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Research Paper on Divorce

By Lauren Bradshaw
Divorce has become a major issue in our society, and many causes have been attributed
to the incline in divorce rates. Divorce rates have spiked during the past few decades and
no on really knows why, but several theories have been formed in an attempt to explain
this recent phenomena. Feminist theory, Individualism, and dual income theories will be
discussed and analyzed to determine if they apply to the recent rise in divorce rates in
North America. These theories do not act alone, that is, a not one of the above theories
can be labeled as a definite cause of divorce, but when all three are examined together, a
formula for divorce can be seen. The rise in divorce can not be, and should not be,
attributed to a single theory, but rather the rise in divorce rates can be linked to all three,
and one can see that these theories act collectively, as opposed to individually to cause
the dramatic spike indivorce rates.
In recent years, Feminist theory has become pushed its way through traditional theory to
become recognized. This theory directly applies divorce rates, as it taught women to
stand up for their rights, and that they could do anything they wanted. This included
activities that were previously occupied by men only. Feminist theory taught women that
they did not need to depend on men for emotional support, financial support, or even to
give them status in society, rather, feminist theory taught independence. Some forms of
feminist theory has established that women do not need men to survive; a quote to back
this up is one from Gloria Steinem, and she says A woman needs a man like a fish needs
a bicycle. This backs up the idea that women do not need men to function, and this can
be seen as a cause for a higher divorce rate. Some feminist theories are seen as extreme
and Eva Figes displays the radical feminist theory when she says, Either one goes on
gradually liberating the divorce laws, until marriage stands exposed as a hollow sham in
which no one would wish to engage, or one takes a short cut and abolishes marriage
altogether. (Figes, pg. 121, patriarchal attitudes, 1972, Feminism Opposing Viewpoints,
1986) Since feminism has shown women that they no longer need to rely on men for
support, some of them have begun to remove men from their lives. This, in turn can be
correlated with the spike in divorce rates since the beginning of the feminist movement.
The end of the institution of marriage is a necessary condition for the liberation of
women. Therefore it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands
-Declaration of Feminism. This idea, again, shows the way that feminist theory has
attributed to the divorce rates. This idea is essentially telling women that they must

divorce their husbands in order to liberate women. This idea directly tells women to
divorce their husbands in order to be liberated, and to aid in the liberation in all women.
This is a main reason that Feminist theory has aided in the rise of divorce rates since the
start of the feminist movement.
A second theory on the rise of divorce rates is the theory of individualism. William J.
Goode says that In our time people have been reducing their personal investments in the
collectivity of the family. (Goode, pg. 9, World Changes in Divorce Patterns, 1993) This
statement accurately portrays the idea of individualism as it is saying that people of the
past few decades have stopped emphasizing the collectivity of society, and on a smaller
scale family, and have begun to focus on personal gain and investment. Individualism is a
mainly North American viewpoint that involves placing emphasis on the individual,
rather than focusing on the group. Individualism looks at the I instead of the We, and
this can be translated into a cause of the recent divorce rates seen in North America. With
individualism, people stop staying together for the kids; if a person from an
individualistic society feels unhappy, or just simply wants out, they get out. Along with
individualism has come a need for personal happiness. Goode believes this may be a
reason for the rise in divorce rates and says, One might also suggest that the culprit has
been the incorrigible romanticism of this population, cherishing the dream of romantic
life in marriage, believing in the individuals right to pursue happiness, so that the grubby
reality of daily married life seems to many a personal defeat. (Goode, pg. 180-181,
World Changes in Divorce Patterns, 1993) This shift from cultural values to individual
values has put major pressure and stress on existing ideas about what marriage is about. It
is this stress that leads to many splits; therefore one can presume that individualism
correlates with divorce.
A third theory about the rise in divorce rates is a theory brought on by feminist and
individualist theory. This is the idea that more families are converting to a dual-income
household; that is; both partners in marriage are working and pursuing separate careers.
Some people believe that some of these careers move away from each other and can pull
two partners apart so each individual can pursue his or her career. Most dual-income
families spend less time together than single income families; therefor these families have
less time to grow to love each other and more time to grow apart. This theory can also be
linked to divorce rates in the sense that if you are focused on making a career work, then
it becomes more difficult to provide the focus it takes to make a marriage work. People
are just giving up on marriage because it has become less important to them than
economical status. The need for dual income families has, indeed, shifted mentalities to

economics, rather than marriage or love, and this can impact on existing marriages. When
it became almost necessary for both partners to have careers, a strain was put on
marriages, and this strain has aided in the spike of divorce rates. The focus is no longer
on traditional male/breadwinner, female/homemaker roles, and this has been hard to
adapt to for many people. Some people can not adapt, or could not adapt quickly enough
to this change, so the force of separate careers pulled couples apart, often times ending
marriages in divorce. A branch of the dual income effect is role conflict. Role conflict
exists when there is scarce time to be divided between work and family. Gary L. Cooper
and Suzan Lewis say When people feel torn between the needs of their children and the
demands of work, the subsequent conflict can be very distressing. (Cooper, Lewis, pg.
78, Managing The New Work Force, 1994) This distress can, and often does lead to
separation, or, in some cases, Divorce. Cooper and Lewis go on to say Problems may
arise if partners lack the time and energy to provide the practical or emotional support
associated with having a homemaker wife. (Cooper, Lewis, pg. 120, Managing The New
Work Force, 1994) this is essentially saying that with the incorporation of new family
ideas comes a change from traditional roles, that, in turn, may produce a lack of actions
or support that has grown to be the norm in society. This can cause many problems as
dual income situations may remove comfort areas of a relationship and, by doing this, a
more stressful situation is created, which may eventually lead to divorce.
Each of these theories can provide valuable insight on the rise of divorce rates over the
past sixty years, but not one can be considered a cause, and one can not be labeled as
more important than the other can. Feminist theory brings up a good point in the sense
that it discusses the liberation of women and the new ideas and rights of women today.
The points listed above are solid arguments to support the fact that divorce rates do
correlate with the feminist movement. The same can be said for dual income families.
One can see that there is a correlation with the movement from traditional families and an
increase in divorce rates. Again, the same can be said for individualism. With society
moving from collectivism into individualism, the sense of family solidarity can be lost.
This is why all three theories are applicable to the rise of divorce rates, and these rates
will continue to rise as societal value changes.
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