Many of us have already heard about the high divorce rates, especially in the Western world. Many of us also may come from a family that is divorced, living with either one of our parents. From personal experience, the problem of divorce is great, since it tears the family unit apart. A family unit should be a stable environment for the young person, but divorce means the exact opposite, causing long term negative effects. For example, in a scientific study of divorced children, it was concluded that “many children continue to experience their parents’ divorce as a significant negative influence in their lives through adolescence and well into adulthood.” (Schroeder & Gordon, 420) However, divorce is a crucial problem, not only because of the problems it causes on personal levels, but also on greater social levels. For example, some studies have shown that there is a clear connection in lower economic class between divorce, broken homes and crime. (Emery, 392) People from broken homes or divorced families face many obstacles and lack security. But when we understand how divorce is a great social problem and also personal problem, how can it be solved? In this essay, I will look at both the problem of divorce, its negative impact and also some possible solutions to the problem.
Family units are associated with stability. They are places where young people develop in a caring and loving environment. Traditionally, the family unit consists of father and mother, but even now family units are changed, also for example, the issue of homosexual couples. But the main key here is that a divorce involves the conflict between the couple, the point where the couple has gone to the decision that it is impossible for the couple no longer to live together. Clearly, on the level of child development, therefore, the problem of divorce has a negative impact. This in the research has been shown in two phases. As Gregory K. Moffat explains: “the effects of divorce on children are long-term. It used to be thought that children suffered emotional distress initially following a divorce, but then, as time passed, the effects of divorce waned. The most recent research has called that assumption into question.” (212) As studies such as the ones Moffat uses show, there is first the negative impact of development on the child. The child faces emotional stress and the security of the family unit is no longer there. But this is not only an effect on this younger stage of development. It also impacts the individual in their adolescence and adulthood. Now, if we consider that the effect of divorce is negative and that it is also something that the child faces in the entire life, there is a clear problem here. For example, when we also factor in the high divorce rate, which is about 50% in the United States (APA, 2015), this means that 50% of the population is experiencing an emotional and psychological stress. The problem, in short, is enormous.
The problem of divorce becomes even more significant when we look at its effects. It is not only the effects on the individual level, the psychological stress, which of course is important. It must also be considered the greater social effects. Certainly, it is bad for the society as a whole if 50% of the population has psychological stress throughout life because of divorce. But it seems that people would tend to think about psychological stress as a personal problem. But this is not the case. Psychological stress and divorce has larger negative social impacts. Some connections have been made between divorce and crime. For example, the sociologist Robert Sampson found out a comparison of statistics where “robbery rates were higher in cities where divorces were high.” (Emery, 392) But the effect of divorce on crime is more general, as “according to many crime theories, family disruption is held responsible for the emergence of crime (especially by crime committed among youths.” (Entorf & Spengler, 21) Much of these conclusions is supported by research and data. Therefore, the psychological stress of the individual young person also reflects itself in the negative actions in society as a whole. This is logical. If a young person has an unstable family environment, one that has conflict in it, then it will be logical that this conflict with other authorities such as the law will also appear. Furthermore, it is important to note that many studies show that children from families with divorce and conflict in their relationships also have conflicts and divorce when they reach adulthood and have their own families. This is because their picture of the family life is one of conflict from an early age.
Therefore, based on this research, we can say that there are three main problems caused by divorce. Firstly, the divorce is experienced by the young person on a personal and psychological level. It takes the form of stress and psychological problems. The individual takes the negative effects of the divorce on the psychological level. Secondly, there is a social problem of divorce. The negative impact of the family relationship now also reflects on society. This is demonstrated in the connection between crime rates and divorce. Thirdly, divorce is a cycle. The child from a divorced family will have more change that his or her own marriage will have conflict and lead to divorce. (Schroeder & Gordon, 440) The cycle repeats itself and therefore solutions become necessary.
Many theorists suggest that the higher divorce rate is in one sense cannot be changed. This is because, especially in Western countries, marriage is not seen from a religious perspective anymore. It is not a sacred bond anymore, but a type of contract between two people, just like a business contract. Because of this, many theorists also suggest that divorce becomes higher because there are laws that exist that make divorce easier. (Hawes & Shores, 820) One example of this is the so-called “no fault divorce laws” that appeared in California in the 1970s. (Hawes & Shores, 820) These divorce laws made it easier for couples to divorce and therefore the divorce rate went up. Therefore, one possible solution to the problem is to review these laws. The reason to review the laws thus would be to see the negative effects of divorce on individuals and families. When these links are clearly shown, lawmakers will have to understand that making divorce easier is not a helpful solution. Instead it encourages couples to separate and creates the negative impacts listed above. If laws exist so as to improve a society, then the lawmakers should look again at the laws about divorce, because they do not improve society as a whole.
Another solution is to return to different views of marriage with a more spiritual foundation. As Dr. Francis K. Goode writes, “building a marriage on a strong spiritual foundation will last as long as life lasts.” (31) Various religious groups can encourage people to think closely about the reasons for marriage. The spiritual foundation is important because it helps people who may marry not think about their marriage as a contract, but as an expression of love. The spiritual foundation of love could be emphasized as it was in the past. When we emphasize the spirit we emphasize the longer lasting relationship instead of the problems that appear in any relationship and which may not be important in the big picture.
Divorce has individual and social effects. For this reason, a society that cares about individuals and society as a whole should take a close look at trying to reduce divorce rates. Laws that make divorce easier give a short-term solution but cause long-term problems. Lawmakers could review these laws so as to consider the psychological and social effects of divorce. More spirituality in life and direct action of religious groups on the communities which they speak to can also help us re-think what marriage means.
- American Psychological Association. “Marriage and Divorce.” 2015. Retrieved October 3, 2016 at http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/
- Emery, Robert E. Cultural Sociology of Divorce. Los Angeles: Sage, 2013.
- Entorf, Horst & Spengler, Hannes. Crime in Europe: Causes and Consequences. London: Springer,
- Goode, Francis K. The Ideal Marriage. New York: LU. 2014.
- Hawes, Joseph M. & Shores, Elizabeth F. The Family in America: An Encyclopedia. New York: ABC-Clio, 2001.
- Moffatt, G.K. The Parenting Journey: From Conception to Teen Years. London: Greenwood, 2004.
- Schroeder, Carolyn S. & Gordon, Betty N. Assessment and Treatment of Childhood Problems: A Clinician’s Guide. New York: Guilford Press, 2002.