Marriage and Family
Marriage and Family SOC 120
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Date Created: 09/17/15
Chapter 13 Today stepparents are still third parties their rights and responsibilities continue to be limited Stepparents still have few rights and obligations involving stepchildren It is even more common for couples to live together prior to a remarriage than it is prior to a first marriage STEPFAMILY in a household which two adults are married or cohabiting and at least one adult has a child present from a previous marriage of relationship This definition does not require that the adults be married BLOOD RELATIVES are people who share common ancestors parents and children uncles and aunts nephews and nieces grandparents and grandchildren BILATERAL KINSHIP a system in which descent is reckoned through both the mother s and father s lines The mere existence of a blood tie does not make a relative In American kinship people must establish a relationship to consider each other kind Having a relationship means seeing each other regularly corresponding andor giving or receiving help somehow making repeated connections Stepparents were more likely to be considered parents and family members if they had married the biological parent and if the stepchild had lived with the stepparent The younger the children had been when the grandparents had acquired them by virtue of an adult child s remariage the more the grandparents reported felling that the children were like biological grandchildren Women who married in their teens or early twenties are more likely to remarry than women who married later Women who divorce at a younger ago are more likely to remarry than those who divorce at an older age Remarriage is more likely among nonHispanic whites than among Hispanics or African Americans These differences occur in part because remarriage rates are lower for the poor than for the non poor Fewer African Americans ever enter a first marriage and that they take longer to do so than whites Remarriage are somewhat more likely to end in divorce than first marriage It may be that remarried people are less skilled in choosing a compatible partner of holding a marriage together These explanations are another example of selection effect the idea that two groups differ because certain kinds ofpeople select one group more than the other Adults and children in stepfamilies often lack established norms about how to act toward each other Stepfamilies are formed by both cohabitation and marriage In American kinship people must do the work of establishing and maintaining a relationship to be considered kin Remarriages are somewhat more likely to end in divorce than are first marriages Single parents and their children establish often with some difficulty agreedupon roles and new daily schedules Single parents and children create a new family system THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD at the start the stepparentis an outside almost an intruder into the system Most stepparents try to establish a more limited role Many avoid disciplining their stepchildren and focus on being warm and friendly so that they can induce their stepchildren to being to like them In doing so the become what some observers of stepfamilybuilding call quotAffinitySeekers Other stepparents may take on the role of quotPolite Outsider during the early months of the stepfamily s existence Not only do they avoid discipline but they also make fewer efforts to be friends Stepchildren some show increased behavior problems in the early stage ofa stepfamily The outlook is especially favorable if the stepparent is a man and the stepchild is a boy because young boys seem to accept stepfathers more easily than young girls do The most difficult time to start a stepfamily is when the children are in early adolescence 11 to 14 Few stepparents take on a fully parentlike role Instead they perform a stepparent role that includes warmth toward and support of the stepchildren little disciplining of the stepchildren and support for the biological parent s childrearing style Those stepparents who manage to integrate into the stepfamily successfully often play a valued role that is somewhere between that ofparent and trusted friend an INTIMATE OUTSIDER Stepfathers in general tend to incest less time and effort in their stepchildren s lives than do biological fathers A minority of stepchildren may be wellbehaved until late adolescence or young adulthood when they begin to show more stress and behavior problems Being a stepmother can be harder than being a stepfather The typical stepmother does not live with her stepchildren rather she must establish a relationship during the visits In contrast stepfathers compete with noncustodial fathers Parents and children build a stepfamily during a transitional period of two to four years Relationships solidify during a stabilization period Stepmothers often face different tasks than stepfathers do When a single mother remarries her household income usually rises dramatically because men s wages are so much higher on average than women s wages Many studies now show that the wellbeing of children in stepfamilies in no better on average than the well being of children in divorced singleparent households The children from both the singlemother and stepfamily households were not doing as well as the children in the nondivorced households Children in stepfamilies particularly girls leave their households at an earlier age than children in singleparent households or twoparent households Girls who had lived in a stepfamily were more likely to have left home by age 19 to marry or to live independently than girls who had lived with a single parent or with two parents the differences were much weaker for bouts The friction in the household may be due to the disruption of the mother daughter bond or to the presence of the mother s male sexual partner whose relationship to the daughter is ambiguous The wellbeing of children in stepfamilies is equivalent to that of children in divorced singleparent households The number of transitions children have experienced may impair their adjustment to stepfamilies Children in stepfamilies leave home at an earlier age than children in two biologicalparent or singleparent households The emphasis on personal fulfillment the growth of women s economic independence and the worsening economic prospects for young men since 1973 have made marriage more fragile Divorce remarriage nonmarital childbearing and cohabitation are increasing the frequency with which people create their own kinship ties out of the many possibilities available to them rather than accepting the set of relatives that automatically come with first marriages The increases in singleparent families and stepfamilies have altered many children s lives causing shortterm distress increasing the risk oflongterm harm but leaving the majority relatively unscathed The changing nature of marriage has also been an advanced for women Once unable to sever a marriage unless they were subject to terrible cruelty women and men now have the ability to divorce unilaterally Choosing to be a homemaker is far riskier than it was in the 1950s Ifa woman chooses to end her marriage she must often accept a steep drop in her standard of living Kinship after divorce and remarriage is similar to the extended kind networks among lowincome and racialethnic populations and to the efforts of gay men and lesbians to form alternative families Kinship ties that can be created by people s actions can also be ended by lack of action IN contrast it is much harder to end assigned kinship ties Therefore created kinship ties are more likely to change over the course of one s life than assigned kinship ties Divorce and stepfamily evidence suggests that most children who experience these events do not have serious longlasting problems because of them On the other hand it is clear that a minority of children do experience lasting problems that appear to be caused by divorce and remarriage The growing emphasis on personal fulfillment has made marriage more fragile Newer living arrangements are increasing the frequency with which people are creating their own kinship ties The changes in singleparent families have altered children s lives Chapter 12 Sign a pledge enforceable in court to undergo marriage counseling before you wed and to undergo more counseling ifyou ever want a divorce is called quotCOVENANT MARRIAGE United States has the highest rate of divorce of any developed country About onethird of all children born to married parents are likely to experience the breakup of their parents marriage by age 16 First person to obtain a divorce in England was john Manners few women were granted divorces England s law before 1858 was one approach to divorce taken during what I will call the ERA OF RESTRICTED DIVORCE which characterized the Western nations until the middle of the nineteenth century Only if Church officials granted an ANNULMENT a ruling that a marriage had never been properly formed in the first place could a couple dissolve their marriage Few divorces were granted to women at all Adultery was the main ground used by men for divorce not just because of sexual jealousy but also because ofmen s concern about who would farm their land and inherit their property Marriage for both men and women was primarily an economic partnership Fathers took custody of children after divorces in colonial America Cohabitation without marriage and separation without divorce are much more common The middle of the nineteenth century marked the beginning of the ERA OF DIVORCE TOLERANCE which lasted in the United States until 1970 During this period it gradually became easier to obtain a divorce These new grounds made divorce more accessible to mistreated wives Marriage in the 19th and 20th centuries underwent a gradual change from an economic partnership first and foremost to an emotional partnership based on love and companionship from an institution to a companionship Divorce was transformed from a rare privilege granted mainly to wealthy men in the previous era to a common if still frowned upon occurrence increasingly available to women As recently as the 1960s in order to obtain a divorce a person had to prove that her or his spouse had done something wrong and not just anything wrong but rather one ofa short list of specific wrongs adultery desertion nonsupport mental cruelty and so forth The first major law to eliminate fault were implemented in the United States in 1970 ushering in the ERA OF UNRESTRICTED DIVORCE in which a divorce has been available virtually without restriction except for a waiting period to any married person who wants one In that year California became the first jurisdiction anywhere in the Western world to eliminate fault grounds for divorce and to replace them with NOFAULT DIVORCE the granting of divorce simply for marriage breakdown due to quotirreconcilable differences Coming several years after rising divorce rates had begun to clog the courts Divorce had changed from a way for wealthy men to protect their property from heirs fathered by other men to a way for the average person to improve her or his own sense In the era of restricted divorce divorces were usually granted only on grounds of adultery or desertion and generally only to men In the era of divorce tolerance grounds for divorce were widened and divorce was made more accessible to women In the era of unrestricted divorce divorces are usually granted without restriction except for a waiting period to anyone who wants one The risk of divorce seems to be dropping for college graduates but rising for people who did not finish high school The introduction ofa nofault divorce law seems to have caused a surge of divorces in the first few years after a state enacted it perhaps re ecting a quotbacklog effect of couples in unhappy marriages who were quick to take advantage of it The growing emphasis on personal fulfillment probably was a major contributor to the rise in divorce prior to 1980 Collegeeducated women now favor restrictions on the availability of divorce more than do noncollegeeducated women While it may now be desirable for a wife to work steadily outside of the home it remains almost mandatory that the husband work steadily If he does not provide a steady income the chances that his marriage will end in divorce increases Since the early 1970s the employment opportunities for men without college educations have been declining Their growing problems in the job market are a likely cause of the increase in divorce among the lesseducated couples Wives employment theoretically could have contrasting effects 0 INDEPENDENCE EFFECT employment could raise the likelihood of divorce by providing an opportunity for the wife to support herself independently of her husband This opportunity would make divorce a more attractive option for wives who were unhappy with their marriages o INCOME EFFECT on the other hand employment could lower the likelihood of divorce because the increase in the family s income could relieve financial pressures and thereby reduce tensions in the marriage Newer studies suggest that wives incomes may now lower the risk of divorce for most couples especially when they are married to men who also have substantial earnings The consequences of wives employment depended on the kind of culture in which it was embedded a national culture which can change as has occurred in the US This change helps to explain why the divorce rate has been declining recently among collegeeducated married couples in which both the husband and the wife typically have stable substantial earnings People who marry as teenagers have a greater likelyhood of divorce than those who postpone marriage Yet the societywide average age at marriage has been increasing since the 1960s Consequently we can rule out teenage marriage as a cause of the societywide rise in divorce Teenage marriages are sometimes precipitated by an accidental pregnancy and it is known that a premarital birth raises the likelyhood of divorce About half of all marriages of teenagers end in divorce within 15 years compared to about onethird of marriages ofpeople who marry in their mid tolate twenties and about 1A of marriages ofpeople who are ago 30 or older Still earlier marriage cannot be an explanation for the post1960 rise in divorce because age at marriage increased after 1960 African Americans who can rely more heavily on mothers grandmothers and other kin have less need to stay married they also have an alternative source of support ifa marriage ends Black women have a higher likelyhood of separating from husbands but they turn these separations into divorces at a much slower pace They found that black soldiers while on active duty had a much lower risk of divorce than did black reservists in fact their risk of divorce was comparable to that of white civilians The implication is that the discrimination and unequal treatment of civilian life may be a reason for the higher divorce rates of African Americans Couples who cohabit before marriage have higher divorce rates than do couples who marry directly without cohabiting first Researchers have suggested that the reason is the selectivity of the people who are willing to cohabit they may have more unconventional attitudes toward marriage they may be less committed to marriage or they may have personality characteristics that make it difficult for them to have a stable marriage A number of studies show that persons whose parents divorced while they were growing up are more likely than others to become divorced themselves Yet persons who lost a parent through death while they were growing up are not more likely than others to become divorced Something about growing up in a divorced family must be associated with a higher risk of divorce as an adult One possibility is that living through a parental divorce somehow diminishes a person s ability to sustain a successful marriage A second possibility is that children in divorced families may share characteristics inherited from their parents such as tendency to become seriously depressed that make a lasting marriage difficult for both generations Finally people who marry people who are similar to them are less likely to divorce probably because the couples are more compatible in their values and interests People who are far apart in age also have higher divorce probabilities than people who are closer in age particularly ifit is the wife who is much older LEGAL CUSTODY refers to having the right to make important decisions about the children and to having legal responsibility for them PHYSICAL CUSTODY refers to where they actually live The father typically had custody in both senses prior to the midnineteenth century the mother after that IOINT LEGAL CUSTODY which means that both parents retain an equal right to make important decisions concerning the children IOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY under which the children spend substantial time in each household UNINVOLVED FATHERS who had neither seen their child nor paid any child support in the past year INVOLVED FATHERSlt who had seen their child weekly or more often in the past year and had also paid some child support and a middle group called SOMEWHAT INVOLVED FATHERS who had seen their child in the past year but less frequently than weekly and or had paid some child support in the past year Con ict between the parents tend to diminish over time COOPERATIVE PARENTING in which the divorced parents coordinate their activities and cooperate with each other raising the children Rather then cooperative parenting this dominant style might be called PARALLEL PARENTING in recognition of the separate tracks the two parents follow in their dealings with the children More than half ofparents follow this style Although most singleparent families are headed by mothers the number of singlefather families has been growing rapidly Single fathers tend to have lower incomes and less education than married fathers Ioint legal custody is now common after divorce and joint physical custody is still less common but growing Most children live with their mothers after a divorce Nonresident fathers are more likely to be involved in the children s lives than in the past but a minority do not see their children or support them A majority ofparents evolve into a style a parallel parenting after a divorce in which each of them goes about parenting with little contact cooperation or con ict with the other one Mothers and the children in their custody tend to experience a decline in their standard of living only half of custodial mothers receive child support payments from the fathers CRISIS PERIOD a period during the first year or two after parents separate when both the custodial parent and the children experience difficulties in dealing with the situation quotdiminished parenting that often occurs during this crisis period quotcoercive cycles in which the parent s and child s responses aggravate the situation These are more common among boys some of the trauma of divorce begins before the separation as unhappy parents being to move apart because these young adults didn t have the chance to observe successful marriages they didn t learn how to create one They feel repeating their parents mistakes troubled families can produce troubled children whether or not the parents divorce so blaming the divorce and its aftermath for nearly all the problems is an overstatement Offspring who experienced high marital con ict in 1980 were doing better in 1992 if their parents had divorced than if they had stayed together on the other hand offspring from lowcon ict families were doing worse if their parents had divorced The children ofadoptive parents did not show lower levels of achievement on average after divorce but the children of biological parents did The apparent decline in academic achievement after divorce was a selection effect re ecting genetic relatedness rather than an effect of the divorce Almost all children experience an initial period ofintense emotional upset after their parents separate Most resume normal development without serious problems within about two years after the separation A minority of children experience some longterm problems as a result of the breakup that may persist into adulthood Nearly all children and parents are upset and distressed during the first year or two after the separation sometimes called the crisis period The loss ofa parent from the home continuing parental con ict and multiple transitions are factors that often cause difficulties for children during the crisis period After the crisis period a majority a children resume normal development but a minority do experience continuing difficulties For some children the effects of divorce may last into or even peak in adulthood
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