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Divorce, Blended Families, and Cohabitation

Divorce, Blended Families, and Cohabitation

Author: Paul Hannan

Identify the causes of divorce, and the structure of other types of family relationships.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology, Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on divorce, blended families, and cohabitation. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.


So in today's tutorial, we're looking at family in some different ways and in some ways that is maybe changing or has changed in US society. So the first thing we're going to look at is divorce. Now, on this graph here, it's a very rudimentary graft. But what it's basically illustrating is that from the 1900s on, divorce rates in the United States of America have increased a lot. Divorce in the early 1990s was very rare. And now, it's pretty common.

So we're going to look at some reasoning why that is and some of the effects of that today. And then a couple of other terms that kind of are-- we can lump in together with divorce. But I like to define divorce as just legally ending your marriage, in case you're unfamiliar with that term.

There are many different causes of divorce. And you can look at individual families and their reasonings. Researchers have differed on why they think divorce happens and why it's increasing. Some researchers look at divorced couples to find their answers. Other researchers look at couples that have stayed together and see what are the difference between those two.

So there's a lot of difference in this research. But there's also some pretty broad similarities between researchers. So I've kind of lumped them together into the ones below here that that you see on the screen. These are kind of systematic reasons why divorce is more prevalent and why divorce happens.

So I'm going to go through them all individually. So the first one, divorce is socially acceptable now. If you think about divorce in the early 1900s, it was not OK to be divorced. If you were a divorced woman, you would be shamed. In our modern society, divorce isn't seen as something that is a-- you're not a black sheep if you're divorced. It's something that's relatively OK for people to become divorced. So that's one of the reasons why divorce is happening because now that it's socially acceptable, it's no longer a taboo. So people can be divorced if they want to be.

Another reason for divorce rising is economic independence. So how you define economic independence can be kind of touchy in this state because it's not to say that a married couple that keeps finances separate, and that the woman and the man both are financially independent, and both have well-paying jobs. That's not really fair to say that that marriage will end because of that.

But there is research saying that women are more likely or men are more likely to get a divorce when they feel like they're economically independent. Probably the easiest example to think about this, if you think about it historically. Women in the early 1900s, they weren't really in the workforce. This was before World War II and World War I.

Women's job were to raise the children. So if a woman was going to get a divorce, how are they going to survive financially? That's a big question mark.

Now, after the two world wars, our workforce has fundamentally shifted in the way that women are treated in it. And so women now have much more economic independence. Sociology has looked at those changes and said, well, women are much more likely to be-- if they're independent, they're much more likely to get divorced.

Now, again, it doesn't mean that that independence causes the divorce. It could be that in the 1900s, these women were equally unhappy with their marriage. But they just didn't have the option for divorce. So they were stuck in those bad marriages.

Now, another reason why divorce happens and is happening more is it's easier to get. Legally, the standards for divorce have changed from the early 1900s. And so, it's much easier for someone to get divorced now than it was back then.

Now, this is a really broad category to say that modern life is a cause of divorce. A lot of people maybe would put the term stress in here instead of modern life. But everyone has had a stressful life throughout human existence. Stress is not a new thing.

But specifically, the way that our modern life is structured I think adds a certain type of stress that is different. So if you look at a two parent home, most two parent homes, you have both parents working. And so they both have the responsibilities of their job and the responsibilities of taking care of the family. And because of these multiple responsibilities and all these different pulling factors, they often don't even have enough time to spend with each other and stay connected.

So it's interesting because technology allows us to be connected with people more efficiently and quicker. But all these technologies and these requirements from technology about these connections, maybe through work and be active on your phone or updating, checking your email at home. In some ways, that connections and those things of modern life has made modern life more stressful for marriages and caused a disconnect.

Now, the last reason for divorce-- this one is, I think more true throughout time than some of the other ones is that people get married. And the romantic, passionate love that start in the beginning, the sexual passion, it fades. That happens to everyone.

But a lot of marriages-- maybe not a lot, some marriages are built on that passion and love. And there isn't another sort of love, that really enduring love you as a person love that exists in that marriage. And so as marriage progresses and that passion starts to fade, is there this other type of love that really sustains the marriage and keeps people in the marriage?

Now, there are many, many results of divorce that we can look at. I want to focus on a couple of real simple effects of divorce. So one is that when there's more divorce, there's more single parent households. So in a single parent household, you have one maybe mother, one maybe father, and they're in charge of taking care of the children. There's no one else for support. Well, that's much higher in a society with a higher divorce rate.

Also, there's this term blended families. So a blended family is when you have a family that's made up from a couple of different previous relationships. So maybe a father has a kid with his first wife and then remarries to a woman. And she has kids from a previous marriage, or they have kids together. So that's a blended family where there's just-- the previous relationships are blending together to make this family . A society with high divorce rates is going to have a much higher rate of blended families.

Another kind of weird side effect I think of divorce is cohabitation. So cohabitation just in its basic means is people who are romantically in a relationship, and they live together. But they choose to stay unmarried. Now, I don't know if I really want to say that's a cause of divorce. But I personally have friends who choose to cohabitate rather than get married because they feel like marriage doesn't have much weight to it anymore because of what divorce is. So they think their relationship is stronger without marriage than having this institution of marriage attached to it.

So today's takeaway message, there are many different causes of divorce. But a couple of the major ones are that it's socially acceptable, there's economic independence, it's easier to get nowadays, modern life is stressful, and that passion fades, so is there true love behind it? We also learned about blended families. And that's where a family is made up from children from a previous relationship. And cohabitation where people are in a relationship together, but they choose to stay unmarried-- and oh sorry, they live together. And they're in relationship, but they choose to stay unmarried.

Well, that's for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully, you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Blended Families

Families composed of children and some combination of biological and step-parents.

Causes of Divorce

Though not exhaustive, social scientists identify six general reasons particular people divorce: 1) Individualism; 2) Romantic Love Fades; 3) Women are Less Dependent on Men; 4) Stress; 5) Divorce is More Culturally Accepted; 6) Divorces are Easier to Obtain Legally.


When two adults occupy the same dwelling as part of a romantic relationship (i.e. living together).