The idea that children of divorced parents would be the ones who would suffer, was seen as conservative thinking and many scoffed at this notion in the 1970?s. What child would want to be part of a family that constantly fought? With the accepted idea of couples counselling a few years away many saw divorce as their only option. Because of this attitude, today there are fewer and fewer people under the age of 30 who are getting married than at any other time in history. The mistakes of the past generation are well documented and most people have a rudimentary knowledge of what divorce does to people. If not from first hand experiences than from witnessing aunt's, uncles or cousins endure though a divorce. This has made an impact on many young people and has made them a bit wary about the institution. Their apprehension can be attributed to the rising number of people that divorced in the 1970?s and the effect it had on the attitude of their children towards marriage in the 1990?s.
The Divorce Act of 1968 [a law that allowed couples to divorce because of cruelty, adultery or if they have been living apart for three years] was seen by many people living in the 1970?s as a second chance for happiness, consequently the divorce rate nearly tripled. By 1970 the divorce rate stood at nearly 150 divorces per 100,000 persons, up from 55 divorces per 100,000 persons in 1965 (Canadian Dept of Justice). In 1985 when the Divorce Act was amended there was a spike of 25% in the divorce rate [see appendix 1]. Many people were waiting to for the changes the Canadian government was going to make to the Divorce Act. After the changes became law many people who had been waiting to officially divorce now could after only one year (Cameron 1). This spike can then be directly attributed to the amendments. By comparison the divorce rate today stands at 240 divorces per 100,000 persons and although this is a much higher number than in 1970 the divorce rate has been dropping steadily for the past 5 years, [with the exception of 1998 when it rose slightly (2.5%) over the previous year] (Canadian Dept of Justice). The wide spread belief of the early 1970?s was that children in an unhappy home would suffer and that staying in a marriage where the parental unit was always arguing and fighting a lot was not fair to the children. This led some people to walk away from their marriages at the first sign of trouble because they believed it was in the best interest for their children. A happy mother and father, even if they were not living under the same roof was suppose to be better than a parental unit that was fighting, and there was a lot of heated debates going on in the 1970?s.
Not only was the no fault Divorce Act of 1968 a new idea, but a couple of revolutions were also going on at this time as well. The sexual revolution, (with the invention of the birth control pill) and the gender revolution, (which was a struggle for equal rights for women as well as gays and lesbians) both these revolutions helped educate women and helped bond women together to issues that concerned women. But many of these ideas were far from the so-called accepted social norm of the time. Many couples could not deal with all the new changes that were going on and so a lot of couples divorced. "If divorce could make one or both parents happier, then it was likely to improve the well-being of children as well" explains American social historian Barbara Dafoe Whitehead in her book, The Divorce Culture (Driedger 1). If anyone needed a place to go to see just how fulfilling life could be outside of wedlock all they had to do was to turn on their television sets. The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Mary and Rhoda were full of single female role models, all having careers. The infamous line in the theme song of The Mary Tyler Moore Show "You?re going to make it after all", seemed to sum up the mood of women in the 1970?s (Cameron 2).
Now, the children of this generation are grown...
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