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Sociology 1201 Marital separation and divorce Is marriage: 1. a voluntary contract that can be ended by either partner; 2. a lifetime commitment “til death.

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Presentation on theme: "Sociology 1201 Marital separation and divorce Is marriage: 1. a voluntary contract that can be ended by either partner; 2. a lifetime commitment “til death."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sociology 1201 Marital separation and divorce Is marriage: 1. a voluntary contract that can be ended by either partner; 2. a lifetime commitment “til death do us part?” (How did the women in Promises I Can Keep see it?) Gallup poll: “Do you believe that an unhappy marriage should be maintained for the sake of the children?”

2 Sociology 1201 Divorce: Trends and Comparisons  U.S. Rates  1960: 9 per 1000 married women  1970: 15  1980: 23  1990: 21  2000: 19  International Comparison International Comparison International Comparison

3 Sociology 1201 Why the rapid increase?  Legal changes: “no fault marriage”  Changing expectations: “best friend”  Cultural emphasis: self-fulfilment  Women’s employment trends  Men’s employment trends

4 Sociology 1201 Should the laws be changed to make divorce more difficult? The General Social Survey The General Social Survey

5 Sociology 1201 How serious are the issues that usually precipitate a divorce?  Notice how this question was finessed in the movie.  Whitehead: “Some people say as few as 10-15% of divorces involve marriages that are really irretrievably broken.”  Narrator: “So even by the most generous measure, many of these divorces are not justified.”

6 Sociology 1201 Judith Wallerstein et. Al.  Began in 1971, with 60 families, including 131 children, aged 2-18  At 5-year mark, half the men and 1/3 of the women reported being more unhappy than when they were married  At 10-year mark, 30% of children reported bad relationship with both parents

7 Sociology 1201 Major surprises  “Sleeper effect:” kids (especially girls) who seemed to be doing well at first but had a very hard time later  “Unexpected legacy:” major impacts for children of divorce in forming romantic/sexual relationships as adults

8 Sociology 1201 Major criticisms  Cherlin and Furstenberg, Divided Families –Lack of representative sampling –Lack of control group of children not experiencing divorce Basis for their book: National Survey of Children, in which a representative sample of parents and children were interviewed at 5-year intervals8

9 Sociology 1201 “Fading fathers”  Five years after divorce, nearly half of kids do not have contact with fathers even once a year.  Why? –Child support issues (social class) –Parenting skills of fathers –Very part-time parenting

10 Sociology 1201 Economic Issues  Female-headed families six times more likely to be poor.  Child support system: improving but still not generous… e.g. British system more sensitve to children’s needs and less sensitive to noncustodial parent’s needs

11 Sociology 1201 Child well-being  NSC data: “In the last four years has your child had any behavior or discipline problems at school resulting in your receiving a note or being asked to come to school?” 34% (children of divorce) vs 20% Children of divorce doing no worse than children in intact, high conflict homes

12 Sociology 1201 Public policy recommendations  Help custodial parent function better: improve child support and collections  Reduce conflict between parents: implement “primary caretaker standard” for custody  What about joint custody?

13 Sociology 1201 Single parent families  Based on 2000 census, about 80% of single parent families are headed by women  The number of father-headed single parent families has more than tripled since 1980.

14 Sociology 1201 Single Parent Families: Typical dynamics  Role overload and its effects on children and parents  Lack of the balancing effect that may come from the second parent  Economic stress: the majority of single parents either receive no child support payments or less than ordered by the courts  Relationship with noncustodial parent

15 Sociology 1201 Joint Custody  Joint legal custody vs. joint physical custody  Limiting factors on joint physical custody –Jobs and household location –Relationship of divorced partners –Age of children

16 Sociology 1201 Stepfamilies  Definition: household in which two adults are married or cohabiting that includes 1 or more child from a previous marriage or relationship  How many class members have lived in a stepfamily?

17 Sociology 1201 Stepfamily as an incomplete institution  Doing the work of kinship –Andrew Cherlin: “If there is no relationship, even a blood relative may not be counted as kin.”  Stepfamilies and created kin. Rules are few and dependence on the work of kinship even more central.  Remarriage chains: complexity and choices

18 Sociology 1201 Cherlin and Furstenberg: Divided Families “Step-parents quickly discover that they have only been issued a limited license to parent. The wiser ones among them accept the limits of their job description and bide their time.”

19 Sociology 1201 “Successful” stepfamilies  Divorce rates higher among second marriages than for first marriages.  New marriage, rather than parent/child relationship, must become the dominant relationship within the family.  Step-parenting and the age of step- children

20 Sociology 1201 Effects of stepfamilies: the good news  “Most stepparents report they are happy with their roles and their new families. After a period of adjustment, most stepchildren come to view their stepparents positively, although not as positively as children view their biological parents.” Cherlin

21 Sociology 1201 Effects of stepfamilies: the bad news  Children in stepfamilies no better off, on average, than children in divorced single parent households.  This shows up in many studies, despite the obvious advantage in terms of economics and role overload.

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