Divorce Family Sociology
Divorce • How has the divorce rate changed over time? • How is the divorce rate measured? • Who is more likely to divorce? • What are the social and economic explanations for higher divorce rates? • What is the effect of divorce on adults and children?
Measuring Divorce • Crude divorce rate – the number of divorces per 1000 in the population. • Why is this a poor measure of divorce? • Crude divorce rate is a faulty measure because it includes members of the population not at risk • Refined divorce rate – best measure; the number of divorces per 1000 married women over age 15
Measuring Divorce • Current Divorce Rates • Between 1960 and 1979, the refined divorce rate rose from 9.2 to 22.8 • From 1979 to 1996, the rate dropped from 22.8 to 19.5 • In 1997 the refined divorce rate was 19.8
Annual Divorce Rate per 1,000 Marriages United States, 1860-2010
Measuring divorce • Women marrying today have about a 50 percent chance of divorcing – but that is if trends remain the same • 50 percent of first marriages will EVENTUALLY end in divorce – but remember that is over the lifetime of a marriage! • Divorce could occur in the 2nd year of marriage or the 10th year.
Measuring divorce • What is the divorce rate? • In a given year your risk of divorce is much lower than 50 percent! • We use the refined divorce rate: the rate of divorces per 1,000 married women per year • For example, in 2001 about 20 out of 1,000 married women got divorced • In other words, 2 percent received a divorce in 2001
Measuring divorce • For those in their first marriage, who did divorce… • They were married, on average, 8 years Source: http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p70-125.pdf
Latest data on Marriage and Divorce Rate • http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/divorce.htm
Geography of Divorce • The divorce rate varies by state • Which state(s) do you think have a higher divorce rate and why? • Nevada…easy divorce laws • Which state(s) have lower divorce rates and why? • Massachusetts – may have to do with stricter alimony laws or high percentage of Catholics • Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvss/divorce_rates_90_95_99-10.pdf
“I’m surprised I’m still single, I thought I’d be divorced by now”
How is divorce related to social, demographic, or economic changes? • Social norm change: As more people divorce • Response: The stigma associated with divorce lessens • Economic change: Increase in women working for pay • Response: Women can afford to leave unhappy marriages • Demographic change: Increased incidence of divorce • Response: More children will grow up in single-parent families
Why did the divorce rate increase from 1960s – 1980s? • No one can say for sure what explanation is more important. • Some argue that the introduction of no-fault divorce lawsare responsible for the rise in divorces. • No-fault divorce laws made it easier to seek a divorce • No fault divorce – distribution of marital property is no longer based on fault • Instead distribution is equitable – each person gets an equal share
Why did the divorce rate increase from 1960s – 1980s? 1) Attitudes towards divorce have changed as divorce has become more common – i.e. the stigma attached to divorce has lessened 2) More young married women in the labor force • Now that wives can support themselves – as they are more likely to be employed - they have an alternative staying in an unhappy marriage • In sum – today - not necessarily more unhappy marriages… • Now it is easier to leave an unhappy marriage
Individual characteristics associated with divorce • Age • People who marry as teenagers are more likely to divorce than those who marry at older ages • Why? • You will likely still be developing and changing in major ways when you are a teen • AND • Many teen marriages result from an unintended pregnancy – not a good basis for a marriage • HOWEVER new research shows that marrying after age 35 is linked to higher rate of divorce
Individual characteristics associated with divorce • Education level • Those with lower level of educationare more likely to divorce than those with higher levels of education • IQ • Higher IQ may indicate greater problem solving ability, which may help couples work through issues that arise in their marriage
Individual characteristics associated with divorce • Race & Ethnicity • Regardless of educational level, African-Americans have higher rates of divorce than whites
Percent No Longer in First Marriage by Race/Ethnicity Source: National Survey of Families and Households, 1987
Predicting Divorce • Divorce is a process • Often, there are signs of trouble long before the divorce • People report trouble long before they actually decide to divorce
Children & Divorce • The most talked about consequence of divorce is the effect it has on children. • Given the rates of divorce in the late 1970s and early 1980s, about two-fifths of all children will have experienced a marital disruption by age 16.
Children & Divorce • A major problem is that many women and children do not receive child support, even when it is court ordered • 2/3 of families with no father present who were supposed to receive child support, actually do receive support • Only 48 percent of families actually receive any support
Children & Divorce • Most mothers still retain custody of children after a divorce • Custody involves decisions about • who will have responsibility for the children? • where will the children live? • Legal custody refers to having the right to make important decisions about the child’s life • Physical custody refers to where children actually live
Children & Divorce • Most mothers still retain custody of children after a divorce • Joint custody is becoming more common • Joint legal custody – based on the idea that parent’s responsibilities towards their children have not changed • Joint physical custody - children spend at least 33% of their time with each parent
Children & Divorce • Joint physical custody is growing • Children spend substantial time in the household of each parent – but in reality mothers still have custody more of the time
Children & Divorce • Father involvement • Why do fathers fade from children’s lives after divorce? • Visits to children are painful reminder of failed marriage • Fathers investing in new family if they remarry • Cherlin speculates that fathers related only indirectly to children through wife
Children & Divorce • Rather than practicing coparenting after a divorce, most families practice parallel parenting: after several years – parents go about parenting separately • Father only families are growing rapidly • From 1980 to 1998 – the number of father-headed families tripled • 19 percent of single-parent families are headed by fathers • 4 percent of all children live in single-father families
Effects of divorce on children • Many studies have considered the effect of divorce on children’s: • scholastic achievement • conduct • psychological adjustment • self esteem • social skills • relationships with parents • But many consequences are difficult to measure – especially long term effects
Effects of divorce on children • Short-term effects • 1-2 year crisis period • Children’s lives may be disrupted due to sale of family home • Decline in financial status due to high chance that mom now supporting family – possibly without child support possibly having to reenter the job market
Effects of divorce on children • Long-term effects • Many studies find that children from divorced families experience lower levels of well-being across some of these areas than do children from intact families • However, there are many inconsistencies in these studies • Many studies don’t find significant differences between kids in divorced and intact families
Effects of divorce on children • Long-term effects of divorce on children • Researchers reviewed the literature from 1970 to 1980 find overwhelming evidence that after the initial trauma of divorce: • children are as emotionally well-adjusted as children from intact families.
Effects of divorce on children • Long-term effects of divorce on children • Long-term studies show that after controlling for socioeconomic status (SES), adolescents who have experienced a divorce have only slightly lower levels of adult adjustment. • Adjustment is measured in several ways: • self-control • leadership • responsibility • achievement • aggressiveness • gender-role orientation
Effects of divorce on children • Long-term effects • My new research shows: • Children from high conflict parents who later separate, are less likely to have conflict in their adult relationships … • compared to kids of high conflict parents who stayed together
Effects of divorce on children • Long-term effects • Other researchers, who collected data on families prior to divorce, found: • Many of the problems that associated with children of divorced families were evident before the actual decision to divorce • Thus, researchers argue that conflict between parents is a fundamental factor that harms children’s development and produces behavioral problems
Effects of divorce on children • Long-term effects • In sum, conflict in families may be the cause of children’s problems, not the actual decision to divorce.
Divorce • Summary • Divorce has increased steadily over the 20th century • The biggest increases were during the 1960s-1970’s • Divorce rate has leveled off and has begun to decline in the past few years • Conflict is bad for kids, not necessarily divorce in the long-term
Divorce • Summary • Divorce has a greater adverse economic effect on women than men • Short-term effects of divorce on children – last 1-2 years • Long-term effects are still debated – more research and better data is needed • Conflict is the source of negative outcomes for kids – not just divorce