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Why Is the Divorce Rate So High?

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Why Is the Divorce Rate So High?

Why is the Divorce Rate So High?

Intro to Sociology

April 25, 2006

A question that has been plaguing sociologists for years is the issue of high divorce rates. Since the 80’s there has been an extremely high rate of divorce in our country. In statistics I found from 2004 the percentage of divorce was at 47(NCHS). This question has been studied vigorously, sociologist have looked in every direction for one solid reason that our divorce rate is so high, even compared to other developed countries. As of right now, a simple answer has not been found, but various theories have been formed to attempt explaining the problem.

There are two theories I chose to present in this paper, each with a different stance on the reasons behind divorce. The theories do not necessarily disprove each other, but they are very different, therefore their reasoning rarely overlaps. The first theory is that divorce rates are extremely high because of how the place of women in society is changing. The role of a woman is no longer simply to watch over the house, cook, and clean. Now a woman’s role in life can be very much the same as a man, with many more women in the workplace, and in almost all aspects of our economy, male dominance is slowly fading. The second theory takes a bit of a different stance, questioning the institution of marriage altogether. Marriage is not seen the way it used to be. Now it is cut and dry and less meaningful than it was.

The first theory is built around the role changes for women within the last 30-40 years. Now working mothers are much more common, and the expectations for married women are completely different. It is no longer the responsibility of the man to support the entire family on his income alone. Households with two working parents are becoming more common as years go by and are accepted through all statuses and communities. Now that the role of the woman has changed so much, it stretches the family out even more, and provides a way for the woman to support herself. This is a second key point of the theory. Now that a woman can support herself and possibly her family, she does not need to stay with her husband just for financial support. This gives the wife an option which was not present 40 years ago, now her survival can fall on her own shoulders instead of her spouse’s. It was often said that the difference in roles between a man and a woman provided for a functions in both the family and society. Now that those roles have changed, the functionalism that previously explained the situation is losing validity to a conflict analysis, where women are gaining the power in relationships as well as society over men who previously held that power.

The second theory is centered on the actual idea of marriage. What used to be the sacred bond between a man and woman is now “the legal union of man and woman as husband and wife.” The previous statement seems to take all the romance out of one of our most ancient traditions. Many would agree that the institution of marriage is becoming less and less sacred, and accordingly less important. The idea that divorce is happening and accepted is simply helping the percentage to increase. When people see that something is no longer taboo or looked down upon they are more likely to do it, having no social or otherwise consequences. Marriage has been moving from the public to being a private institution for many years. What used to be a public status which showed values and a respectable lifestyle has turned into a private agreement based on a contract with rules that protect and control both parties (Brobiel).

Both of these theories prove very relevant to the current state of divorce in our country. The fact that these things changed the same time that divorce rates have skyrocketed should show a direct correlation between divorce and one of the two theories, if not a combination of the two. I do not believe that there is one all-consuming answer for this problem. It seems with questions like this some people hope or assume there is one answer which will just encompass

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