Social Change and the Experience of Unemployment

By Duncan Gallie; Catherine Marsh et al. | Go to book overview

9
An Examination of the Relationship between Marital Dissolution and Unemployment

RICHARD LAMPARD


1. INTRODUCTION

Much evidence exists showing a relationship between male unemployment and marital dissolution. Payne ( 1989) notes that in 1985 the proportion of widowed, divorced, and separated men aged 16-64 who were unemployed was approximately twice the proportion of married men aged 16-64 who were unemployed. ( Source: OPCS General Household Survey, 1985). Other authors, such as Ross and Sawhill ( 1975), Daniel ( 1981), Haskey ( 1984), Eekelaar and Maclean ( 1986), Warr ( 1987), and Liem and Liem ( 1988), have also referred to data which suggests that there may be a causal connection between male unemployment and marital dissolution.

Why should unemployment be related to married couples splitting up? The financial and psychological stresses associated with unemployment have been shown to have negative effects on family life (e.g. Fagin and Little 1984; Popay 1985). It would seem likely that these stresses could also lead to an increased risk of marital breakdown, though Mattinson ( 1988) argues that loss of work and unemployment 'turn' marriages 'bad' which were already unsatisfactory but in which work had helped to contain immaturities or problems in couples' ways of relating.

Poverty can also increase the risk of marital breakdown. Burgoyneet al., for example, state that: 'the stresses associated with poverty--insecure employment, financial hardship and unsatisfactory housing--exacerbate the inevitable tensions of early married life' ( 1987: 22). One should therefore be cautious

____________________
*
The author is grateful for all the comments and suggestions that he has received relating to this paper, and is especially grateful to Catherine Marsh, Máire Ní Bhrolcháin, and David Cox.

-264-

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