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Coontz - Divorce in Perspective

Coontz - Divorce in Perspective - 33 Divorce in Perspective...

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33 Divorce in Perspective STEPHANIE COONTZ The Four Questions 1. What is the problem that Coontz identifies? 2. Is it social? Who is hurt? Is society hurt? Is the problem caused by society? Is there wide- spread concern about this problem? 3. What is the cause? 4. What are Coontz ' s suggestions for dealing with this problem? Topics Covered Divorce Family Marriage Socialization Children of divorce Conflict W e have already accepted the fact that aging Americans are increasingly unlikely to live out their lives in "traditional" nuclear families, where they can be supported and cared for entirely by a spouse or a child . We can no longer assume that a high enough proportion of kids grow up with both biological parents that society can con- tinue to ignore the "exceptions" that were there all along . Nor can our school schedules, work policies, and even emotional expectations of family life con- tinue to presume that every household has a husband to earn the income and a wife to take care of family needs . The social and personal readjustments required by these changes can seem awfully daunting . Here's what a spokesman for the Institute for American Values told me during a tape-recorded debate over whether it was possible to revive male bread- winning and restore permanent marriage to its for- mer monopoly over personal life : "The strongest point in your argument is that the toothpaste is out of the tube . There's no longer the subordinate status of women to the extent there was in earlier eras-there is simply too much freedom and money sloshing around . We may be heading into what some sociologists call a `postmarriage society,' where women will raise the children and men will not be there in any stable, institutional way . If so, we'd better build more prisons, even faster than we're building 'em now" 1 I don't think the consequences of facing reality are quite so bleak . As my grandmother used to say, sometimes problems are opportunities in work clothes . Changes in gender roles, for example, may be hard to adjust to, yet they hold out the pos- sibility of constructing far more honest and satisfy- ing relationships between men and women, parents and children, than in the past . But this doesn't mean that every change is for the better, or that we don't pay a price for some of the new freedoms that have opened up . Divorce is a case in point . While divorce has rescued some adults and children from destructive marriages, it has thrown others into economic and psychological turmoil. SOURCE : From The Way We Really Are by Stephanie Coontz. Copyright © 1997 by Basic Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc . Reprinted by permission of Basic Books, a member of Perseus Books, L .L .C. 371
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372 PART VII SOCIAL PROBLEMS RELATED TO THE FAMILY For the family values crusaders, this is where the discussion of how to help families begins and ends . "Let's face it," one "new consensus" propo- nent told me privately, "the interests of adults and children are often different, and there are too many options today for parents to pursue personal fulfillment at the expense of their children's needs.
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