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