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Divorce, Blended Families, and Cohabitation

Divorce, Blended Families, and Cohabitation

Author: Zach Lamb

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] Hello. Welcome to sociological studies. Thank you for joining me.

In this lesson, we're going to deal with the rather morose topic of divorce and look at the six reasons social scientists have identified in why people commonly divorce. And in the second half of the lesson we'll look at blended families and this idea of cohabitation.

So, in the United States the divorce rate is the highest in the world. Why is this? Why do people divorce so much? Social scientists have come up with six reasons as to why. This is not an exhaustive list and not everybody definitively divorces for these six reasons. But nonetheless, these are six general patterns why particular people divorce.

First is individualism. We are increasingly focused on ourselves. It's about my career, my happiness, and my life. That comes first. And then secondarily we ask, well is my partner supportive of my goals? Does my partner fit with my own vision of personal happiness? And this is a relatively new luxury, this individualistic way to look at the world, if we want to call it that. Nonetheless, we're living in a culture of individualism, so we tend to look at the world in terms of me first.

Second, romantic love fades. The excitement of a new relationship wanes over time as people become familiar with each other. And so at the same time you have the possibility of new excitement in a new relationship. And this can cause you to want to leave your current relationship. Maybe some of you have experienced this in your life.

Third, women have become less dependent on men economically. So because of this, women can financially afford to leave the marriage and go support themselves if the marriage is bad. Where the past, if women were more financially dependent on men, they might be trapped in an abusive relationship because they didn't really have another outlet. If they went out on their own, it would be much more difficult than it is now.

Because now women are much more career-oriented. They have many more opportunities for lucrative careers than they did in the past. It seems like every week I read something in the paper or I read a book review about the rise of women and the demise of men. And how women are more amenable to the new service economy. Women are figuring out how to be in the new service economy a lot better than men. So women are succeeding now in ways that historically they have not. So this enables women to leave men and bad relationships if they need to.

And fourth, life is stressful. Relationships are stressful. Both partners are working outside of the home often and this puts a lot of demands on time. Especially when you deal with children as well. We're dealing with multiple roles and statuses all at the same time. You could be wife, mother, career oriented. And these various statuses have roles attached to them that make it difficult to juggle all these roles. And so it can make it difficult for romance in that time. So this is a fourth reason why divorce might happen.

The fifth and sixth reasons go together. Fifth, divorce is less stigmatized culture than it ever was before. Our culture supports divorce more so now than it did in the past. You see your neighbor and you say to yourself, well Jerry got a divorce and now he's happy. Well why can't I? Well, society answers that you can. So divorce becomes more culturally accepted in this way, and divorce begets more divorce.

And along with that then, it's easy to get. Divorces are much easier legally to get than they were in the past. You no longer have to go prove to some institutional bureaucratic board that your partner is cheating or abusive. You can get a divorce just because you want one in most states. So divorce has become much more easy to obtain.

Often when people get a divorce they remarry. In fact, stats are that three out of four people who divorce will remarry, and often within a short period of time-- within about four years. And if children are involved in this, this can often result in what we call a blended family, or a family composed of biological relationships and step relationships.

So for example, your mom marries a new guy after your parents got divorced and you now have a blended family composed of your mom, biological relationship, your step father, step relationship, and then siblings you might have, which are biological, and now new step siblings. So it's an amalgamation of step and biological relationships.

Another phenomenon is what we call cohabitation, which occurs when two non-married adults live together as part of a romantic relationship. So two people will share a house together or share an apartment together for various reasons as a result of their romantic union. They're not married, they're just choosing to cohabitate, to live together.

I just read a book, it was like an advice book for twenty-somethings written by a psychiatrist, and she made this case against cohabitation. She said it can lead to divorce later on, even though we think it commonly doesn't. , Well you live together, you try it out, then you'll know you want to marry him or you won't. So if you live together, you won't get a divorce. But what she says actually happens is that younger people cohabitate, thinking it's a sure path to a happy marriage, but then you might slide into a relationship you don't necessarily want to and compromise yourself, and then later on end up with a divorce.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this discussion of divorce, cohabitation, and blended families. Have a great rest of your day.

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).