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Divorce: Causes and Consequences

Alison Clarke-Stewart
Cornelia Brentano
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This comprehensive book provides a balanced overview of the current research on divorce. The authors examine the scientific evidence to uncover what can be said with certainty about divorce and what remains to be learned about this socially and politically charged issue. Accessible to parents and teachers as well as clinicians and researchers, the volume examines the impact of marital breakup on children, adults, and society.Alison Clarke-Stewart and Cornelia Brentano synthesize the most up-to-date information on divorce from a variety of disciplinary perspectives with thoughtful analysis of psychological issues. They convey the real-life consequences of divorce with excerpts from autobiographies by young people, and they also include guidelines for social policies that would help to diminish the detrimental effects of divorce.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13331-8
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    Current Perspectives in Psychology presents the latest discoveries and developments across the spectrum of the psychological and behavioral sciences. The series explores such important topics as learning, intelligence, trauma, stress, brain development and behavior, anxiety, interpersonal relationships, education, child rearing, divorce and marital discord, and child, adolescent, and adult development. Each book focuses on critical advances in research, theory, methods, and applications and is designed to be accessible and informative to nonspecialists and specialists alike.

    This book focuses on divorce and its precursors, causes, and consequences. Among the topics explored are history and trends in divorce, theories of divorce, characteristics...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 The Social Context of Divorce
    (pp. 1-28)

    Today’s media coverage of divorce often gives the impression that divorce is a new and modern phenomenon. But this is not so. Divorce has been around as long as bad marriages; however, the ways we do divorce have changed.

    In the beginning, divorce was a personal decision determined by individuals, not by religion or the law. With the rise of Christianity, however, the Church began to control marriage and divorce.¹ Jesus’ oftquoted response to the question, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” became the cornerstone of every Christian marriage ceremony: “What God hath joined together, let...

  6. 2 At Risk for Divorce
    (pp. 29-51)

    Despite the efforts of theorists to organize our knowledge of divorce, there is no simple explanation for why people divorce: divorce is not caused by a single factor; it cannot be predicted on the day the couple ties the knot. Many causes on multiple levels—social, historical, cultural, demographic, and individual—interact to bring about the demise of a family.

    Current trends in marriage and divorce are the result of decades of social change. Numerous historical and social factors have contributed to the way we view marriage and divorce today.

    Knowing about the profound changes that have occurred in our...

  7. 3 A Marriage Ends
    (pp. 52-66)

    Divorce is not a single event that happens on the day that the divorce decree is issued: it is a long, drawn-out process. The initial decision-making process can take months or even years, and even when the divorce decision has finally been made, the progression of divorce may not be quick. Couples often separate, then reconcile, then separate again. They may end up litigating and sometimes, after years have passed, relitigating. Throughout this process, important practical decisions need to be made and actions taken that initiate and advance the process and lead to the rebuilding of separate and functional lives....

  8. 4 Adults in the Aftermath of Divorce
    (pp. 67-105)

    After the legal wrangling is over and the divorce is final, after the initial pain and shock of the separation have dissipated, what is life like for divorced adults? What happens to men and women emotionally and socially in the years after divorce? What are the economic consequences? How quickly and easily do individuals adjust to the divorce and to their new single life, and what factors either help or hinder their adjustment?

    In 1985 a startling finding was published: a researcher had found that one year after divorce women’s standard of living had dropped drastically—73 percent—while the...

  9. 5 Effects of Divorce on Children
    (pp. 106-130)

    As we saw in Chapter 2, nearly half of the children born to married parents in this country go through a divorce experience before they are eighteen—about one million children each year.¹ For these children, even more than for their parents, divorce can be an extraordinarily difficult experience. For adults, a divorce may offer advantages—pursuit of a new career, a new hobby, a new spouse, or a new lover. For them, the divorce, although painful, can be a net gain. But children see no benefit in divorce. The end of their parents’ marriage is a complete loss, turning...

  10. 6 What Causes Children’s Problems?
    (pp. 131-152)

    We have seen how some children suffer—in the short run and long term—when their parents divorce. But what causes their suffering? Is it because one parent disappears? Their income disappears? Or their custodial parent is too busy to take care of them? Is it all of the above? Participants at the conference sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development agreed that “overall, most children of divorce experience dramatic declines in their economic circumstances; abandonment or fear of abandonment by one or both of their parents; the diminished capacity of both parents to attend...

  11. 7 What Helps Children Adjust?
    (pp. 153-175)

    Just as there are multiple causes of divorce problems, there are many things that help children adjust to their parents’ divorce. The combination of these things can help children sail through the turbulent seas of divorce with ease, while the lack of them leaves children pitching and tossing. Some fortunate children recover from divorce in a few months or years, ending up basically the same children they were before the divorce, just a little older and wiser. Other children have enormous difficulty and end up in a sorry state as a consequence of the divorce and its aftermath. In recent...

  12. 8 Child Custody and Child Support
    (pp. 176-212)

    Although the term “child custody” is widely used, it is not always well understood. It can refer to a variety of legal and practical arrangements, and, beyond that, its different notations may have different meanings in different settings. The concept has also undergone many changes over the past hundred years. An understanding of the history of child custody provides an important basis for interpreting the current custody situation.

    Child custody refers to the legal and physical rights and responsibilities parents have with respect to their children. Havinglegalchild custody means that the parent has the right to make all...

  13. 9 Remarriage and Stepfamilies
    (pp. 213-233)

    High divorce rates create a large pool of experienced candidates for remarriage.¹ So it is no surprise that most people who divorce remarry.² About three-quarters of divorced people remarry, and, of these, about half do so within three years of their divorce.³ Remarriage is so common that it has become a relatively normal life-course event.⁴ Nearly half of the marriages in the United States are remarriages for one or both spouses.⁵ The likelihood that people marry twice before their fortieth birthday doubled, from about 10 percent to about 20 percent, in one generation, at the same time as the divorce...

  14. 10 Divorce: The Future
    (pp. 234-246)

    Public discussions of “what psychologists know” often pit extreme views against each other. The area of divorce is no exception.¹ Here, two debates have dominated. The first pits the view that divorce does irreparable damage to adults and children against the view that it doesn’t really matter at all. In the first corner of this debate, are Wallerstein’s clinically based claims of pervasive and permanent harm caused by divorce.² In the other corner is Judith Rich Harris’s dismissal of divorce effects.³ It is heredity, Harris claims, not experience in divorced families, that leads to problems.

    The second debate is not...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 247-278)
  16. References
    (pp. 279-336)
  17. Index
    (pp. 337-347)