Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

For Richer, for Poorer: Mothers Confront Divorce

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

For Richer, for Poorer: Mothers Confront Divorce

Article excerpt

For Richer, for Poorer: Mothers Confront Divorce. Demie Kurz. New York: Routledge. 1995. 288 pp. Paper ISBN 0-415-91009-9. $17.95 paper.

In analyzing divorce in the United States, Demie Kurz brings a sociologist's eye to the examination of the social and economic contexts of divorce for women and children. A central theme of Kurz's work is that most women do not undertake divorce lightly or on whims of personal dissatisfaction. Kurz critiques the advocates of family values, who focus on individualism and lack of commitment as central to the divorce rate and subsequent problems in single-parent families. Instead, she points to pathologies (i.e., adultery, violence, and hard living-substance abuse or absence from the household) by male partners as accounting for three of four specific reasons given by women for divorce in her study.

Kurz's study involved in-depth interviews (both fixed response and open-ended questions) with 129 divorced mothers from the Philadelphia area. Of varied racial and class backgrounds, the women described the causes of the breakups of their marriages and the consequences for themselves and their children. Most gave accounts of why their marriages had ended, sometimes citing multiple reasons, which Kurz categorizes by the dominant cause. Explanations were not sought from ex-husbands. Causes were intertwined with the gendered nature of marriage as a social institution. Kurz illustrates her points with many articulate quotes from interviewees.

Rather than focusing on psycho-emotional aspects of the breakups, Kurz emphasizes the economic struggle encountered by most women and the policy structures (regarding visitation, child support, and AFDC) that exacerbate difficulties for mothers without husbands. …

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