Separation & Divorce

Reasons for the high divorce rate in the U.S.

Most parents will agree with divorce - Most friends will be supportive
Identity Reorientation - development of the "single" self is difficult depending on the duration of the marriage. The longer the marriage, the longer reorientation takes. Some factors are associated with the process of redefining oneself: Incidence of Marital Separation. U.S. divorce rate is the highest in the world: 5/1000 population (women).

Rising from 246,000 divorces in 1940 and leveling off to about 1.5 million a year in 1984

Factors influencing the probability of divorce All these factors have a greater effect on women than men, women marry early more often than men. IV. Divorce as Process - Not Event

Most people find out by experience that divorce is a "process" - often taking months (even years) - than a single event.

Depending on the degree of commitment to the marriage, and the length of marriage, the process of total divorce may take as long to complete as the marriage took to dissolve.

Divorce only dissolves the legal marital relationship, not the emotional, economic, parental, community, or psychic relationships that have evolved.

Effects of Divorce While social scientists once agreed that it was better for a couple with children to divorce rather than live unhappily with children observing -- now most social scientists agree that the most harmonious outcome for children is to live with their parents - regardless of the quality of the relationship of the parents to each other (barring physical violence or neglect).

There is some degree of emotional trauma suffered by children of divorced parents, depending on the age of children at the time of divorce. In most cases, this is short term.

There is also the loss of a confidant and guidance counselor that is the non-custodial parent.

Generally - the non-custodial parent (dads in 90% of the cases) begins with prompt child support payments and on time visitations, but gradually slacks off -- so that by the end of the first year he is delinquent in both payments and visits.

However the greatest threat to children is the loss of material wealth. Children living with their mothers are likely to have had to move into other neighborhoods, begin new school system careers, and make new friends at a time when old habits would have offered more comfort. Loss of material wealth causes these emotional upsets. In fact, non-custodial fathers somehow do not pay almost 60% of the court awarded child support payments in any given year.

This fact alone is sufficient to force many single parent families into poverty, or just above the poverty line.

One child in four in our society lives below the government mandated poverty line (1 child in 3 if we use the poverty line + 25%) and the majority of these children are from single parent families headed by mothers. Contrary to conservative political beliefs, only 35% of these single mothers are members of any minority group.

When we look at our society and observe the social problems plaguing us - drugs, runaway children, teenage prostitutes, and increasing crime rates in many areas - it is clear that there is at least one glaring cause of all of this.

If divorce results in 25% to 33% of our children living in or near poverty.....and poverty causes people to break the law to get over hard times .... and law breakers get caught and go to jail ... then in a more or less direct way - divorce is somewhat responsible for much of what we see as problematic in our society.

Thinking about the SINGLE PARENT MOTHER - There are at least four areas of crisis: a. responsibility overload b. task overload c. emotional overload d. financial overload.

Factors Related to Divorce (Recap)

Annotated References

Amato, P.R. (1991). The child of divorce as a person prototype: Bias in the recal of information about children in divorced families. JMF, 53, 59-69. The negative image of divorce leads people to recall unfavorable information, and fail to recall more favorable images about their children. Since people expect children of divorce to have severe adjustment problems, children are treated in ways that may increase the likelihood of those problems (a self-fulfilling prophecy).

Curner-Smith, M.E. (1995). Assessig children's visitation needs with divorced noncustodial fathers. Families in Society, 76(6), 341-348.

Fox, C. & Halbrook, B. (1994). Terminating relationsihps at midlife: A qualitative investigation of low-income women's experiences. J. Mental Health Counseling, 15, 143-154.

Furstenberg, F. & Teitler, J. (1994). Reconsidering the effects of marital disruption: What happens to children of divorce in early adulthood? J. Family Issues, 15(2), 173-190. Children of divorce are less likely to finish high school, attend college, and more likely to be neither employed nor in school. They are more likely to begin family formation early, initiate sex earlier, and become pregnant in their teens. They have a higher likelihood of cohabitation, but do not marry earlier. There were no significant differences based on gender of child on an array of dysfunctions.

Nakonezny, P., Shull, R., & Rodgers, J. (1995). The effect of no-fault divorce law on the divorce rate across the 50 states and its relation to income, educaiton, and religiosity. JMF, 57, 477-488. No-fault divorce law has increased the number of divorces. No other variables were related to the divorce rate in experimental designs.

Pett, M.G. (1982). Correlates of children's social adjustment following divorce. J. Divorce, 5(4), 25-39. The most significant factor related to children's satisfactory social adjustment was a positive relationship with the custodial parent. Other significant factors were custodial parent's own ability to maintain emotional and social adjustment, that parent's age and number of previous marriages, the children's current reaction to the divorce, and parental satisfaction with dating and friends.

South, S. & Lloyd, K. (1995). Spousal alternatives and marital dissolution. American Sociological Review, 60, 21-35. Respondents reporting living in areas with a large "marrying market" seemed more likely to divorce than individuals living in smaller places. The process is illustrated by the finding that married women with a college education regularly evaluate the "marrying market" at work for potential spousal candidates. The incidence of extra-marital relationships is higher here, and those who have extra-marital sex are more likely to divorce.

Whitbeck, L., Simons, R. & Kao, M. (1994). The effects of divorced mothers' dating behaviors and sexual attitudes on the sexual attitudes and behviors of their adolescent children. JMF, 56, 615-621. Girls' sexual permissiveness and actual behavior was related with that of their mothers' - not so for boys'.

Wineberg, H. (1994). Marital reconciliation in the U.S.: Which couples are successful? JMF, 56, 80-88. Religion had the most influence on the success of a reconciliation. Women who had the same religious beliefs as their spouse had a higher probability of being successful. Women who had cohabited with their spose before marriage were significantly mroe likely to have a successful reconciliation. 

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