce rate declined similarly in and around Oklahoma City. And yet natural disasters tend to result in different trends.
“While divorce rates decrease after man-made catastrophes,” reports Slate, “they tend to increase after natural disasters.” This was seen in Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew, and while the numbers aren't yet in, researchers expect a spike in the divorce rate this year over last for areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. There are the external factors caused by the stress of physical loss, rebuilding, and tough economy—and, according to Slate, “child abuse and domestic violence also tend to increase in the year following a hurricane.”