Early Essays On Marriage And Divorce

Early Essays On Marriage And Divorce-60
In 1962, as Whitehead points out in her book The Divorce Culture, about half of American women agreed with the idea that "when there are children in the family parents should stay together even if they don't get along." By 1977, only 20% of American women held this view.At the height of the divorce revolution in the 1970s, many scholars, therapists, and journalists served as enablers of this kind of thinking.

In 1962, as Whitehead points out in her book The Divorce Culture, about half of American women agreed with the idea that "when there are children in the family parents should stay together even if they don't get along." By 1977, only 20% of American women held this view.At the height of the divorce revolution in the 1970s, many scholars, therapists, and journalists served as enablers of this kind of thinking.

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n 1969, Governor Ronald Reagan of California made what he later admitted was one of the biggest mistakes of his political life.

Seeking to eliminate the strife and deception often associated with the legal regime of fault-based divorce, Reagan signed the nation's first no-fault divorce bill.

Of course, the soul-mate model was much more likely to lead couples to divorce court than was the earlier institutional model of marriage.

Now, those who felt they were in unfulfilling marriages also felt obligated to divorce in order to honor the newly widespread ethic of expressive individualism.

As social historian Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has observed of this period, "divorce was not only an individual right but also a psychological resource.

The dissolution of marriage offered the chance to make oneself over from the inside out, to refurbish and express the inner self, and to acquire certain valuable psychological assets and competencies, such as initiative, assertiveness, and a stronger and better self-image." But what about the children?It didn't help that many mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders were caught up in the zeitgeist, and lent explicit or implicit support to the divorce revolution sweeping across American society.This accomodationist mentality was evident in a 1976 pronouncement issued by the United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination in America.A successful, happy home was one in which intimacy was an important good, but by no means the only one in view.A decent job, a well-maintained home, mutual spousal aid, child-rearing, and shared religious faith were seen almost universally as the goods that marriage and family life were intended to advance.The statement read in part: In marriages where the partners are, even after thoughtful reconsideration and counsel, estranged beyond reconciliation, we recognize divorce and the right of divorced persons to remarry, and express our concern for the needs of the children of such unions.To this end we encourage an active, accepting, and enabling commitment of the Church and our society to minister to the needs of divorced persons.But the psychological revolution's focus on individual fulfillment and personal growth changed all that.Increasingly, marriage was seen as a vehicle for a self-oriented ethic of romance, intimacy, and fulfillment.These elites argued that children were resilient in the face of divorce; that children could easily find male role models to replace absent fathers; and that children would be happier if their parents were able to leave unhappy marriages.In 1979, one prominent scholar wrote in the Journal of Divorce that divorce even held "growth potential" for mothers, as they could enjoy "increased personal autonomy, a new sense of competence and control, [and the] development of better relationships with [their] children." And in 1974's The Courage to Divorce, social workers Susan Gettleman and Janet Markowitz argued that boys need not be harmed by the absence of their fathers: "When fathers are not available, friends, relatives, teachers and counselors can provide ample opportunity for youngsters to model themselves after a like-sexed adult." Thus, by the time the 1970s came to a close, many Americans — rich and poor alike — had jettisoned the institutional model of married life that prioritized the welfare of children, and which sought to discourage divorce in all but the most dire of circumstances.

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