Susan L. Brown

Professor of Sociology, Bowling Green State University
Co-Director, National Center for Family & Marriage Research

About Susan

Brown is a family demographer whose research examines the patterns and implications of the rapid transformation of American family life. She investigates the consequences of family change across the life course, focusing on family structure and instability among children as well as union formation and dissolution among adults. Her ongoing research includes several interrelated studies on intimate partnership dynamics (e.g., dating, cohabitation, marriage, and divorce) and their implications for the health and well-being of older adults.

In the News

Susan L. Brown quoted on gender differences in dating in old age by Faith Hill, "What It’s Like to Date After Middle Age" The Atlantic, January 8, 2020.
Amy Alexander quoted on the intricacies of middle age dating by Faith Hill, "What It’s Like to Date After Middle Age" The Atlantic, January 8, 2020.
Susan L. Brown quoted on long-term couples, "Together, Apart? More Long-Term Couples Living in Separate Homes" NBC News, May 11, 2018.
Susan L. Brown quoted on changing families by Judith Graham, "Older Couples are Increasingly Living Apart. Here’s Why" TIME, May 10, 2018.
Susan L. Brown quoted , "Tax Proposal to Hit Divorcing Couples" Barron's, November 3, 2017.
Susan L. Brown quoted by Quentin Fottrell, "My Husband Wants our House and Half my 401(k) in our Divorce — and he’s Hiding his Assets" MarketWatch, October 13, 2017.
Susan L. Brown quoted on divorce in retirement by Juliette Fairley, "Easing the Financial Impact of Divorce in Retirement" Forbes, January 22, 2016.
Susan L. Brown quoted on the poverty rates among divorced women by Margaret Price, "Retirement Often a Challenge for Single Women" Investor's Business Daily, January 15, 2016.
Susan L. Brown's research on marriage discussed by A. Powlowski, "Like Jennifer Aniston, More Women are Marrying Younger Men," TODAY, August 21, 2015.
Susan L. Brown quoted on cohabitation among older adults, "How Marriage Affects Healthy Aging" Newton Citizen, June 8, 2015.
Susan L. Brown quoted on unmarried couples living together by J. Robert Smith, "Young Conservatives Want Gays to Marry?" American Thinker, May 28, 2015.
Susan L. Brown quoted on family changes in older adults by Roneisha Mullen, "Ageless Love: Finding a Mate Seems to Have No Age Limit" Toledo Blade, February 11, 2015.
Susan L. Brown quoted on on poverty and divorce by Janet Kidd Stewart, "How Divorce after 50 May Affect Your Retirement Savings" Chicago Tribune, February 2, 2015.
Susan L. Brown quoted on divorce trends by Ben Steverman, "The Mid-Life Divorce Boom: How to Avoid Financial Carnage" Bloomberg, November 10, 2014.
"A 'Gray Divorce' Boom," Susan L. Brown, Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2013.
"Divorce after 50: More Splitting Later in Life," Susan L. Brown, Interview with Kristen Dahlgren, NBC's Today Show, July 8, 2012.
"Divorce by Baby Boomers is Rising," Susan L. Brown, Interview with Athena Jones, CNN, June 23, 2012.
Guest to discuss rising divorce rates among people over 50 on NPR's Talk of the Nation, Susan L. Brown (with I-Fen Lin), March 8, 2012.
Susan L. Brown's research on Baby Boomers and divorce discussed by Susan Gregory Thomas, "The Gray Divorcés," Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2012.
Susan L. Brown's research on rising divorce rates for older adults discussed by Rachel L. Swarns, "More Americans Rejecting Marriage in 50s and Beyond," New York Times, March 1, 2012.


"The Role of Fathers' Involvement and Coparenting in Relationship Quality Among Cohabiting and Married Parents " (with Lauren McClain). Sex Roles 76, no. 6 (2017): 334-345.

Examines whether low levels of fathers’ involvement and coparenting were linked to negative trajectories of mothers’ and fathers’ relationship quality for couples whose first child was born in marriage or cohabitation. Discusses the importance of the father role, not only for the well-being of the child but also for the relationship of the parents. 

"Same-Sex and Different-Sex Cohabiting Couple Relationship Stability" (with Wendy D. Manning and J. Bart Stykes). Demography 53, no. 4 (2016): 937-953.

Tests competing hypotheses about the stability of same-sex versus different-sex cohabiting couples. Concludes that same-sex cohabiting couples typically experience levels of stability that are similar to those of different-sex cohabiting couples.

"Family Complexity among Children in the United States " (with Wendy D. Manning and and Bart Stykes). The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 654, no. 1 (2014): 48-65.

Provides a descriptive profile of changes in children’s living arrangements over a 13-year span (1996–2009). Shows that we have reached a plateau in family complexity and that complexity is concentrated among the most disadvantaged families.

"Transitions into and out of Cohabitation in Later Life" (with Jennifer Roebuck Bulanda and Gary R. Lee). Journal of Marriage and Family 74, no. 4 (August 2012): 774-793.
Looks at how cohabitation is on the rise among older unmarried adults, who are just as likely to form a cohabiting as a marital union. These partnerships are quite stable and are more likely to end through death of a partner than either marriage or separation.
"Unmarried Boomers Confront Old Age: A National Portrait" (with I-Fen Lin). The Gerontologist 52, no. 2 (2012): 153-165.
Presents findings on the one-third of Baby Boomers who are unmarried. Unmarried Boomers experience more health, economic, and social vulnerabilities than do married Boomers, raising important questions about how society will care for this rapidly growing segment of the older adult population.
"The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce among Middle-Aged and Older Adults, 1990-2009" (with I-Fen Lin). Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 67, no. 6 (2012): 731-741.
Finds that, despite the leveling in the overall rate of divorce in the U.S. population over the past 20 years, the rate of divorce among adults over age 50 has doubled since 1990. One-quarter of people divorcing today is age 50 or older.
"Marriage and Child Well-Being: Research and Policy Perspectives" Journal of Marriage and Family 72, no. 5 (2010): 1059-1077.
Offers a review and critique of the past decade’s research on family structure, family instability, and child well-being with suggestions for future research and policy directions.
"Family Boundary Ambiguity and the Measurement of Family Structure: The Significance of Cohabitation" (with Wendy D. Manning). Demography 46, no. 1 (2009): 85-101.
Shows that adolescents and their mothers often have disparate views of their family living arrangements, and this boundary ambiguity is more common in complex family forms such as cohabiting stepfamilies.