The rise in rates of divorce in the United States and globally has been a cause for concern from an economic, social, and political perspective. Because of the tremendous impact on individuals, families, and groups of increased divorce rates, the subject is an area of interest from the perspective of the way that society functions in the midst of this tremendous change in an institution that has been a mainstay of societal norms for centuries. The specific topic that will be explored is: the history of the rise of divorce in the United States into modern times, the impact on individuals and children in particular of this change, and the negative associations with the increasing divorce rate on society as a whole. Examining this topic in detail will help to understand and predict the effect of divorce on society in an effort to develop ways to address and potentially avoid the problems that result.
Scholars are largely in agreement about the reasons for the decline of marriage; people on the right believe that marital interdependence has declined because of the breakdown of the sexual division of labor (Ruggles, 2011.) On the other side, many other scholars support the breakdown of the patriarchal nature of marriage that formerly had resulted in economic powerlessness for women. Nevertheless, there is universal agreement that when married women began to work outside of the home, the traditional “contract” of marriage became undermined, resulting in an increase in divorce and separation. Those scholars who dissent from that perspective generally argue that it has been the declining economic opportunities and decreasing wages for males has decreased the pool of desirable men as mates (Ruggles, 2011.)
The result of declining marriage rates has had an undeniable long-term impact on children of divorce, most evident in changes in children’s ability to perform well academically, a phenomenon that has long-term impacts on that child’s eventual career prospects (Quinn, 2012.) The increasing rates of divorce have resulted in a mistrust of marriage, and this has caused a decline in rates of marriage in Western societies in general. Frequently, children who have parents that have divorced do not have confidence in the institution of marriage, as they do not want to repeat the problems and traumas associated with that event. The result is that divorce tends to breed more divorce (Quinn, 2012.)
Other scholars are completely emphatic about the devastating impact on Society of divorce. They believe that divorce damages society, consuming social and human capital which increases costs taxpayer while at the same time, diminishing the taxpaying portion of society (Churchill, 2012.) Further, it tends to decrease the competence of children in all of the major tasks and institutions held by society, such as family, school, religion, marketplace, and government (Churchill, 2012.) Divorce may also be viewed as permanently weakening family relationships as well as the connection between children and their parents, often resulting in devastating conflict management approaches, reduced social competency, premature loss of virginity in many children, and a reduced sense of masculinity or feminine identity for many young adults.
Nevertheless, other clinicians and scholars argue that divorce does not always have a negative effect on children and their parents. When one considers factors such as age at the time of separation, gender, ability to cope with stress, level of parental conflict, and the way that divorce is presented to the children by the parents, indeed divorce need not have a long-term devastating impact on children (Myers-Walls, 2013.) The amount of support that parents are able to provide for their children as well as each other while going through the divorce process can play a significant role in whether or not the effect on the children is traumatic or reinforcing of positive family relationships.
- Churchill, A. & Fagan, P. (2012). The Effects of Divorce on Children. Marriage and Religion Research Institute, 1-48.
- Myers-Walls, J. & Karuppaswamy, N. (2013). The Effect of Divorce on Children: What Makes a Difference. Retrieved from Purdue University: https://www.extension.purdue.edu/providerparent/family-child%20relationships/effectdivorce.htm
- Quinn, D. (2012, March 30). Rising Divorce Rates No Help to Any Society. Retrieved from The Independent: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/david-quinn-rising-divorce-rate-no-help-to-any-society-26837690.html
- Ruggles, S. (2011). The Rise of Divorce and Separation in the United States, 1880-1990. Demography, 455-479.