In the historical marriage, marriage was seen as a social obligation. Religious authorities introduced strong rules against divorce. While separation by mutual agreement or desertion occurred, individuals could not legitimately remarry unless they were granted an annulment by the Church. In a modern marriage, marriage is seen as an expression of personal fulfillment. Today, the institutional arena of the state has much more power and authority over the institution of marriage than do religious institutions. The shift from religious authority to state authority also corresponds to the shift from marriage as a social arrangement to one of individual expression and individualism.
There are four main causes for divorce. The matching process, dynamics of the relationship, how the couple responds to conflict, and employment and independence can all be the cause for divorce. During the matching process, the ways in which individuals come together and form couples can attribute to the success of the relationship. Also, the age of the individuals when they first get married can be an important consideration.
According to researchers, cohabitation can play a part in the success as well. Couples that live together before marriage may undermine their sense of commitment, making divorce more likely.
The relationship dynamics can affect the marriage as well. Couples are more likely to divorce if they describe themselves as unhappy in their marriages, spend less time alone with each other, or if they disagree frequently about household tasks, money, time together, sex, and in-laws. Couples with young children may also report being unhappier, which puts added stress on to the relationship.
In addition to these issues, if the couple has heated arguments, shout at, or hit each other, they have a higher chance of divorce.
Women’s independence was thought by some to be a contributing factor to divorce. However, researchers found that women’s independence can work to both strengthen and weaken marriage. For women, this means if they have employment outside of the home and it can give them self-sufficiency, they are more likely to leave unhappy marriages, which is also known as the Independence Effect. On the other hand, researchers have linked having a higher income with increased stability and happiness and reduced stress, known as the Employment Effect.
Divorce can affect an adult’s happiness, their economic status, and their children’s well-being. For adults, stress levels rise and are higher before divorce or separation. People may also experience a stigma after they divorce, making them less happy. A woman’s economic status may change, even when men pay child support, as divorce almost always lowers a woman’s household income, with mothers about 7 percent more likely to be in poverty than fathers.
The stressful aspects of divorce can lead to negative consequences for the couple’s children, too. Children who experience divorce may witness or even become the reason for an argument, which can increase stress levels. Less parental time or losing contact with one parent for periods of time can have a lasting effect. In some cases, if the child needs to move with another parent, they can experience economic hardship and are susceptible to residential moves and school transitions. As a result of this, children may experience short term emotional reactions or school problems, and new roles and identities in the family environment. All of these factors are negative consequences from divorce, however they can also offer protection for the child as they experience these changes. They learn better coping and interpersonal skills and gain more self-confidence. After the divorce the child may experience more attentive parents and less conflict, making it easier for continued involvement from both parents.
There is a high remarriage rate in America, and most divorced couples do eventually remarry. This blends different families together and can pose challenges for family members. For example, stepparents may try to preserve their own parenting style, and face the challenge of integrating different parenting strategies. According to Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, the challenges faced by blended families are becoming the new norm. For example, children of the other parent may feel left out or like they are not getting enough attention. There also could be stress between parents because of finances, parenting styles, custody, child support, visitation, and spousal support. Also, parents may feel a lack of respect from the other children because of trust issues or defiance. To combat this, it is important for blended families to establish boundaries quickly, and must “understand that blending a family requires time”, (Ziegler).
In conclusion, the modern divorce today is caused by more social and economic factors than in the past. Individual freedom is a prized value for most people, and the effect of women in the workforce has added to the divorce rate. However, children from blended families can have better coping skills and can adapt more easily to change than others. While the experience of divorce can leave a lasting negative impact on families, it can also strengthen the bond that blended families can have if they transition properly and maintain boundaries.