Divorce and Separation: Context, Causes, and Consequences

Divorce and Separation: Context, Causes, and Consequences

Divorce and Separation: Context, Causes, and Consequences

Divorce and Separation: Context, Causes, and Consequences

Excerpt

Change has become a central expectation in our century. Not only in America but also in other industrialized lands, people have come to expect a high rate of change in most aspects of their lives—in the underlying technology, in production and consumption, in family life, in personal aspirations or paths toward self-fulfillment. This is the day of the marketplace ethic, of the renegotiable contract, of the continual search for options.

Changes in the meaning of marriage and the rise in the divorce rate in Western countries are part of this larger picture. Yet despite the dramatic increase in divorce and separation and their important impact on social and personal well-being, the topic has received only scattered attention from social scientists. Over the years there has been an accumulation of descriptive data, of anecdotal reports from the formerly married, and of exhortative or clinical advice. But, until recently, there has been only a trickle of systematic research.

In the present volume, we have pulled together some of the best recent work on the topic. Its nineteen chapters focus on the societal context of divorce and separation, as well as on antecedents and consequences for particular pairs of individuals. The chapters present a variety of approaches. They range from the broadly demographic to the narrowly personal, from statistical analyses of censuses and surveys to individual reflections of participants in small sample studies. Several chapters include reviews of important literature and several deal explicitly with aspects of social policy.

Our book is divided into five parts, dealing consecutively with the general context, the causes, and the consequences of divorce and separation. Part I presents a contextual overview regarding recent trends, historical implications, and social psychological theory. The next two parts present a variety of approaches and findings concerning the determinants of couple breakup; Part II deals with social and psychological antecedents of separation and Part III with largely economic factors. The last two parts consider the consequences of breakup; Part IV pertains mainly to the lives of the ex-spouses themselves, while Part V extends the focus to the families and children of the separating parents.

Throughout, our purpose has been to illuminate critical issues so as to stimulate further thought and study. We believe that our selections . . .

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