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That is involvement in religious activities can help

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Unformatted text preview: oth and colleagues note, is influenced by religious involvement, but not conversely (Stacey 1990). That is, involvement in religious activities can help to produce stable marriages, but marital quality does not necessarily lead to religious involvement. Seemingly contradictory to this point is the position advanced by Aldous (1983), D’Antonio (1983), and Glock, Runger, and Babbie (1967). These authors suggest that marital difficulties may actually lead to an increase in religious involvement, that is, persons experiencing marital distress may exhibit a rise in religious participation as a way of resolving marital difficulty. Booth and others (1995) also extrapolate from Durkheim’s theories of religion (1965) and suicide (1951) in the formulation of at least a partial explanation of the impact of religion on marriage. Durkheim’s theory of religion, which emphasizes functions for society rather than the individual, and his theory of suicide, which addresses the impact of marriage on suicide rates, can, by extension, provide a basis for “discussions of the way in which religion decreases suicide and how they may apply to the thinking about the impact on marriage” (Booth et al. 1995:662). In other words, while religion does not provide a normative basis for influencing marriage, it does encourage an “intense collective life” (Durkheim 1951:150) that helps to shield the individual from anomie, or the relative confusion of values in modern society vis-à-vis institutions such as marriage. While Durkheim viewed both religion and marriage as independent integrative forces that reduce the destructive tendencies of individuals, for example, suicide, it is also quite possible that religion acts as a positive integrative force as opposed to negative social control (Aldous 1983; D’Antonio 1983; Hargrove 1983). Thus, where religious systems are strong, consequences also are suggested for the social actions of individuals. Social institutions impose constraining influences on individual behaviors (Blau, Beeker, and Fitzpatrick 1984; Blum 1985) and typically act in concert relative to the “message” they send to their individual constituents (Ellison, Burr, and McCall 1997). Part of the traditional message that religious groups have sent to their parishioners and the community at large is the importance of a lasting marriage, only to be broken by death or other extreme occurrences. 342 LARRY C. MULLINS ET AL. Given prior examinations of the impact of religion on marriage, we suggest that religious homogeneity plays a key role in stabilizing marriages. The more concentrated a given religion is in a geographic region the more influence it likely has on all aspects of social life, including divorce. This concentration would make same-religion friendships, dating networks, support systems, and so on more likely; hence, same-faith marriages would logically follow. Likewise, advice received from the community would be consistent with the religious ideas of the concentrated group and give support to married couples. Thus, we hypothesize that the overall religious context, over and above the influence of other structural variables for which census data are available, may help to strengthen and stabilize marital relationships, among other consequences leading to a lower rate of divorce. Structural Factors Associated with Divorce In various examinations of marital disruption, a number of structural factors have been found to be associated with a greater likelihood of divorce (Pavalko and Elder 1990; South 1985). Divorce is more prevalent in areas of increasing urbanization, rising levels of industrialization, and higher participation of females in the labor force (Booth et al. 1985; Carlson 1990). Divorce rates also exhibit variations by geographic region within the United States. Thus, rates are lowest in the northeastern states and highest in the western states. Divorce is more likely among those from the lower social classes than higher classes, irrespective of whether education or income is used as the indicator of social class (Martin and Bumpass 1989; South 1985). Race and ethnicity also have emerged as strong predictors of divorce. In 1990, Latinos had the lowest divorce rate in the United States and blacks the highest, while the rate for whites was much lower than that for blacks and quite close to the Latino rate (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1995). Also, rates of divorce vary inversely with age. Those who marry early show less preparedness for, and apparently less adjustment to, the marital role (Martin and Bumpass 1989). Regional differences in the propensity toward divorce have shown a stable pattern since the 19th century (Eshleman 1994). Generally, the divorce rate increases fr...
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