The purpose of this paper is to introduce, discuss, and analyze the topic of divorce in America. Specifically it will discuss the affect of divorce on American culture. Divorce is never easy on a family, and it affects every member of the family in many ways. It breaks down family ties, splits families apart, and can create poverty and despair in single parents. Divorce has had a powerful affect on American culture, literally and figuratively. Marriage is one of the most popular and venerable institutions in American society. Little girls grow up dreaming of their "perfect" wedding, gay and lesbian couples fight for the right to legally marry, and fathers dream of walking their "little girls" down the aisle someday. However, marriage is changing in America, and divorce, once almost unheard of in history, has become much more prevalent. A group of writers note, "Marriage in America has changed a great deal over the past two generations, including increased incidence and social acceptance of divorce, cohabitation, premarital sex, and unwed childbearing" (Doherty, et al. 4). In fact, marriages declined in 2005, but divorces also declined to the lowest rate since 1970, something positive about a very negative subject (Editors). Divorce can influence every aspect of a person's life, it has a very powerful affect on American culture, because it frames the way people live, work, and relate to others, and it influences just about every aspect of how people are viewed and view American culture. Men and women view marriage and divorce differently, and marriage and divorce affect them differently. While many men may be hesitant to marry and give up their "freedom," men tend to actually thrive in committed relationships. A journal author notes, "Men do seem to benefit simply from the state of being married. Married men enjoy better health and longevity and fewer psychological and behavioral problems than single men" (Hetherington). According to Hetherington, women tend to do well in good marriages, but in bad marriages they can suffer from a variety of health problems, from depression to immune-system breakdowns in bad marriages (Hetherington). Often, parents stay together when there are children involved; hoping to raise them in a friendlier environment, but often, the marriage becomes so difficult the children suffer anyway. All of these aspects of marriage and divorce combine to create a very complex issue that affects families and American culture in a variety of ways. Social Networks
When a couple divorces, it affects each partner and their family, of course, but it affects other aspects of their lives, as well. Usually, a couple develops a social network of friends and family throughout their marriage. When a couple divorces, that social network alters, with some friends and family siding with the husband and others with the wife, no matter how amicable the divorce is. Hetherington continues, "Ex-spouses typically must cope with lingering attachments; with resentment and anger, self-doubts, guilt, depression, and loneliness; with the stress of separation from children or of raising them alone; and with the loss of social networks" (Hetherington). Thus, the social networks of the couple alter, and they may lose support from people close to them, with disastrous results. Without the support of the friends, they may face more difficulties adjusting to the divorce, and the cultural implications are evident. In American society, friends and relatives are basic to happiness and security, and the loss of these social networks can lead to a variety of problems, from depression to health-related issues. This affects the culture of the nation, as society must deal with the aftermath of divorces by creating healthcare and wellness support, groups to support the partners of divorce, and counseling to help friends and family deal with the divorce. Divorce does not just affect the partners, it affects those around them and with rampant divorce, and it affects society and culture by supporting disillusionment of marriage rather than supporting making marriages work. The culture of America is still built on marriage as the foundation of the family and the culture, and destroying the family unit helps destroy American cultural foundations, as well. Children
Perhaps the biggest affect on society and American culture that divorce can bring is the effects it has on the children of divorced parents. Children suffer because they believe they may be the cause of the divorce, and they suffer in numerous ways that affect society and culture. Hetherington continues, "Both young children and adolescents in divorced and remarried families have been found to have, on average, more social, emotional, academic, and behavioral problems than kids in two-parent, non-divorced families" (Hetherington). This means that American culture is changed when the "perfect" family disintegrates, and society must develop ways to deal with children who are suffering emotional and behaviorally. This can affect their entire lives, because studies indicate children carry the emotional baggage of divorce with them, and it can affect their relationships, their jobs, and just about every aspect of their lives. Two researchers note, "Children of divorced parents more frequently demonstrate a diminished learning capacity, performing more poorly than their peers from intact two-parent families in reading, spelling, and math. They have higher dropout rates and lower rates of college graduation" (Fagan, and Rector). This affects the entire culture of the country, leading to a level of society that is unprepared for adulthood and unprepared for the rigors of work and raising their own family. If enough children of divorce carry these poor foundations into adulthood, the culture of the country will change, in that relationships may not be so important to these children, and maintaining the foundations of society may not be so important either. In fact, studies indicate that children of divorced parents tend to want fewer or no children, live together instead of get married, and expect divorce (Fagan, and Rector), all ideas that could change the very culture of America if children of divorce continue to rise in numbers. Statistics show that sixty-three percent of children grow up with both their parents in the U.S., and that is the lowest amount in the western world (Editors). This is a startling statistic, and if these numbers continue to climb, as they have been, it could permanently alter the culture of marriage and family in America. It is often difficult for children to adjust to live with only one parent and cope with all the rigors of divorce, as well. Another group of authors note, "Coping with continuing conflict between the parents and divided loyalty was particularly taxing for many children. Some, especially boys, regretted the more limited access they had with their non-resident fathers" (Butler et al. 188). Children suffer from many disruptions, as well, from changing schools to dealing with a new house, new schedules, and parents often gone for work that never occurred before. Another group of authors note, "It is well documented that divorce often involves a wide array of disruptions or stressors, including increased fights between parents, exposure to parental distress, changes in residence and schools, involvement with parents' new partners, and loss of time with one or both parents" (Wolchik, Tein, Sandler, and Doyle). Thus, children tend to suffer the most, and they grow up with many problems, they view families differently, and they can alter American culture if their attitudes and ideas about marriage and family continue to be negative. Income and Poverty
Poverty and divorce go hand in hand, especially for single mothers. Fagan and Rector note, "Divorce generally reduces the income of the child's primary household and seriously diminishes the potential of every household member to accumulate wealth. For families that were not poor before the divorce, the drop in income can be as much as 50 percent" (Fagan, and Rector). In a culture that values wealth and possessions, poverty is the ultimate failure, and those who divorce and fall into poverty place an additional burden on society, creating the need for added social services and support. In addition, those in poverty tend to remain in poverty, unable to pull themselves out because of the poorer education and job resources that exist in poverty-prone areas, and so, the culture of America is worsened and weakened as divorced single parents fall into poverty and bring society down with them. Another aspect of this whirlpool of poverty is the child support issue, and how many "delinquent dads" do not pay child support. Studies show that 84 percent of child-support payments are made by men (Editors), and that about $40 billion dollars is spent annually on child support (Editors). However, there are fewer statistics on how many parents do not pay child support, and how that affects the single parent family attempting to survive. Women who have never worked have to get jobs, they often have few qualifications, so they cannot get good paying jobs, and the family is reduced to poverty. They often cannot afford childcare, too, which only adds to the problem of finding decent employment, and the cycle of poverty continues. Violence and Abuse
Violence and abuse has become much more prevalent in our culture, and divorce could have something to do with that rise. Doherty and his team of writers note, "Divorce or separation provides an important escape hatch for children and adults in violent or high-conflict marriages" (Doherty, et al. 5). While divorce can lead to safety for children and adults caught in violent and abusive relationships, it can also lead to increased violence down the line. Studies indicate that children who grow up in abusive situations often tend to become abusive themselves as adults, and this means that abuse and violence could continue to grow in our culture as these children grow up and continue the ongoing cycle of abuse and violence. Religion
Another bedrock of American culture is religion, and divorce goes against many religious teachings. The freedom to worship any religion we please is a foundation of the country and our culture, and religious worship tends to go down in divorced families. Fagan and Rector continue, "Religious worship, which has been linked to health and happiness as well as longer marriages and better family life, is less prevalent in divorced families" (Fagan, and Rector). This means that religion could deteriorate in our culture, especially in religions that frown on divorce. Two other writers quote a child from a divorced family "My father was raised very Catholic and shortly after this had happened he stopped going to the Catholic Church because I feel he thought it is wrong to get divorced" (Harvey, and Fine 39). Children that stop going to church often do not begin again, and this can change culture dramatically, leaving it less spiritual, less cooperative, and less decent, as a result. Single Parents
Another foundation of American life is the family unit. An "acceptable" family is father, mother, and children, but with divorce, this family unit is broken, and parents become single parents. Clearly, not every family in America is going to divorce, but those who do change the fabric of the American family, and create alternatives that go against what many people stand for in our culture. This lack of a parent changes the entire dynamics of the family, and how it is viewed by society and culture. First, the group is no longer "perfect," and second, new dynamics, such as parental dating and a parent having to get a job are introduced. They change the fabric of the family and remove the security the parent and child may have felt. Single parent families can lead to abuse, too. Doherty and his writers note, "Children living in single-mother homes have increased rates of death from intentional injuries" (Doherty et al. 17), which is a frightening statistic. Too many single-parent families in America are changing the culture from family-oriented to a different, less appealing dynamic, and divorce is at the root of this changing dynamic. In addition, since fathers are often the absent partner in a single-parent family, children often do not develop good relationships with their father after a divorce, and do not develop the skills they need to become good fathers themselves, breaking down the culture even more (Doherty et al. 7). Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Our culture does not accept over-indulgence or addiction in most all cases. While alcohol is legal, alcoholism is not socially acceptable, and this is another area of our culture that can be affected by divorce, because children of divorced parents often have more problems with alcohol and drug addiction. One scholarly study showed that children from recent divorces did not drink any more than children from older divorces, but "Nevertheless, children whose parents had recently been divorced were more likely to drink alcohol in greater quantities more frequently and were more likely to be under the influence of alcohol, while at school" (Jeynes 305). In addition, children in two-parent households show less substance abuse of any type (Doherty et al. 13), probably because of the added stability of the traditional family in the child's life. Addiction and the healthcare to control addiction adds a heavy cost to our society, and it appears that divorce can help add to this cost by creating more addiction, alcoholism, and substance abuse in our culture. Mental and Physical Health
Married people live longer than single people do, and that is a known fact (Doherty et al. 13). Married people also tend to be happier (unless they are in a bad marriage), and they suffer from fewer bouts of depression and other mental problems. Married people often have better healthcare options because they make more income than single people do, and they often support each other in health decisions, such as adopting a healthier lifestyle (Doherty et al. 13). Thus, marriage supports the health of the family, and as shown, supports the health of the children, especially when it comes to addiction, as well. Divorced people are often less healthy for a number of reasons. They may not have health insurance or be able to afford health insurance. They eat far less healthy, because fresh, healthy food tends to be more expensive, and they tend to be always rushed or in a hurry, so they consume fast food and other foods that are unhealthy. Single parents are also at risk of more injuries, simply because there is no one there to help them with activities, or to discover them if they injure themselves. Perhaps the most disturbing statistic about divorce and mental health is that divorced people are much more susceptible to suicide (Doherty et al. 14). Suicide is one of the least acceptable "solutions" to problems in our culture, and it creates massive reactions in the family, community, and culture. A child whose parent commits suicide suffers emotionally and mentally for their entire life, and they may become more susceptible to suicide themselves. A child whose parent commits suicide often has to experience censure or disapproval from other people, and find it even more difficult to deal with the situation. Marriage promotes better, healthier relationships, and divorce promotes ill health, both mental and physical, that can tear away the roots of American culture. Acceptance and Legality
One of the things our culture can do to change divorce is to stop being so accepting of it. With the advent of no fault divorce, divorce has become more common and acceptable in society, and that allows more divorces to occur, winnowing away at American culture. No fault divorce has also lead to a great increase in divorce attorneys and laws, adding to an already overburdened legal system. Everything from alimony to child custody can end up in court, and even CPAs have to understand tax laws regarding alimony, as one lawyer explains, "The tax language in an agreement has to be explicit" (Maples). Thus, we have developed a culture of laws and acceptance of divorce that does not help promote marriage or staying together in our culture. Divorce adversely affects our culture in many ways, and for that to stop, we need fewer divorces and more loving marriages in this country. In conclusion, it can be said that divorce alters just about every aspect of American culture, from family to education and far beyond. The foundation of American culture is the family, and with divorce, the bedrock is shaken and often cannot survive. Children need strong families to thrive, and they may be the biggest victims of divorce, because they can carry the scars of divorce, throughout their lives, altering the patterns of family and marriage forever (Fagan, and Rector). Children from divorce tend to be more violent, poverty-stricken, and less educated, and all of those things suck the very air out of American culture and society.
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