THE STATUS OF DIVORCE HAS CHANGED
divorce is the object of much agonized dismay by Americans who, cannot accept divorce as an integral part of the modem America family system. Divorce is symptom moral decay or The average Ahamatian peasant married three tUnes and usaany 'had some out side love affairs without producing any directions [Freilich and Coser, 1972). To invoke again the concept of cultural, whether divorce is a disruptive 'crisis 'or' a useful adjustment depends upon it culture. Why has divorce increased so greatly? We do not know whether mart. unhappiness has increased, since we have no friable measures of marital unhappiness in earlier times. What we do know is:
1 The. decline of a set of uniform sex-role expectations ,increases the likelihood that a husband and Wife may disagree about their
rights and duties,
2 The. increasing specialization, individuation, and tnobility, of modem life, together with our rapid rate of.social change, make it
less likely that a couple will share the same tastes and values for a lifetime.
3 Women's economic dependence upon men has decreased. Unhappy wives in earlier generations were virtually helpless, whereas today's unhappy wife has some alternatives: work, if she is able; welfare, if she is not [Udry, 1981],
4 Divorce has become socially acceptable, with divorcees no longer branded as moral .lepers or social outcasts .
5 Divorce feeds upon itself as an increasing fraction of people have parents, relatives, or friends who are divorced. Research shows that one's readiness to divorce is more highly ,correlated with one's' social contacts with divorced persons than with one's level of marital unhappiness [Greenberg and Nay, 1982]. Case contacts with divorced persons transform divorce from a remote nightmare into a rational alternative.
6 No-fault divorce laws have made divorce less costly and complicated.
To. sum, up, marital unhappiness mayor may not have increased, but readiness to use divorce as an answer has multiplied enormously. The most recent projections are that about 38 percent of first marriages of women .now aged 25 to 29 will end in divorce, that 75 percent of divorcees will remarry, and that 45 percent of the remarried will divorce again [Glick and Norton, 19791. A society can get a very low divorce rate in at least five ways. First, it can deemphasize love. In many societies marriage is a working partnership but not a romantic adventure as well. If less is expected of marriage, more marriages will be "successful." Second, it can separate love from marriage. A number of societies have a series of men's clubs for companionship, and allow men wide freedom to prowl in search of sex adventure. Here again, less is demanded of the marriage. Third, the society can socialize its members to be so much alike in personality and expectation that practically all marriages will work out successfully. The stable, well-integrated society generally succeeds in accomplishing' this leveling: our society does not. Fourth,
familial may be so encompassing that divorce is intolerable. In other words, so many of one's necessities, privileges, and satisfactions may be connected to the marital and family ties that to sever the marital tie is to cancel nearly all the claims and privileges which make life tolerable. This was approximately true in early America, where divorce was legally simple but not very practical. Finally, divorce can be legally forbidden, or made so difficult that most unhappily married couples are unable or unwilling to seek divorce as a solution. Our society has actually done none of these things. It socializes people so that they differ more and more greatly in personality and expectation, gives them values which lead them to expect a great deal of marriage and to demand a high level of love satisfaction in marriage, and provides no approved outlet for their frustrated marital needs when they fail. All this makes a fairly high rate of marital failure and divorce an inescapable part of our modem social structure.