Ironically not too long ago, "divorce" was forbidden, unaccepted, and considered as an act of sin among married couples. This situation has reversed in our contemporary world whereby the stigma once associated with divorce has eroded, while its massive effects on women and subsequently family life continues to grow at overwhelming proportions.
Divorce is one of the most painful and unwelcome public topics one can address in our modern world. When a marriage is not working and there is a break down in communication, common goals or trust, many times this will result in a divorce which can be a painful process, even more so if children are involved.
Since the turn of the century, the Western World has supposedly undergone not only an Industrial Revolution but also a Sexual Revolution which irreversibly altered the way in which the relations between men and women were perceived. In the early 1900's, the Industrial Revolution transformed societies from agrarian to urban, resulting in exclusive sex roles for men and women. Fathers had more power in the working world, while mothers had more power in the child-rearing arena. As a result of these rigid roles, people today still believe that children belong with their mothers; that mothers are the real parent and the fathers are given a supporting role and visitation with their own children. Over the course of the twentieth century, the rate of divorce increased dramatically kicking off in the late 1960's, facilitated by federal legislations. It is now argued that the true nuclear family is literally becoming extinct. The idealistic image of the household being divided into public and private spheres has become a mythical belief.
The once so-called "traditional roles" for men and women during the industrialization and urbanization of the 20th century changed greatly. Women entered the work force in order to replace men during World War II; later in the 1960's, they gained control over fertility with birth control. These events led to a shift in roles with women having more decision-making ability in family matters (Teyber,1992).
In the Victorian era, patriarchy was the most prevalent form of family life. There was a double standard of sexual morality were fidelity was demanded of the wife while the husband pursued adulterous encounters; cheap and expensive, depending on his own social class. People did not marry for love so much as for the convenience of the families concerned. All marriages in this sense were "arranged". Divorce which rarely occurred, took place at the pleasure of the husband with the wife having no say in the face of her husband's infidelity, brutality or indifference. This Victorian marriage is a stark contrast to the modern day family. Nowadays, 'love' is what forms families while functioning as an affectional basis vesting equal financial and moral powers to both partners. The growing trend of divorce must therefore reflect in one way or another, this new equality of the sexes. According to a study on divorced women, it was found that the majority of marriages ended because of the negative gender dynamics in them (Kurz 1995). The study proved that one fifth of middle-class American women had divorced for reasons involving conventional male behaviour-- their failure to share housework, childcare, emotional care and their constant urge to be in control.
Among the poor and working class women, one fifth ended their marriages due to their partner's violence and abuse. Simply, the main reasons for divorce revolved around men's problematic behaviour (Fox, pp.166).
It was not the image of women as equals that inspired the reform of the divorce laws but on the contrary, it was their image as helpless victims that was the true inspiration.
Divorce is a very agonizing experience; not only among parents themselves but among their children as well. It can pressure feelings of depression, anger, despair, anticipation of newly-inflicted responsibilities...
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