THE POSTDIVORCE ADJUSTMENT CYCLE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DCCTCB OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Eugene Frank and Mary Alice Monti
In the preparation for this study there was nothing out
of the ordinary. Its completion, however, which took three
and a half years, was very difficult because of a baffling
and persistent illness. Because of this circumstance a
greater debt of gratitude is owed to those who had the
patience, courage and goodness to support and encourage me
through its completion.
The greatest debt is owed to Dr. Gerald Leslie, because
of the dual and difficult roles he played with so much
talent and heart. As chairman of my academic committee he
was always an inspiring and guiding light. But more
importantly, it was his understanding and encouragement as
a friend which enabled me to continue with this survey to
My association with Dr. Joseph Vandiver and Dr. Charles
Frazier was not as close as with Dr. Leslie. But to them a
special debt of gratitude is owed for their unfailing
kindness and encouragement through the years. Dr. John
Henretta was a true friend in need. when I was overwhelmed
with the task of analyzing the data, it was he who guided
every step, and brought it to completion. I wish to thank
all the members of my committee for their guidance,
erudition, and expertise.
My fellow graduate students offered several valuable
suggestions and their unfailing friendship. The staff in
the sociology office was always prompt, efficient and
gracious. To each of then I as very grateful.
It is impossible to thank Dr. Erlinda Collante, M.D.,
adequately, for her professional help, understanding and
encouragement through these difficult years. She is a model
To all my friends I an deeply grateful. However, three
deserve special thanks for their valuable suggestions and
help: Joan Canal, Rose Fulcher, and Frank Reid.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . .
LIST OF TABLES . .
LIST OF FIGURES . .
ABSTRACT . . .
I. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM AND INTRODUCTION .
The Research Problem ..
The Postdivorce Adjustent Cycle ...
Goode's Study .. . .
Replication and Updatinq .
Overview of Marriaqe and Divorce in America
The Happy Family Myth .
Divorce in Colonial America .
Divorce in the Early Years of Our Nation
Increase in Number and Bate of Divorce .
Distribution of Divorce in America .
Region . .
Ethnicity and Religion .
Race ... . .
Economic Status . .
Age at Marriage .. .
Summary . .
II. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE . 16
Introduction .. .
Divorce at the Beginning of the Twentieth
Century . .
The First Divorce Study and its Dual Type
Successors . .
Social Demographic Studies .
Key Findings of Several Surveys .
In-Laws . ..
Visiting Kin . .
Homoganmy . ...
Homoqamy by age and marital status 28
Homoqamy by Social Status . 29
Homoqamy by Race . 30
Homoqamy by reliqicn .. 31
Detailed Outlines of Studies of Divorce and Its
Consequences . 33
Willard Waller. The Cld Love and the New
(1930/1967) . .. 33
William J. Goode. After Divorce (1956) 34
Method . . 34
Findings . 35
R.W. Weiss. Marital Separation (1975a). .. 38
Spanier and Casto. Adjustment to Divorce
(1979a) . 42
Method . 42
Findings . 43
Conclusions . .43
Kohen et al. Divorced Mothers (1979) 44
Method . 44
Findings . 44
Identified problems 45
Kressel et al. Professional Intervention in
Divorce (1979) . 46
Findings . . 46
Conclusion . 49
Divorce Source cf Trauma . 50
Disruptions in Her Personal Life 54
Disruptions in Her Sex Life 57
Disruptions in Her Social Life 61
Disruptions in Her Financial Status 63
Legal Process Source cf Trauma . 65
The Adversary System . ... 5
No-Fault Divorce .... 69
Trauma Peak Precedes Divorce Decree 71
Creative Divorce . 73
Cycle of Divorce . 74
Cycle of Readjustment . .. .76
Theoretical Framework . 79
Factors in the Divorce Decision and Process 79
Advantages of This Conceptual Framework 83
Hypotheses . ...... 84
Summary . 85
III. METHODOLOGY . . 87
Introduction . .. 87
Research Population . 87
Survey Sample . 88
Data Collection .. 89
Response Rate . 91
Data Analysis o 92
Field experiences .... 93
Summary . . 101
IV. BACKGROUND AND SELECTED MABITAI VARIABLES OF
RESPONDENTS .... 103
Introduction . .. 103
Background Variables . .. 103
Age . . 103
Race and Country of Birth .. 133
Religion . . 105
Education . 106
Work During Earriae and Now 107
Type of Employment Durinq Marriage and Now 110
Marital Variables . .. 113
Times Divorced .. 113
Lived Together . 114
Age at Marriage . .. 115
Age at Divorce and Length of Marriage 115
Summary .. .. 115
V. THE ANTECEDENTS AND CAUSES OF DIVORCE 117
Introduction . ... 117
The Antecedents of Divorce .. ... 117
Who Suggested Divorce? 117
Who Insisted on Divorce? . 118
Serious Consideration of Divorce 119
Marriage Counseling . 120
Final Separation . 120
Divorce Discussions ... 122
Agreements . 123
Approval of the Marriage ... 124
Force and Violence in the Family 127
The Causes of Divorce .. 130
Personal Causes of Divorce . 130
The Main Causes of Divorce 132
The Most Important Causes of Divorce 137
Index of Seriousness of Causes of Divorce 139
Marital Problem Clusters . 142
Interpersonal Relationship 143
Monogamy . . 145
Economic Consumption . 147
Careerism . .. 148
No Love Nor Communication . 149
Summary . . 151
VI. ACTIVITIES DURING MARRIAGE AND AFTER DIVORCE 153
Introduction . 153
Shared Activities During the Marriage .. 153
Going Out Together ......... 154
Shared Recreational Activities 154
Activities and Interests After Marriage Break-
up . . 155
Activities Immediately after the Marriage
Break-up . 156
Respondents' Current Activities and
Interests .. 157
Prejudice and Discrimination Experienced by
Divorced Mothers ... 160
Attitudes Towards Remarriage Of Divorced
Mothers Not Remarried . 161
Dating . . 162
Thinking of c marriage 162
Living Together .. 163
Matchmaking by Parents and Friends 165
Summary . . 165
VII. SPOUSES' FEELINGS AFTER DIVORCE . 168
Introduction . 168
Ill Feelings for Ex-usbnds ........ 169
Communication With Ex-Husband 171
Dating Ex-Husband . 171
Continued Interest in Ex-Husband 172
Respondents' Guilt Feelings . 172
Remarrying Ex-Husbands . 173
Perceived Changes in Ex-Spouses 173
Ex-Husband Was in Love . 174
Respondent Was in Love . 175
Current Feelings of Ex-Spouses for Each Other 175
Ex-Husbands Remarried . 177
Summary . . 178
VIII. DIVORCE AND FINANCES .. . 181
Introduction . 181
Respondents' Work Records . 182
Respondents' Incomes ... 183
Ex-Husbands' and New Husbands' Incomes 184
Alimony and Child Support .. 185
Average Weekly Financial Resources 1387
Summary . . 193
IX. THE CHILDREN OF DIVORCE . 195
Introduction . . 195
Number of Offspring . 195
Ages of Offspring . 196
Custody of the Children 197
Visiting Rights . 198
Children's Feelings for their Fathers 199
Child Support ... 200
Working Mothers and Child Care 202
Dating and Child Care 203
Mothers' Lives Restricted by Children .... 203
Mothers without Custody of Children .. 204
Summary . . 205
X. THE TRAUMA AND TRIUMPH IN DIVCRCE . 207
Introduction . . 207
Former and Present Approaches to the Trauma of
Divorce . . 207
Negative Effects in the Divorce Cycle 211
Incidence of Positive Effects in the Divorce
Cycle .. . 214
Balance of Effects . 215
The Most Important Effects in the Divorce
Cycle . . 221
Index of Most Significant Effects in the
Divorce Cycle .. . 223
The Trauma-Triumph Scale .. 228
Comments .. .. .. .. 234
Summary .. .. . 237
XI. REMARRIAGE .. .. . 240
Introduction . 240
Number of Remarriages . 240
Remarriages Compared with Former Marriages 240
Birthplace of New Husbands ... 242
Education, Occupation, and Income of New
Husbands . 242
The Children of Divorce and Remarriaqe 244
Summary ... ... 2U4
XII. PERSONAL COMMENTS OF RESPONDENTS . 246
Introduction .. 246
The Causes of Divorce . 247
Lack of Communication . 248
Early Marriage .. 250
Non-support . 251
The Marriage Penalty . 251
Children and Divorce .... 252
Respondents' Assessments of Divorce .. 255
Divorce Was a Trauma .. 255
Divorce Was Both Trauma and Triumph 257
Divorce Was a Triumph . 258
The Postdivorce Adjustment Cycle .. .. 260
Three Special Problem Areas . 261
Cessation of the Pair-Relationship 261
No Recoqaition of Women's Independence and
Talents. .. ........ 262
The Divorcee Seen as Sex-object 264
Respondents' Assessments of Marriage 265
Recommendations Offered . 267
Respondents' Attitudes Towards Survey 267
Divorce: A Source of Growth and Discovery 268
XIII. FINDINGS COMPARED . .
Introduction . .
Methodology . . .
Data Collection . .
Place of data collection .
Data collection mode . .
Population . .
Sample . . .
Background and Selected Marital Variables of
Respondents . .
Age . . .
Age at Marriage . .
Times Divorced . .
Length of Marriage and Age at Divorce .
Race and Country of Birth .
Religion . . .
Church Attendance .. .....
Education, Work Records, and Incomes Compared
Education Attained by Respondents and Their
Ex-Huskands' Work Records
Ex-Husbands' Incomes .
Respondents' Work Records
Respondents' Incomes .
Alimony and Child Support
The Antecedents of Divorce
Who suggested Divorce? .
Stability of Decision .
Counseling before Divorce .
The Causes of Divorce .
Drinking--Any Mention .
Relatives, Conflict with .
* S *
* a a .
* a .
* a a S a
* a a a
The Complex--"Drinking, Gambling, Helling
Around" . .
Miscellaneous . .
Nonsupport . .
Consumption . .
Values--Harmony and Integrity of Values and
Behavior . .
Authority: Dominance over Wife .
Home life: Lack of Affect for Home and
Occupants . .
Personality . .
Additional Causes . .
The Trauma and Triumph of Divorce .
Prejudice and Discrimination .
Remarriage . .
The Children of Divorce .
Child Custody . .
Children's Feelings for their Fathers .
APPENDIX . . 316
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . 340
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . 358
LIST OF TABLES
1. Country of origin of Ex-Spouses .. 104
2. Religious Affiliation of Ex-Spouses 106
3. Education of Respondents and Their Ex-Husbands 107
4. Employment of Respondents During marriage and Now 109
5. Type of Employment of Ex-Spouses During Marriage 111
6. Type of Employment During Marriage and Now 112
7. Times Divorced and Cohabitation . 114
8. Who First Suggested and Later Insisted on Divorce 119
9. lime of Final Separation . 121
10. Approval and Disapproval of the Marriages 125
11. Incidence of Violence Between Spouses 127
12. Type of Violence Between Spouses .. 128
13. The Main Causes of Divorce in Ranked Order 135
14. The Host Important Causes of Divorce in Ranked
Order . . 138
15. Index of Seriousness of Causes of Divorce 140
16. Recreational Activities Shared by Spouses .. 155
17. Activities and Interests Immediately After Break-up 156
18. Recreational Activities During Marriage and Now 158
19. Activities after Marriage Break-up and Now 159
20. Type or Source of Prejudice and Discrimination 160
21. Feelings Towards Ex-Husbands at Divorce and Now 170
22. Reactions to Husbands' Falling in Love 174
23. Current Feelings of Ex-Spouses for Each Other 176
24. Respondents' Work Records During Marriage and Now 183
25. Weekly Incomes of Ex-Husbands and Present Husbands 184
26. Ex-Husbands Ordered to Pay Alimony and Child
Support . . 186
27. Frequency of Alimony and Child Support Payments 186
28. Respondents' Available Money for Weekly
Expenditures . . 188
29. Assessment of Weekly Money Available .. 188
30. Period of Superior Financial Security 190
31. Offspring of Respondents . 196
32. Ages of Offspring . . 196
33. Parents' Opinions of Child Support Payments 201
34. Mothers' Lives Restricted by Children .. 204
35. Negative and Positive Effects During Divorce Cycle 213
36. The Most Important Effects of the Entire Cycle 222
37. Index of Most Significant Effects Thrcuqh Divorce 224
38. Index For Entire Cycle . 225
39. Bivariate Equation of Level of Trauma-Triumph 232
40. Multiple Regression Equations of Trausa-Triumph 233
41. Stratified Samples of Goode's and Reid's Surveys 271
42. Respondents' Ages at Marriage . .. 272
43. Racial Characteristics . 274
44. Religious Preference/Affiliation of Respondents 275
45. Church Attendance of Respondents . 276
46. Education of Respondents . 278
47. Education of Ex-Husbands . .. 278
48. Nork Records of Ex-Husbands . .. 279
49. Respondents' Work Records During Marriage 281
50. Respondents' Work Records at Data Collection 283
51. Respondents' Earnings at Data Collection 24
52. Respondents' Total Available Honey Per Week Now 285
53. Ex-Husbands' Incomes and Respondents' Total
Finances . . 287
54. Ex-husbands Enjoined to Pay Child Support 289
55. Frequency of Child Support Payments by Ex-Husbands 290
56. Who First Suqqested Divorce? . 291
57. Stability of Decision to Divorce . 291
58. Type of Counselor Consulted . 292
59. The Causes of Divorce . 301
60. Indices of Divorce Trauma and Adjustment 305
61. Comparison of Divorce Trauma Findings .. 309
62. Remarriage and Living Together . 311
63. Distribution of Children . 313
64. Children's Feelings towards Their Fathers 315
LIST OF FIGURES
1. Personal Causes of Divorce . 131
2. Causes of Divorce and Marital Problem Clusters 143
3. Level of Trauma and Adjustment in Divorce Cycle 220
4. The Divorce Trauma-Triumph Scale . 230
5. Levels of Divorce Trauma In Goode's (1956) Survey 308
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE POSTDIVORCE ADJUSTMENT CYCLE
Chairman: Gerald R. Leslie
Major Department: Sociology
This survey is a modified replication of William J.
Goode's After Divorce (1956). Our research population was
English-speaking mothers, divorced and living in a large
southern metropolitan area. Drawing from courthouse
records, we used a stratified sample (N=203) of those
divorced 2, 6, 12, and 24 months, to trace the divorce
trauma during the two years after divorce. Questionnaires
were mailed to the subjects who had been traced by phone,
and who had consented to participate. Both descriptive and
inferential statistics were used in analyzing the data.
The respondents' age range was 22-62 years. Three-
quarters of them had been divorced once, and most of the
rest had been divorced twice. The marriages had lasted from
1-40 years. By the time of the survey, 13.30 per cent had
remarried, and 16.73 per cent were cohabiting with men.
These two proportions together equalled the remarrieds in
Goode's study. Divorce brought sharp reductions in the
respondents' financial resources. This was reversed by
remarriage but not by cohabitation.
The data on causes of divorce indicated that the
interpersonal relationship between husband and wife was the
most serious problem, followed by problems associated with
monogamy, economics, and wife's career. Profoundest trauma
occurred at the initial stage where the parties were
seriously considering divorce. Serious trauma continued
through the divorce decree. By two months after the decree,
significant adjustment had occurred, and this level
continued through six months after the divorce. By one year
after divorce another, more significant, adjustment had been
attained. No further adjustment was evident at the two-year
point. The majority of the respondents experienced moderate
trauma, a minority, little or none, and a smaller minority,
profound trauma. Overall, it seems that trauma has abated
since the end of World War II, when Goode collected his
The respondents were predominantly Protestants, Catholics
and Jews, with the remainder belonging to "other" churches,
or to none at all. The least trauma was experienced by Jews
and "others," while the greatest trauma was suffered by
those with the following combination of characteristics.
(1) Prior to the divorces, their husbands fell in love with
other women. (2) They received child support every month.
(3) They received relatively larqe amounts in child support.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM AND INTRODUCTION
The Research Proble
This survey is a study of the divorce adjustment cycle as
it was experienced by a sample of divorced mothers.
Partners involved in divorce are faced with the termination
of their marriages and the need to build a new way of life.
Consequently, the divorce process involves a twofold problem
necessitating two distinct adjustments which overlap to
varying degrees (Spanier and Casto, 1979a:213). The two
adjustments, both of which are quite complex, are as
1. Adjustment to the dissolution of the marriage. This
adjustment contains legal, social and emotional dimensions.
The legal dimension involves dealing with the legal process
and personnel, making property and support settlements and
determining child custody. The social dimension
necessitates informing and coping with individuals in one's
social network, such as family, friends and business and
other acquaintances. The emotional dimension includes feel-
ings about the former spouse, such as love, hate,
ambivalence, regret and guilt; feelings about marriage, such
as regret, failure and bitterness; and feelings about
oneself, such as failure, depression, lowered self-esteem
and self-confidence, and quilt.
2. Adjustment to a new life style. This adjustment
arises out of the need to build a new life. This can
involve finding a new home, living on less money
(typically), managing a budget, getting a job or applyiuq
for welfare. One has to come to grips with single
parenthood or limited visits with the children, depending on
who gets custody. New friends have to be found and new
relationships established. New feelings such as fear,
loneliness, frustration and inadequacy must be adjusted to,
as well as possible positive feelings of freedom, happiness
and increased self-esteem.
The Postdivorce Adjustment Cycle
The divorce adjustment cycle, which is comprised of the
very complex twofold adjustment outlined above, is the
research topic of this study. Specifically, this complex
process of adjustment whereby partners in divorce disenqaqe
from one lifestyle and build a new one will be examined and
traced as it has been experienced by mothers who have been
divorced 2 to 24 months. This enables us to focus directly
on the postdivorce adjustment cycle during the two critical
years following divorce.
William J. Goode conducted the first such study in the
late 1940s in Detroit to investigate the problems
encountered by mothers in the divorce process. He published
his findings in 1956 in a volume titled After ivorBe.
Goode's study, besides being a major work which has stood
the test of time, was also a very timely one, having been
conducted during the peak of the high postwar divorce rate.
Replication and Updating
This present study attempts to be a modified replication
of Goode's After Divorce (1956). It is appropriate that
another such study be made now in view of the steadily
escalating divorce rate of the past two decades.
During the past quarter century since Goode published his
study, many social changes and movements have developed in
our society, not least amonq them being the increased
incidence of divorce, the women's liberation movement, the
increased participation of women in the workforce, the
phenomenon of living together and no-fault divorce
legislation. This study is a partial replication of Goode's
study with modifications in response to the social situation
of today. Our findings will be compared in detail with
Overview of Marriage and Divorce in aeEica
Ever since the arrival of the first white settlers on the
shores of North America the institution of marriage and the
family has endured and evolved through a multitude of
changes and vicissitudes in the new world. This statement
in no way implies that this institution was non-existent
among the American natives who preceded--and survived--tae
arrival of the settlers. Indeed, in view of the
universality of the family, there is no doubt that it was
already a pervasive institution. Lack of knowledge is the
reason why it is impossible to comment on the forms it took
among the American Indians.
Much has been written on marriage and family life among
the settlers, the colonists, the revolutionists and
royalists, and the hordes of immigrants of the nineteenth
century (Demos, 1970; Greven, 1970; Lockridqe, 1966; Norton,
1971; Hersberg, 1971). The changes accompanying and
following the industrial revolution have received special
attention in the literature; and in the present century two
world wars and the great depression, along with the
urbanization of our population, and the explosion of
technology, have not left marriage and family life
unaffected (Calhoun, 1945; Furstenberg, 1966; Chafe, 1972;
Gordon, 1973). One special area of family life, the black
family, has become an arena for scholarly debate (Frazier,
1939; Fogel and Engerman, 1974; Genovese, 1974).
The Happy Family Myth
Not all that has been written is accurate and objective.
It is now recognized, for instance, that there has been a
strong tendency to idealize the colonial family (Lantz et
al., 1968; Lantz et al., 1973; Seward, 1973). The image of
that family as the locus of deep and enduring happiness for
all its members (and there were always many memberst,
uncomplicated by stress from within, or assaults and
magnetic attractions from without, has been labeled by
William J Goode as "the classical family of Western
nostalgia" (Goode, 1956:3).
James A Michener, in his historical novel, gCesapegAe
(1978), deftly portrays the fragility and vulnerability ot
marriage throughout our entire history as he reviews the
conflicts, horror and violence as well as the heroism and
achievement that accompanied the building of our nation.
From the outset there was disruption of marriages by death
from starvation and disease; then came marauding attacks
from outraged, dispossessed Indians. There were brawls and
lynchings; desertions resulting from poverty--and opulence.
There were new frontiers to be conquered where males far
outnumbered females, which caused many social problems.
There were divergent and conflicting expectations, values,
and norms among the members of a very pluralistic society in
which change and instability were pervasive. These and many
other factors militated against the stability of marriage
and family living and caused much heartbreak and trauma.
Divorce in Colonial America
The Puritans who dominated in Massachusetts were
Calvinists and held that marriage was a civil contract which
could be dissolved by secular authorities, for reasons of
adultery, desertion or cruelty (Cott, 1976:589). Any one of
these reasons sufficed for men to get a divorce. Women were
not entitled to divorce on grounds of adultery alone; only
if it was accompanied by desertion or failure to provide was
the husband's adultery grounds for divorce.
Cott states that while divorce records froa the
seventeenth century are "probably incomplete," there is
evidence that even by then civil authorities had already
granted some divorces. Calhoun (1945) found records of 25
divorces granted in Massachusetts between 1639 and 1682.
Through almost the entire eighteenth century (1692-1786),
only 122 wives and 101 husbands filed 229 divorce petitions
in Massachusetts (six wives petitioned twice) (Cott,
The southern and middle colonies were stricter in their
attitudes towards divorce. There the Church of England held
sway and it did not recognize absolute divorce; it permitted
only separation from bed and board for adultery and cruelty.
But even separations were not granted in the southern
colonies because no church courts were ever established to
However, desertions did occur, as the following
indicates. Lantz examined eighteenth century colonial
newspapers for advertisements "renouncing debts or
announcing desertion on the part of a husband or wile"
(Lantz, 1976:12). He found a relatively hiqh incidence of
such advertisements during the preindustrial era.
Furthermore, he reported that "in all states throughout the
entire century it was the husband in more than 95 per cent
of the cases who was responsible for placing the ad, not the
wife. .. It was the husband who stated that his wife left
hi. This picture of female discontent is certainly at
variance with the usual picture of early American women"
Since desertions took place as a practical recourse,
stringent divorce laws may, historically, have been as
ineffectual in assuring marital stability as Rheinstein
(1971) claimed they have been in modern times. This is not
to suggest that marital instability was as common back then
as it is today. Nomen, in general, lacked the alternative
economic resources that would permit them to obtain rewards
outside of marriage.
Divorce in the Early Years of Our Nation
The last quarter of the eighteenth century saw women
successfully petitioning for divorce on grounds of adultery.
Indeed, more women than men began to petition for divorce on
all grounds (Scanzoni, 1979:25).
Cott (1976:606) argues that the new willingness of male
officials to respond to woaen's grievances was not out of
repugnance for the sexual double standard, but was
politically motivated. Leaders of the infant republic felt
that the "sexual vices" of the English had led to their
general "corruption" and that America must avoid that fate
by insisting on the letter of Puritan morality, that is
sexual fidelity by both partners.
Increase in Number and Rate of Divorce
Statistics on the incidence of divorce in the United
States began to be available around 1860, close to a hundred
years after the birth of the nation. The trend reflected in
these figures shows a steady increase throughout the past
century, with some fluctuations: sharp peaks following war
years, and valleys during economic depressions.
The peaks in the divorce rate following war result in
part from the high number of wartime marriages that are
hurriedly contracted after only short acquaintance. Under
ordinary circumstances marriages between spouses who do not
know each other well are a poor bet. During wartime, this
is made worse by enforced lengthy separation, which can
adversely affect even the best of marriages. Besides, many
lonely spouses are thrown together with persons of the
opposite sex under conditions favorable to extramarital
involvement. Finally, the strains of postwar reunions are
often great and partners may fail to readjust.
The valleys or dips in the divorce rate during
depressions are easily explained in economic terms.
Securing a divorce costs money, and many cannot afford it
during a depression. Further costs are involved in
establishing separate households, division of properties,
and making provision for the children. This financial
hardship prevents many from splitting up, but this is only
temporary. Divorce rates rise rapidly after depressions.
The increase in both the number and rate of divorces is
indicated by the following statistics. In 1860 there were
fever than 8,000 divorces in all of the United States. By
1900 there were 55,000 and in 1974 there were over 950,000
divorces. Part of the increase in numbers results simply
from the growth in population, but part also comes from a
climbing divorce rate as the following figures indicate.
In 1867 the rate was 0.3 divorces per 1,000 population.
By 1920 it had grown to 1.6; in 1946 it ballooned to 4.3
during the postwar peak. After a decline during the
fifties, it began to rise again in the sixties, and by 1974
the rate stood at 4.4, breaking the postwar peak. Since
then, it has inched up steadily: in 1975 it lumped to 4.7;
in 1977 it reached 5.0 and in 1978 it edged up to 5.2
(National Center for Health Statistics, 1979). In 1979 it
increased to 5.4, and in 1980 it subsided to 5.3 (U.S.
Bureau of the Census, 1981).
Today, divorce in our society is a pervasive social
phenomenon, having steadily increased, as indicated, in
numbers and proportion over the past twenty years. In 1956
it was estimated that "the experience of divorce is likely
to occur to one-fifth to one-sixth of the men and women in
this country who live out the average life span" (Goode,
1956: 11). In 1975, that estimate, based on up-to-date
data, was placed at one-third (England and Kunz, 1975;
Glick, 1975). In 1977, the chance of a first marriage
ending in divorce was almost two in five, or 38 per cent, a
rate seven times greater than that of 1900, and twice that
of 1958 (Population Reference Bureau, 1977b).
Divorce is now so widespread in our society it appears
that many divorced persons no longer tend to revert to the
status and behavior of the unmarried, but are drawn together
into a semi-separate social order, and within it have
created the pattern of sexual behavior that meets their
special needs. Hunt and Hunt (1979:134), drawing from a
very large availability sample (N=984), state that, age for
age, the separated and divorced represented in their study
are now at least as sexually active as married people,
whereas in Kinsey's time divorced people were distinctly
Distribution of Divorce in A aerjca
Region, religion, race, ethnicity, economic status and
age at marriage are among the chief variables influencing
the distribution of divorce in the United States.
Divorce rates vary by region: They are lowest in the
northeast, followed by the northcentral region, then by the
south, and finally, by the west. Growing up on a farm is
associated with greater stability, while couples residing in
large cities are more divorce prone.
Ethnicity and Religion
Ethnic and religious composition of the population are
undoubtedly factors in the regional variation. Instability
is higher among Protestants than among Catholics, and
Catholics are over-represented in northern and eastern
sections of the country (Glick, 1963). The lowest
separation rates are found among Jewish women and the
highest among Episcopalians (Ross and Sawhill, 1975), and
the divorce rate is lowest among Irish Catholics (Mindel and
Even more important than religious affiliation is degree
of religious commitment. People who attend church regularly
maintain more stability in marriage than those who do not
(Levinger, 1966; Goode,1968; Bumpass and Sweet, 1972).
These facts suggest that community norms vary
systematically with residential environment, and that social
and religious restraints are important in determining who
divorces and who does not.
The data on divorce rates by race are surprisingly
inadequate. Very fragmentary data on divorce for the period
1939 through 1950 suggest that divorce rates may have been
higher among whites than among blacks until 1942, when the
relationship appears to have been reversed, and the black
rates came to average 20 per cent higher than those of
whites (Leslie, 1982:557). A sample survey of 22,000
households by the Bureau of the Census, 1957, confirmed that
greater percentages of blacks than whites had experienced
divorce. Some 19.8 per cent of nonwhite sales and 19.9 per
cent of females reported that they had experienced a
divorce. The corresponding percentages among whites were
14.1 and 16.7. For 1970 it has been estimated that the
nonwhite divorce rate was about one and a half times higher
than the white rate (Ross and Sawhill, 1975:70).
At least five major studies have documented that there is
generally a negative correlation between socioeconomic
status and divorce rates, regardless of the criterion of
socioeconomic status used (Schroeder, 1939; Kephart, 1955;
Monahan, 1953; Goode, 1956; Hillaan, 1962). Ross and
Savhill (1975) through very careful multivariate analysis in
a longitudinal panel study tried to identify which aspect oL
socioeconomic status is most important. Is it successful
role performance of the husband relative to social
expectation? or is it the constraint imposed by the
accumulation of assets? Or is it a "pure" income effect,
whereby the strains associated with having insufficient
funds break up the marriages?
Using history of unemployment as an indicator of a
husband's inability to provide for his family, they found
this to be more important than anything else. Separation
rates are twice as high among families where the husbands
experienced serious unemployment over the past three years.
They found that it is the husband's performance as a
breadwinner, relative to expectations in his own social
group, that is relevant, rather than absolute level of
income. Surprisingly, being highly successful is just as
destabilizing as being highly unsuccessful. This suggests
that the stability of income may be more important than
level of income in explaining marital stability. They found
no "pure" income effect.
Finally, the greater the family's assets, the less likely
it is that a separation will occur. Perhaps these assets
increase the cost of dissolving a marriage, or possibly
couples who inherit or accumulate wealth are more averse to
taking risks; or perhaps assets act as a buffer offsetting
temporary declines in income.
Another finding that supports the fact that there is no
"pure" income effect comes from the increase of females in
the workforce--aany of them married. Marriages with income
from the wife's work are less stable, and other things held
constant (including husband's income), a one thousand dollar
increase in the wife's earning is associated with a one
percentage point increase in separation rates. When wives
are less financially dependent on their husbands, the
economic benefits of marriage and the cost of separation are
lower for thea.
Age at Mar ijag
Age at marriage is especially critical. A marked decline
is found in the proportion of marriages ending in divorce or
separation as the age at first marriage increases. In
general, those who marry while they are still in their teens
are three or four times as likely to divorce as those who
marry in their mid-twenties (Ross and Sawhill, 1975:40).
Those who marry young or because of premarital pregnancy may
reduce the time spent searching for appropriate, like-minded
mates, and say also marry at a time when their values and
expectations are still undergoing rapid changes, thus
increasing the risk that these values will later diverge
(Levinger, 1966; Hicks and Platt, 1970; Bumpass and Sweet,
1972). Further, those who marry young typically have less
education and more limited occupational opportunities--
variables strongly associated with marital disruption.
Somewhat paradoxically, although marital satisfaction
tends to decline with increasing duration, so too separation
rates decline. On the average, an additional ten years of
marriage reduces the separation rate by three percentage
points. This may be due to the increased investment in the
marriage, the decreased supply of alternative partners, the
shorter time left to enjoy other lifestyles, the inertia of
aging, or various other reasons.
Prior to the industrial revolution in the United States
and the birth of our nation, divorce was not unknown, but
rare. However, there is evidence that some wives deserted,
as did some husbands also. This indicates that marital
stability was not universal prior to the legitimation of
divorce throughout our land. Indeed, also, we may quess
that there was much unhappiness in marriage, painfully
endured because of no escape.
Divorce has become widespread and more accepted,
socially, over the past 25-30 years. However, in spite of
this, divorce continues to be a painful experience for most
parties involved, necessitating difficult and complex
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
The first part of this chapter, the review of the
literature of divorce is divided into five segments as
1. Divorce at the beginning of the twentieth century.
This will be historical rather than substantive in nature,
indicating the role played by social scientists in allayinq
public alarm over widespread divorce.
2. A brief report on the first study made on divorce and
on the two distinctive, yet parallel types of studies that
grew out of it.
3. An assessment of the social demographic studies on
4. An outline of key findings of several surveys. These
surveys isolated various variables relevant to marital
adjustment and stability. Aaong these variables are in-
laws, kin and homoqamy.
5. A detailed outline of Waller's epochal study (1930)
and its successor, Goode's After Divorce (1956), followed by
similar outlines of recent studies on divorce and its
consequences for the partners involved.
The later parts of this chapter will deal expressly with
the trauma experienced by divorced mothers, the difficulties
arising from the legal process of divorce, and the
postdivorce adjustment cycle. The chapter concludes with a
brief outline of the theoretical framework and hypotheses
for this study.
Divorce _atthe Beginninq of the Twentieth Century
It was during the last two decades of the nineteenth
century that the divorce rate began to increase rapidly. In
1880 there was one divorce for every 21 marriages; in 1900
there was one divorce for every 12 marriages, and in 1909,
one divorce for every nine marriages. This dramatic
increase at the end of the century stimulated widespread and
strong public alarm (O'Neill, 1973:252). Resultant efforts
to arrest the spread of divorce by legal means took two
forms: (1) state campaigns to amend local laws, and (2)
repeated attempts to achieve uniform marriage and divorce
laws either through a constitutional amendment or through
the voluntary enactment of uniform codes by all the states
These efforts reached their peak in 1906 when President
Theodore Boosevelt was persuaded to request a new census
study of marriage and divorce, and the interest aroused by
this led Governor Pennypacker of Pennsylvania to call a
national conference to draft model uniform legislation on
these subjects. The congress net twice, once in Washinqtou
to appoint committees, and again in Philadelphia to ratify
the proposed statutes. Despite the widespread approval
which met these efforts, few states adopted their model
The twentieth century literature on divorce is both
voluminous and varied. A study by Fred Plog and Paul
Bohannan (1967) (NIHH Grant No. MH06551) of articles indexed
under "Divorce" and 'Alimony" in The Beader'_s guide to
Periodical Literature 1900-1965, reported that the highest
number of articles on these two subjects was published in
1905, and that there has been a general decline in number
since then. Notable has been the steep decline of articles
dealing with religious attitudes toward divorce, and the
increase in articles dealing with postdivorce problems and
children of divorce (Bernard, 1968:301).
"In the earliest years of our society divorces were
generally abhorred by the people, and couples who sought
them were considered to be morally defective" (Sirjamaki,
1353:164), and this is reflected in the literature at the
beginning of this century which focused primarily on
religious attitudes towards divorce. These religious
attitudes were at once both negative and strong. The
Bible's stricter teachings on divorce were quoted and
requoted as the unassailable foundation of opposition to
Although divorce had political, psychological, and other
dimensions, the increase of divorce was usually seen as a
moral and social problem. The opponents of divorce
invariably regarded it as both immoral and antisocial. The
attack hinged on the common belief that divorce destroyed
the family, the foundation of society and civilization.
Felix Adler (1915:15) vent one step further when he insisted
that divorce menaced "the physical and spiritual existence
of the human race." Blame for the divorce situation was
placed on the rising tide of individualism menacing all
progressive societies, while Adler as early as 1890 was
tracing the whole ugly business back to Rousseau's "false
Although most leading sociologists believed in divorce,
Charles A. Ellwood did not, and this future president of the
American Sociological Society also attributed divorce to
excessive individualism (Ellwood, 1913). William Graham
Sumner, renowned sociologist, and destined also to become
president like Ellwood, also opposed divorce, on grounds
that it was radically changing the family.
Apart from these two exceptions, social scientists
performed a crucial service in coping with the public's fear
of the social consequences of divorce. The first man of
stature to defend divorce was Carroll W. Wright, U.S.
Commissioner of Labor Statistics and a self trained social
scientist, who, at the National Unitarian Convention in 1891
publicly declared himself for liberal divorce laws. A few
years later he wrote:
The pressure for divorce finds its impetus outside
of laws, outside of our institutions, outside of
our theology; it springs from the rebellion of the
human heart against that slavery which binds in
the cruelest bonds human beings who have by their
haste, their want of wisdca or the intervention of
friends, missed the divine purpose as well as the
civil purpose of marriage. (Bright, 1900:176)
But it was not until 1904 that a leading professionally
trained social scientist joined the fight. George E.
Howard, an eminent historian and sociologist in his massive
A History of Hatrimonial Institutions (1904), and in
subsequent writings, tried to show how the divorce rate was
the product of forces which were dramatically improving
American society, namely, industrialism and urbanization.
Within a few years, Wright and Howard were joined by an
army of social scientists, including most of the leading men
in the field. By 1908, when the American Sociological
Society devoted its third annual meeting to the family, the
majority of the sociological opinion was solidly on the side
of divorce. The high point of the meeting was Howard's
address which he titled: "Is the Freer Granting of Divorce
an Evil?" He was attacked by Samuel Dike and Walter George
Smith, a prominent Catholic lawyer who advocated stricter
divorce laws. But they lost out. Theirs was the faintly
anachronistic rhetoric of a discredited tradition of social
criticism. On Howard's side were E.A. Ross, Elsie Clews
Parsons and James Lichtenberqer, as well as other leading
scientists. As a profession then, sociology was committed
to a positive view of divorce at a time when virtually all
other organized groups in the country were opposed to it.
The First Divorce Study and its Dual Type of successorss
The first major study of divorce in the United States was
that by James P. Lichtenberger (1909). In this work he
traced the rise in the divorce rate from 1867 through 1906.
His study treated divorce as a growing social problem in our
society. He examined divorce in primitive society and
indicated its modification in recent history. He saw as
especially important the transformation of society through
"our unprecedented economic development, our unparalled
achievements in social progress, and our remarkable
transition in ethical and religious views" (Lichtenberqer,
1909:19). Lichtenberger and the sociologists who followed
him concentrated on divorce as a social problem and paid
little or no attention to the aftermath of divorce.
Viewing divorce as a social problem, sociologists
searched eagerly to identify the sources or causes of the
problem. In general, two approaches have been used in
research on the causes of divorce: the psychological and
the sociological approaches. Edmund Berqler (1948) in
Divorce Won't Help represented the most extreme form of the
psychological approach. He insisted that some people are
incapable of sustaining a marital relationship. Divorce and
remarriage mean only replaying the same mistakes over again.
The basic flaw which brought about the divorce could be
remedied only by psychoanalysis. The alleged basic flaw
could range from moderate neurosis to a full-blown
psychosis. So all who were divorced were classified as
neurotics or psychotics.
Lewis Terman and Paul Wallin (1949) developed a similar
school of thought when they introduced the concept of
marital aptitude. Some people, they asserted, are quite
normal in most aspects, but they lack the interests and
aptitude for domesticity. An instrument for measuring
marital aptitude was developed and used. Among the subjects
studied, those who rated low on marital aptitude had a
higher divorce rate than those who rated high.
Both Bergler and Terman looked to the individual for
causes, and found them. By contrast, sociologists following
the cue from Burgess and Cottrell looked for causes in the
relationship itself in what has been called the "team
factor" (Bernard, 1968:13). Hoaogamy and heteroqamy were
among the variables they emphasized.
The two approaches, although quite different, were not
mutually exclusive. Bergler, besides looking at the
individual, looked also at the relationship, but he insisted
that it was impossible for one partner to be normal, because
neurotics had an unerring instinct to seek and find as mates
the neurotics they needed for their own neuroses. Burgess
and Cottrell also looked at the individuals, but from the
perspective of socialization and background variables.
Researchers from both schools were looking for factors which
made some people "divorce-prone"; they just looked for
Both schools found evidence to support their assertions.
Records showed (and still do) that among the divorced
mortality, morbidity, mental illness and suicide rates were
higher than for the widowed and married. Further evidence
of lack of marital aptitude was found in unsuccessful
remarriages, which seemed to support Berqler's dictum
directly. This kind of research was far from comforting for
the divorced. It increased their sense of personal
inadequacy and failure, and added to the trauma.
The evidence used by Bergler and Terman is now recognized
as flawed. First, it was based on persons currently in the
status of divorce excluding all who were remarried. Second,
in reporting the failures among the remarried, it did not
report the successes among them. Most divorced persons
remarry and consequently are not represented in the
population currently in the divorced status. And although
the divorce rate for remarriages is higher than for first
marriages a majority of remarriages are successful (Bernard,
1956: 108-113). This effectively undercuts the position
held by the psychological school.
By contrast, the explanations given by the sociological
school of thought carried no personal stigma. The marriage
failed because the team was wronq--the partners were teamed
up badly. Given congenial or suitable partners they would
be able to sustain a stable marriage. This stance of the
sociological school of thought has been helpful in
reassuring those going through the pain of divorce.
Besides, it has aided in improving the attitude towards
divorce of society in general thus making the divorced more
easily accepted by society, and the phenomenon of divorce
itself better understood.
Social Demographic Studies
For the family sociologist, the foundation of divorce
research has been the social demographic study. The primary
thrust of these studies has been the examination of such
variables as length of marriage, age at marriage, education,
occupation, residence, religion and race of spouses as
factors relating to the occurrence of divorce. Typical of
post WWII studies of this nature are those by Jacobson
(1950), Ackerman (1963), Bernard (1966), and Bumpass and
Sweet (1972). The findings have been remarkably consistent
and have succeeded in isolating significant variables of
importance, some of which have been outlined in Chapter I,
and others that are to be presented in the next section.
Their usefulness was considerably enhanced by the Bumpass
and Sweet research which made use of multivariate analyses
to shed light on the relative importance of these variables
Key Findings of Several Surveys
Studies have found that relationships between younq
couples and their parents on both sides are a source of
strain. A brief summary of pertinent findings follows.
Judson T. Landis (1947) studying 409 happily married
couples, found that 10 per cent of them had unsatisfactory
in-law relationships even after 20 years of marriage. John
L. Thomas (1956) studying 7000 broken Roman Catholic
marriages, found that trouble with in-laws was the most
frequent cause of breakup during the first year of marriage.
Evelyn Duvall (1954) studied a national random sample of
5020 people who were married from between a few weeks to
more than 40 years. She found that 75 per cent of her
respondents reported one or more in-law problems. Blood and
Wolfe (1960) in a study of 909 Michigan families reported a
negative correlation between frequency of reported in-law
trouble and duration of marriage. Fifteen per cent reported
in-law trouble during the honeymoon, and the percentage
decreased steadily thereafter.
It would seem that in-law adjustment is a rather
important part of total marital adjustment. Landis (1946)
in his study of 409 couples married for approximately 20
years, found that couples who reported no trouble with in-
laws from the beginning were more likely to report having
very happy marriages: 52 per cent characterized their
marriages as "very happy," and 34 per cent claimed they had
"happy" marriages. Landis and Landis (1968) in a study of
544 couples in the early years of marriage found that 67 per
cent of those who reported excellent adjustment to in-laws,
also reported their marriages to be excellent. Only 18 per
cent of those with in-law trouble reported having very happy
Research indicates that in-law troubles occur mostly
between wives and their mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.
Duvall (1954) found that over one-third of 1337 respondents
said that the mother-in-law relationship was the most
difficult. Ninety per cent of these complaints came from
wives. So it is the husband's mother, rather than the
wife's mother who is the focus of the trouble. Landis and
Landis (1968) had similar findings on mothers-in-law with
the additional information that trouble with sisters-in-law
was the next most frequent, and trouble with fathers-in-law
was relatively rare. Similar results were found by Wallia
(1954) and Thomas (1956).
Komarovsky (1964) in a study of 58 working-class
marriages found, further, that husbands with less than a
high school education have as such difficulty with their
mothers-in-law as their wives do.
So, in summary, it has been found that wives report
mother-in-law trouble most frequently and characterize it as
the most serious in-law trouble. Next comes sister-in-law
trouble, again reported by wives. Rarely do husbands report
in-law trouble, outside those husbands with very little
education. These husbands seen to have as much mother-in-
law trouble as do their wives.
Studies by Axelrod (1956), Greer (1956), Bell and Boat
(1957), Blumberg and Bell (1959), and Toneh (1967) found
that about 50 per cent of families see their relatives at
least once a week, and that an additional 25 per cent of
then see them about once a month. Blood (1969) in a study
of 731 married women in Detroit tested for relationships
between frequency of interaction with kin and marital
adjustment. He found that interaction with kin up to once a
week is associated with good adjustment, but more frequent
interaction seems to be detrimental to marital adjustment.
Hundreds of studies have been done on homogamy. They
embrace homogany by age and marital status, social status,
religion, ethnic affiliation, race and a host of other
social and personal characteristics (Leslie, 1982: 400).
The following presents briefly some of the relevant studies
and their findings.
Hoaoqaay by age and marital status. Most Americans marry
young. Further, 75 per cent of all first marriages occur
within three or four years on either side of 21 (Mogey,
1965). Homogasy in age at marriage can be seen in the facts
that brides on the average are 2.5 years younger than their
grooms and in 10 per cent of all cases they are the same
Homoqamy by age holds in all groups that have been
studied. Hollingshead (1951) compared the ages of black and
white couples in first and remarriages. In all four types
and within both races, the correlations were high. Glick
and Landau (1950) verified age homogamy at the various
levels ranging from laborers to professionals.
Further, age is related to whether people are marrying
for the first time or remarrying (Bowerman, 1956). First,
single persons as marriage partners are younger, on the
average, than persons who have been married. Among the
previously married, widows are older than divorcees.
Secondly, as men get older they marry increasingly younger
women. Finally, those who are remarrying do not differ
significantly in the age difference from the mates who are
marrying for the first time.
A number of early studies found age at marriage to be
related to marital happiness, with marriages under 20 being
the most likely to be unhappy (Terman, 1938; Burgess and
Cottrell, 1939; Landis and Landis, 1968). The same patterns
were found between age and divorce rates. Young marriages
are the least stable (Locke, 1951; Monahan, 1953; Landis and
Landis, 1968; Bumpass and Sweet, 1972). The reason for
these patterns lies in the fact that age is related to
emotional and social maturity (Burchinal, 1959b; Bshelman,
1965); those who marry after age 20 are less likely to be
rebelling against their parents, are less likely to be
forced into marriage by pregnancy (Burchinal, 1959a; Bacon,
1974), are less likely to be broken up by in-laws, and
encounter fever financial difficulties than those who are
Homoqany by Social Status. Early studies found mired
evidence of hoaogaay by social status. Burgess and Wallin
(1943) found that 1000 engaged couples tended to choose
partners from social backgrounds similar to their own.
Centers (1949), using a national sample, found that men and
women marry persons from their own occupational level more
than from any other level; however less than 50 per cent do
so. In Connecticut, Hollinqshead (1951) found that men and
women tend to marry individuals from the same class of
residential area and from the same educational level.
However, Hunt (1940) found scant evidence of status homoqamy
in marriages in Massachusetts. Leslie and Richardson (1956)
studied students who married while at college. They found
only a slight tendency towards homoqamy among students who
married an individual they had known at home prior to
college, and none at all among couples who met and married
at college. Coombs (1962) had similar findings at the
University of Utah.
These data suggest that status homoqamy may be declining
with the years, at least in some segments of the population.
This is supported by data on 5442 women from the 1970
National Fertility Study. Using education as the measure of
social status, Bumpass and Sweet (1972) found in this study
that marital disruption rates did not differ significantly
between homogamous and heteroqamous marriages unless tae
differences in background were large. Disruption rates were
highest for college females who had married high school
Hoaogany by Race. The norms against interracial
marriages have been the strongest, and it was not until the
1967 Supreme Court decision that miscegenation ceased to be
unlawful. Perhaps less than one per cent of all marriages
are interracial, but these draw much interest and attention.
Studies by Burma (1952), Golden (1953), and Pavela (1964)
found that couples in interracial marriages tend to be
older, that they may have been married before, and that they
have histories of rejection by parents and their own social
Interracial marriages are widely believed to be doomed to
failure. Studies of war bride marriages (Strauss, 1954),
and black-white marriages by Golden (1953), Pavela (1964)
and Smith (1966) did not bear this out however.
Nevertheless, more recent national data on black-white
marriages indicate that these are more likely to end in
divorce than either hosoqamous black or homogamous white
marriages. These data indicate that 90.00 per cent of the
white marriages and 78.00 per cent of the black marriages
that took place in the 1950s were still intact in 1970,
compared with only 63.00 per cent of the black husband-white
wife marriages, and 47.00 per cent of the white husband-
black wife marriages (Carter and Glick, 1976:414-415).
Homoqaay by religion. Studies of religious homoqamy have
shown wide variation in intermarriage rates. In New York
City, Heiss (1960) found 18 per cent of Jews, 24 per cent of
Catholics, and 34 per cent of Protestants to be
intermarried. Burchinal and Chancellor (1962) found
individual aixed-aarriage rates in Iowa to range trom 9 to
24 per cent. In general, the larger the proportion a
religious group is of the community, the lower the inter-
marriage rate and vice versa. Intermarriage also varies
inversely with the cohesion of the ethnic group.
Intermarriage rates rose in the 1960s and the 70s, partly
due to Pope Paul VI permitting Catholics to get married by
noncatholic ministers, and his dispensing with the promises
the noncatholic traditionally signed, promising to bring up
the children Catholic.
Studies show divorce rates to be lowest among Catholics
and Jews, somewhat higher among Protestants, higher still in
mixed marriages, and highest of all where there is no
religious affiliation (Landis, 1949; Bumpass and Sweet,
1972). Burchinal and Chancellor (1963) produced one of the
more definitive studies of divorce in interfaith marriages,
in the state of Iowa, using data from a seven-year period.
Controlling for age and social status, they partly confirmed
the results of earlier studies, and partly called those
findings into question. They confirmed that the divorce
rate in homogamous Catholic marriages was lower than in
marriages where Catholics were married to Protestants.
However, the differences were considerably reduced. They
concluded that the smaller differences did not justify
generalizations of considerably greater difficulties
awaiting Catholics who marry outside their faith, provided
the person they married belonged to a Protestant
denomination. Further, the researchers discovered that,
while homoqamous Catholic marriages had the highest survival
rate, a number of other homoqamous and mixed marriage types
had survival rates nearly as high. Besides, the data
indicated that the marital survival rates were influenced
more by age at marriage and social status than by the fact
of religious differences. Marital stability was
consistently greater among marriages involving older brides,
and higher SES couples.
Detailed Outlines of Studies of Divorce and Its Conseguences
Willard Waller. The Old Love and the New (1930/1967)
This was a significant work when originally published and
remains important to the present day. This is so, first of
all, because Waller focused on the social-psychological
consequences of divorce for the parties involved, and the
implications these consequences miqht have. Secondly, his
work was a break with the writings on the family that had
preceded it, and that had been in voque, writingss that
still possessed historical and evolutionary preoccupations.
By shifting the inquiry aller was ahead of his time
and anticipated a major development in family sociology
which is current today" (Lantz, 1967:v). Waller focused on
divorce as an event in an individual's life history. He
explored how the status of the divorcee was defined and what
this status involved. He perceived that divorce meant
change, and this in turn implied crisis, disorganization,
and reorganization. He emphasized the persistence of the
habits of married life, and the modifications demanded of
the divorcee to build a new life.
Waller used the case study method. In using this method,
Waller "felt that he would arrive at a better understanding
of the divorcee by an intensive study of a few cases than by
collecting facts about many" (Waller, 1967:316). Thirty-
three cases were included. "Of these perhaps five were
studied with a thoroughness approaching that of the study
which a psychoanalyst aakes. On ten more cases fairly
complete subjective documents were obtained, and a
reasonably good insight into the subjects' minds was .
obtained In the remaining cases incomplete subjective
accounts, or complete narratives were obtained. In
addition there were available a number of psychoanalytic
cases in which divorce was one of the major problems. .
A few more women than men were among those thoroughly
studied" (Baller, 1967:317). Waller's findings will be
discussed and compared later with those of Goode's (1956).
William J. Goode. After Divorce (1956)
For twenty-six years after T_ 0Q14 Love AU the
New appeared no other research on postdivorce
adjustment was reported. Following WWII, however,
the divorce rate rose sharply, and experiences
with personal problems following divorce became
more common. Goode undertook a study of the
adjustment of divorced women in Detroit. Goode
reported that he "assigned two budding librarians
to summarize all the research literature on
postdivorce adjustment. No such body of
work existed, other than Willard Waller's The ld
Love a4d the New." In many respects, Goode's
research was based on Waller's. Since the Goode
investigation in 1956, there has been a slow
growth in the research literature on the aftermath
of divorce. However, Goode's work remains as the
successor to the Waller study. (Farber, 1967:XXI)
Method. In this study Goode investigated 425 divorced
mothers in metropolitan Detroit, who were between the ages
of 20 and 38 years at the time of their divorces. They
were divided into four groups or cohorts by length of time
divorced: those divorced 2, 8, 14 and 26 months. Data were
collected by interviewers who administered a lengthy
questionnaire to each respondent. In addition to examiininq
background and marital variables, he also probed the causes
of divorce and the adjustment process.
Findings. Here we will confine ourselves to a comparison
and discussion of Goode's findings which parallel those of
Waller. In each case a summary of Waller's findings will be
given first, followed by Goode's. Other findings of
Goode's will be dealt with later.
1. Friends. Waller paid such attention to the role of
friends in the postdivorce adjustment. Prior to divorce, he
sugqqested, friends assist in redefining the marital
situation as an intolerable one. Thus, they contribute to
the final decision to end the marriage. After divorce,
friends help relieve ambivalence over the divorce. Goode
found that, in general, the husband's friends were
indifferent towards the divorce, while the wife's friends
generally approved. Hence, Waller's assertion was supported
by the data on women but not on men.
Waller next said that the divorcee frequently breaks
completely with the friends which he/she had during the
marriage, giving two reasons for the break; (a) the
divorcee is an oddity amonq married couples, (b) the
divorcee must reorganize his/her sex life, and seeks the
company of those in a similar marital condition. This
breaking away from friends fosters feelings of alienation
and isolation, and so multiplies the problems of personal
adjustment. Goode found partial support for this assertion.
He found that regardless of religion, race, or age at
divorce, about half of the divorced women retained their
former friends. This tendency was strongest amonq the
upper-class. However, when the divorcee was in love with
another man prior to the divorce, she tended to drop her old
friends. Further, he found that his respondents made new
friends. Of those not remarried about one in six mentioned
new friends, and almost one-third of all the women said they
retained their old friends and made new ones.
2. Sex Adjustment. Smaller perceived that in divorce,
the "sex impulse is reduced to its crudest form robbed
of all glamor and romance and perhaps purposefully cheapened
and degraded" (Maller, 1967:56). One way to cheapen sex is
to become promiscuous. Goode did not question his
respondents specifically about their sex problems, but he
gave a sex interpretation to this question: "Have you ever
been in a social situation in which you felt someone thought
less of you when he or she found out that you were
divorced?" Thirty per cent said "yes"; these respondents
were mostly under 24 years of age. Goode interpreted this
difference to indicate a greater risk of the younger women
being regarded as "loose" although they actually were not.
3. Economic Adjustment. Waller contended that the
female faces greater economic hardships than the male. He
saw the woman as needing money immediately without time or
resources to invest in a long-term career, "aud worried
about how she is going to live." Goode found that those
women who were unable to work full-time were experiencing
financial difficulties. About half of his respondents who
had not yet remarried were living on reduced incomes.
Remarried women, however, were considerably better off
financially than they had been in the former marriages.
Consistent with Waller's view, Goode's findings suqqest taat
for women, divorce involves downward mobility, but this can
be reversed by remarriage.
4. Role of the Divorcee. Waller suggested that the
divorcee who has been "cast away" by her spouse, first of
all regards herself as a failure, and secondly, tries to
reassert control over her former spouse. To Waller, divorce
was not merely dropping a mate; it was a crisis, evoking
profound changes in life organization. Goode found that the
trauma of divorce was greatest among those women whose
husbands took the initiative in divorce. Overall, he found
that the divorcees most prone to trauma or crisis were those
who did not want the divorce, those over 30 years of age,
those who had been married 10 years or more, and those uno
felt ambivalent about divorce.
5. Reaarriage. Waller speculated that remarriages could
go either way. He believed that an unhappy marriage which
ends in divorce may have disastrous personality effects,
preventing successful adjustment in reaarriaqe. Further,
lingering feelings for the former mate, coupled with fear of
losing the present mate, would also be sources of problems
in adjustment. On the other hand, he believed that the
experience gained in the former marriage could produce
insight, tolerance and "progressive liberation from .
infantile love objects." Besides, when the first marriage
represented a rebellion against a parent, or was "so bad
that any comparison must inevitably favor the second,"
remarriage might entail fewer problems (Waller 1967:159).
Goode found that about 90 per cent of his remarried
respondents regarded the remarriage as much better than the
first marriage. This was possibly misleading. Many of
these women may have been still in the honeymoon phase, or
perhaps they felt they had to make good claims for their
remarriage. We now know that while remarriages seem to be
almost as satisfactory as first marriages, they are not as
stable as first marriages. In 1978, the proportion of first
marriages ending in divorce was 38 per cent, and for
remarriages it was 44 per cent (Population Beference Bureau,
B.W. Weiss. Marital Separation (1975a).
This study is strictly qualitative in nature and focuses
primarily on the emotional impact of marital separation.
Weiss derived his data from his Seminars for the Separated
during the three years beqinninq in 1971. The seminars were
established by the Harvard Laboratory of Community
Psychiatry where recently divorced persons (both male and
female) came for an educational program of eight evening
meetings. The meetings were half instructional and half
group discussion. It was mostly people with college
educations who took part. About 150 recently separated
individuals participated in the program.
Several participants said that even though their
marriages had become unhappy, thoughts of ending them made
them anxious, and even terrified. This may have resulted
from the fact that their marriages afforded them security if
Others reported that after the separation, occasionally
they felt impelled by anxiety to reestablish contact witL
their former spouses. Most participants continued to feel
drawn to the spouses even when a new satisfactory
relationship had been established. The exceptions were
mostly those who left their marriages for new relationships
which they already had established.
The marital bond that keeps drawing ex-spouses back to
each other seems unrelated to liking, admiration or respect.
Even those who disparaged their spouses felt drawn to them.
This bond may be likened to the imprinting that takes place
in the animal world, and in its persistence resembles the
attachment bond of children to their parents described by
The loss of attachment can be seen as the primary cause
of the "separation distress" syndrome described by Parkes
(1972). It involves thinking more of the lest figure, and
an urge to reestablish contact, as well as anger and quilt
over the loss. Present also is an "alarm reaction"
including hyperalertness, great restlessness and feelings of
fear and panic. Difficulties in sleeping and loss of
In contrast, some experienced euphoria and greater self-
confidence and self-esteem. They may become more active and
outgoing than they had been. However, typically this
euphoria alternated with distress.
Separation distress which involves pining for the ex-
spouse fades with time. If a new attachment has not been
established at this point, the distress is replaced by
loneliness which does not revolve around any lost figure,
but feeds on a vaguely developed image of a satisfying
relationship that would allay the loneliness. This
loneliness often carries the feeling that there is nobody in
the world who could provide that relationship, and
frequently the lonely person feels an emptiness inside.
Since loss of attachment causes pain, anger is a natural
reaction, and this is directed against the former spouse
regardless of which one initiated the separation.
Separating spouses may be angry with each other not only
because they blame the other for their distresses, but also
because of genuine conflicts of interest over division of
property, support payments, custody of children and
visitation. Anger toward the ex-spouse can become intense
and lead to murderous fantasies. Some feel their anger is
justified, and may be willing to act to hurt the other. But
others feel the anger as alien to their genuine selves, and
try to disown it. Yet, even in the case of the most
enraged, suppression of positive feelings rarely seems
Because of the continued attachment and simultaneous
anger, intense ambivalence sets in. Manaqinq this
ambivalence becomes a problem. Some suppress the positive
feelings, others repress the negative feelings; and some
manage by alternating the feelings they express, or by
compartmentalizing their feelings.
Ambivalence makes separated individuals uncomfortable
with any resolution of their separation. Reconciliation may
result not only in relief at the ending of separation
distress, but also in dismay at the return of an
unsatisfactory relationship. The decision to proceed with
divorce may also have mixed implications: gratification
over a painful relationship being terminated, but also
sorrow that the spouse will be irretrievably lost. This
ambivalence probably is the reason why lawyers who
specialize in divorce work sometimes complain that their
clients do not seem to know their own minds (O'Gorman,
S.anier and Casto. _Adjustment to Divorge (iL99a)
The authors point out at the outset that, with few
exceptions (e.g. Goode, 1956), the data dealing with the
problems spouses have in adjusting to separation and divorce
are drawn from clinical case studies, and research on
persons who attend discussions and other counseling programs
(e.g. Weiss, 1975a). In this study, four hypotheses were
examined pertaining to (1) the effects of lingering
attachment to the former spouse, (2) the degree of social
interaction outside the home, (3) the role of dating
relationships, and (4) the relative effects of sudden and
method. The research, conducted in the fall of 1976,
consisted of lengthy, unstructured interviews with 50
individuals who had filed for divorce within the preceding
two-year period. Their names were secured from the public
records in Centre County, Pennsylvania. Contact by phone
was established with 37 per cent of the persons whose names
were drawn, Of those contacted, 61 per cent agreed to be
interviewed, comprising 28 females and 22 sales, all white,
from the working, middle and upper-middle classes. The aqe
range was 21 to 65 years, with a mean of 36 years. Thirty-
two of the respondents were divorced at the time of the
interview, and the remaining 18 were separated.
findings. (1) Most respondents expressed resentment over
their experiences with the legal system. (2) The children
were the catalysts for some of the major adjustment
problems. (3) Friends, relatives and acquaintances were
generally supportive. (4) The degree of initial emotional
upset was a function of how unexpected the separation was,
and of the respondent being opposed to it. (5) Economic
adjustment was the only area in which sex differences were
found. The large majority of men reported they were at
least as well off financially after the separation, but for
the women, the opposite was true. (6) Respondents reported
growing away from close friends, especially when these
friends were shared by the other spouses. (7) There was a
strong positive correlation between participation in
heterosexual relationships and successful adjustment.
Conclusions. Creating a new life style appears to be
more crucial to overall adjustment than successfully copiaq
with the dissolution of the marriage. Painful reactions to
marital dissolution, such as feelings of regret, attachment,
and bitterness towards the spouse, actually may increase
over time through failure to create new relationships. Some
respondents who reported few problems immediately after
separation and who, in some cases, reported that separation
had made them feel free, excited, or eager about life for
the first time in years, were at the time of the interview
very despondent and showing signs of separation anxiety. In
every instance, these respondents were having major
economic or social difficulties. The difficulties that
individuals encounter may vary greatly, depending on the
circumstances surrounding the dissolution of their
marriages, the support they receive as they make the
transition, and the nature of the postmarriage lifestyle.
Children, parents, friends, former spouses, representatives
of the legal system, and dating partners all play important
roles in the lives of the recently separated.
Kohen et al. Divorced Mothers (1979)
Method. This study was conducted to uncover the costs
and benefits of being a divorced mother. The research,
conducted in 1974, consisted of lengthy open-ended
interviews with 30 Boston-area mothers who had at least one
child under 16 years of age living with them, and who had
been divorced or separated from one to five years.
Potential respondents were located through institutional
sources, such as youth agencies and organizations for single
parents. Quotas were imposed to assure that no group was
over-represented in relation to the Boston-area population.
Findings. Even though respondents undergoing the crisis
during the first year immediately following separation were
eliminated, the findings in major areas such as changes in
income, proportion wishing to remarry, and types of problems
encountered, were consistent with those of Goode's (1956).
Identified problems. (1) The predivorce average income
reported was $12,500. This fell to $6,100 after the divorce
or separation. This resulted from (a) little or no support
from the husband, and (t) job and sex discrimination. In
1974 women working full-time throughout the year earned
only 57 per cent of that earned by their sale counterparts
(Sawhill,1975). (2) The divorced mother, while legally head
of the house, is not socially legitimated for this role,
with resulting intrusions and difficulties from and with
authorities and others. (3) In family life, the
responsibilities formerly shouldered by both parents now
must be borne all alone. (4) They were conscious of the
stigma of being "fair game" sexually.
The respondents reported the following advantages. (1)
They were better off with their lower income, because they
had full control of it. (2) Without a husband, the
organization of life was often easier, and the expenditure
of energy less. (3) Gaining control over "social time" is
like gaining control over money: they have less, but they
can decide how to spend it (Stein, 1976). (4) They reported
improved self-concept resulting from successfully mastering
decision-making and new tasks.
Kressel et al. Professional Interventioiorc (179)
The goal of this study was to identify the primary
obstacles to a constructive divorcing process and to shed
light on the psychological and interpersonal experience of
those who divorce. Of particular interest was the role of
the professional in helping to produce a cooperative climate
between the spouses, and to secure an acceptable divorce
agreement. This review will be restricted to the
latter--the role of the professional. The research
consisted of lengthy, unstructured interviews with 59
professionals, including 21 psychotherapists, 21 clergy, and
17 lawyers. It was an exploratory study with no attempt at
systematic sampling. Instead, highly expert practitioners
were located through professional organizations, personal
contacts, and referrals by previous respondents.
Findings. (1) There is much similarity in the roles
assumed by psychotherapists and clergy in divorce. Mainly,
they help with the difficult decision of whether to divorce
or not, and, less commonly, help negotiate the terms of the
settlement. When people seek help with a marital problem,
they are more likely to approach a clergyman than a
psychotherapist (Gurin, Veroff, and Feld, 1960). The
clergy's work occurs either as part of congregational
responsibilities, or in connection with religious courts of
divorce or annulment. (2) Lawyers are most frequently
consulted by the divorcee because divorce is the end of one
legal contract and the beginning of another. (3) Although
the lawyers' role in divorce is the most clearly structured,
leading one to expect highest consensus among them, just
the opposite was found. A high level of consensus was
found among therapists and clergy, while lawyers commonly
differed on important issues. (4) This difference among
attorneys resulted from the stresses inherent in their work,
and they used various mechanisms, such as the following, to
cope with the stresses. (a) Act as Undertaker. This
metaphor rests on two assumptions. First, the job is
essentially thankless and messy, and second, the clients are
in a state of emotional "derangement." The words of one
respondent were characteristic: "I represent
psychotic people. All my clients are neurotic, some of them
actually psychotic. If mine aren't, the other side is."
(b) Act as Mechanic. This is a pragmatic, technically
oriented stance. It assumes that clients are capable of
knowing what they want. (c) Act as Mediator. This is
oriented toward negotiating a compromise, with emphasis on
cooperation among all parties. (d) Act as Social Worker.
This stance centers around a concern for the clients'
postdivorce adjustment and overall social welfare. (e) Act
as Therapist. This involves active acceptance of the fact
that the client is in a state of emotional turmoil. (i) Act
as Moral Agent. Here, neutrality is rejected by the
attorney, and he assumes that he should not hesitate to use
his sense of right and wrong. This is widely used when
children are involved.
Four major goals are shared by all three professional
groups. (1) Establish a working alliance. Here again the
lawyers are different. They are likely to be partisans in
the conflict, whereas therapists and clergy are likely to
aspire to the role of mediator. (2) Diagnosis. The first
and most important question here for all three groups is:
Is this marriage truly headed for divorce? (3) Improve the
emotional climate. Here all three groups appeal to self-
interest, the children, and to the norms of fair-play.
However, here the lawyers were narrower in their
orientation than the others. ,(4) Decision-making and
planning. First the decision must be made whether to
divorce or not. If the decision is yes, then they endeavor
to reach a fair settlement. According to the respondents,
typically only one partner has definitively decided to
divorce, and the other has not. Here the professionals must
"orchestrate the motivation to divorce" (Kressel and Deutch,
1977:424), based on the fundamental assumption that a
constructive divorce process is unlikely if both partners
are not ready to end the marriage.
The clergy differed from the other two groups in this
area of decision making and planning on three salient
points. (a) An emphasis on the concrete and practical. The
clergy emphasized the importance of providing immediate
monetary assistance when necessary, and of referring their
clients to therapists and lawyers when indicated. (b)
Accomplishing the religious divorce or annulment. Judaism
and Roman Catholicism have highly formalized divorce and
annulment procedures. Fcr the rabbis and Catholic priests,
involvement in such procedures is the most distinctive and
difficult aspect of their role in divorce. (c) A hiqhtened
concern with postdivorce adjustment. The most organized
efforts to cope with the postdivorce adjustment period were
described by priests and lay respondents working in centers
for divorced Catholics. In these centers, crisis
intervention services, similar to the model established by
Alcoholics Anonymous, were offered: a reference group of
similar others, frequent social contacts, an accepting
religious community, limited individual counseling, group
activities for children, religious group rituals, and
workshops on special problems (e.g. dating, sex and family
Conclusion. The lawyer-run adversary system is not
working. Perhaps the most likely alternative is some form
of mediation akin to that employed in labor-management
Divorce Source of Trauaa
The widespread general belief that divorce tends to be
a painful, crisis producing, traumatic experience for the
partners is widely substantiated in the literature (Goode,
1949, 1956; Hetherinqton et al., 1976a, 1976b; Spanier and
Casto, 1979a, 1979b; Weiss, 1975a; Hunt and Hunt, 1979).
The earliest social analyst of this phenomenon was Willard
Waller who, using the analytic approach on a small number of
persons, identified the personal ill effects of divorce as
shock, ambivalence to oneself and one's partner, and much
frustration and unhappiness. Involved too, of course, is
the disruption of established sexual patterns on both the
physical and emotional levels (Waller, 1930/ 1967). His
conclusion was that there are many aspects and states of
reorganization which the divorcee must qo through at this
crucial period. They are (1) reorqanizinq one's lovelife,
(2) mending of wounded pride, (3) rechannelinq of habits,
(4) reorganizing of social relationships, (5) facing
economic consequences, and (6) ending rebellion.
Generally divorce is a traumatic psychological,
emotional, and social experience which adversely affects the
individuals involved. Landis and Landis (1968) added that
the divorce process involves pain and qrief over the loss
of one's spouse, especially when one does not want the
divorce to take place. Burqess (1926) and Christenseu
(1950) stated that some find divorce to be a shattering
experience, while others do not find it to be so disturbing,
and others find relief.
Haqerty found in his study on divorce at Brigham Younq
University that "many had felt strong trauma in the early
divorce period. With some this feeling decreased .
during the divorce process and then increased again during
the postdivorce readjustment period" (Haqerty, 1961:49).
The most systematic field study to date was conducted by
Goode (1956). He found that about 37 per cent of the
respondents showed little increase in difficulties after
divorce. However, in about two-thirds of the cases, there
was definite evidence of a significant increase in personal
Albrecht (1980) in a study conducted in eight Rocky
Mountain states had similar findings among his 200 female
respondents. Twenty-seven per cent characterized their
divorce experience as traumatic or a nightmare, and an
additional 40 per cent reported it as stressful. Only a
mere 13 per cent described it as relatively painless. The
following factors were identified as contributing to the
trauma. (1) The legal process itself (see Spanier and
Anderson, 1979). (2) The pain and anguish felt by the
children. (3) Financial strain. (4) A feeling of personal
failure. This last factor was the most widespread, having
been mentioned by one-third of the respondents.
Most people regard marriage as a permanent commitment,
and despite the prevalence of divorce, when marriage breaks
up, this is seen by the partners as a personal failure, and
this feeling seems to be a key factor in the trauma and
stress felt by divorced persons.
Eliot (1948) expressed the view that since divorce is
generally a traumatic experience for the individual
involved, full recovery is unusual. This view regarding
recovery is no longer tenable. Recent studies indicate that
recovery from the trauma of separation and divorce seems to
take from two to four years, with the average being closer
to four than to two (Weiss, 1975a:236; Hunt and Hunt,
1979:58). Understandably, those who have had an ongoing
extramarital relationship, or who developed a new
relationship immediately after separation, suffer least
trauma (Baschke, 1976; Hunt and Hunt, 1979).
Separation and divorce cause major changes in one's way
of life, and all major changes cause stress (Holmes and
Rahe, 1967; Selye, 1976). It is no coincidence that the
separated and the divorced have higher rates of suicide,
accidents, and physical illnesses than married people do
(Glick, 1976a:16; Gove, 1973). Further, separated women and
men are 8 and 12 times as likely, respectively, as married
women and men to be hospitalized for mental illness.
These statistics along with those from many other sources
(see Bloom et al., 1979) show that the link between marital
disruption and a great variety of illnesses and disorders is
stronger for men than for women. However, the evidence was
rather unsystematic until recent studies attempted to deal
more systematically with the effects of marital disruption
on both parents and children. Perhaps that partly accounts
for the fact that most of the literature on the problems
faced by the separated and divorced focuses on divorced
women, rather than men.
Apparently the assumption was that marital disruption is
more stressful for women than men. Further, in the
overwhelming majority of cases, the divorcing mothers
receive custody of the children, thereby being burdened wit1
further responsibility, and, possibly increased stress.
Another partial explanation may be found in the increased
interest in the chanqinq roles of women. Lastly,
undoubtedly this emphasis on women results from the
precedent set in Goode's study. Beplication of his work is
the prime reason why this present study focuses exclusively
on the reports of divorced mothers.
For the mother who goes through a divorce, life is often
turned upside down. Fondest dreams, hopes and ideals ace
shattered. Intimate bonds with another are broken,
relationships with children are changed, friendship patterns
are disrupted, new living arrangements must be made,
employment must be found, often for the first time, and on
and on. Separation and divorce cause significant
disruptions in four major spheres of the divorcee's life,
namely the personal, sexual, social and economic.
Disruptions in Her Personal Life
The literature contains numerous reports indicating that
the newly divorced are likely to suffer some amount oi
personal disorganization, anxiety, unhappiness, loneliness,
low work efficiency, increased drinking, and other personal
problems (Gurin, Veroff and Feld, 1960; Rose and Price-
Bonham, 1973; Weiss, 1976a, 1976b). Goode found that the
divorce was preceded by a long period of conflict and
serious decision-making lasting an average ot two years.
The protracted conflict effectively destroyed the love
relationship between the spouses, and replaced it with
unhappiness, anxiety, and a sense of failure. His
respondents reported serious causes for the conflict and
eventual divorce, among which were the following: (1) 33
per cent complained of nonsupport, (2) 22 per cent,
excessive dominance by the husband, (3) 30 per cent,
drinking, (4) 29 per cent, personality problems, (5) 25 per
cent, poor home life, (6) 16 per cent, involvement witn
other women. They were so affected by the long and painful
experience that they suffered from poorer health, greater
loneliness, difficulties with sleep, work and eating, and
having fewer friends during the divorce process and for
lengthy periods afterwards.
Bohannan (1970) by contrasting the enqaqement and wedding
on the one hand, with divorce on the other, offers keen
insight into the pain and rejection of divorce. One or the
reasons it feels so good to be engaged and newly married is
the rewarding sensation that, out of the whole world you
have been selected. One of the reasons that divorce feels
so awful is that you have been de-selected. It punishes
almost as much as the engagement and wedding are rewarding.
Blanck and Blanck (1968) pointed out that since marriage
is a primary relationship involving more facets of an
individual's personality than perhaps any other adult
relationship, its termination represents the loss of a qraat
number of satisfactions.
If the divorcee is ccamitted to her religion, probably
the religious dimension of her personal life will be
seriously disrupted. In many cases the wedding took place
in church with a minister, rabbi or priest presiding, and
"until death doth us part" was an integral part of the
marriage vows. These vows reenforce the personal conviction
that the marriage would bring happiness and fulfillment.
Breaking these vows can be a source of stress for her.
Further, she is likely to experience feelings of quilt and
failure as she interacts with her friends at church because
of her awareness that she has failed to uphold in her
marriage the ideals of her church, regardless of what
denomination she belongs to. Churches are strong proponents
of the sanctity and permanence of marriage, and in face of
this, her quilt and failure feelings may lead to alienation
from her church and her friends there. This is most likely
if she is Catholic because of the following.
In general, Protestants and Jews tend to be tolerant and
accepting of divorce. The latter emphasize that a hate-
filled marriage has lost the sanctity of the Law, and
divorce should be permitted in such a case. However, before
divorce is assented to, the rabbi is obliged to use all
means available through counseling and other aids to remedy
the situation and save the marriage (Gordis, 1967). The
Catholic Church is strongly opposed to divorce ante faqctua
and strongly asserts this position in its laws, official
documents and teachings. Besides, it makes widespread use
of Pre-Cana and Cana conferences, Marriage Encounter, and
other group sessions to reenforce its position and to
promote marital fidelity and fulfillment. For these reasons
the active Catholic who gets a divorce will probably
experience a stronger sense of alienation from her church
and its members than the non-Catholic divorcee. While it is
true that the Catholic Church's attitude towards divorce
post factum is one of tolerance and guarded sympathy, and
that much can be done by the local priest for the
reconciliation of the divorcee (Salter, 1969), it is quite
likely that many such remain unreconciled with the church.
Disruptions in Her Sex Life
Sexual relations between husband and wife are regarded as
a vital part of marriage:
our counselors, clinicians, and clergy join with
the layman in emphasizing that coital
relationships with orgasm for both partners are a
vital and necessary part of life--a goal to be
achieved and maintained. This message is repeated
ad infinitua in marriage manuals and articles in
popular magazines. (Gebhard, 1970:90)
But with divorce that is all changed. Established sex
patterns with her husband are of course disrupted on both
the physical and emotional levels. Some individuals
suppress or repress all sexual desire, and this may be
accompanied by bitterness towards all males. By contrast,
some become relatively promiscuous partly to avenge their
spouses, or to reassure themselves that they are still
desirable. In cases where one's self-image is shattered
promiscuity may arise from the desire to punish and degrade
oneself further (Waller, 1930/1967; Kirkpatrick, 1963).
This is substantiated by Hunt and Hunt (1979). They
reported that 7 or 8 per cent of formerly married womea
became refuserss," neither seeking nor accepting sexual
involvements for several years after separation and divorce,
and sometimes, permanently. This may result from moral and
religious convictions, but much more often, it is the result
of some internal disorder such as fear--fear of males, of
sexual inadequacy and frigidity, of sex itself--or the
inability "to fall out of love" with the former spouse, to
sever the marital emotional ties. This last situation is
scarcely ever permanent. Of course, there are always some
who are incapacitated by chronic illness, disease and
advanced old age.
Secondly, there are the "abusers" who comprised about 5
per cent of female respondents. These use sex in ways taat
perpetuate their internal problems and keep them alienated
from others, regardless of how many physical contacts they
have. They use sex as an analgesic, a pain killer that
gives passing relief from their sense of failure or
undesirability, or as an intoxicant to contract their
chronic low self-esteem or depression; or as a punishment
used vicariously against the former spouses. Some of tne
"abusers" remain stuck here while others outgrow this phase
with an increased sense of self-worth and respect for
others, and learn to appreciate sex as an important part of
a legitimate and healthy relationship, and thus join the
The users typically go through three phases as follows.
(1) Ego-repair. Frequently the trauma of divorce leaves one
with an inadequate self-image, and "dead from the waist
down." Initial sexual encounters give assurance ot self-
worth and abilities. (2) Exploration. Having sex with a
new partner scarcely ever is the same as sex in marriage,
either on the physical or emotional level, and many find
that the new experiences have a type of excitement never
experienced in marriage. This can lead to exploration of
techniques and partners. (3) Reconstruction. This, the
final stage, may be entered after either or both of the
above, or indeed, directly without having to go throuqL
either of them. Here, sex is used as an integral part or a
loving, caring relationship which, if successful and
lasting, leads to remarriage. If not, the search for a new
partner is resumed, a search which may be repeated a number
of times before satisfaction and confidence are achieved,
and commitment to a new marriage takes place.
Corroboration for the disruption of existing sexual
patterns on one hand, and the substantially widespread use
of sex by partners in divorce, on the other, can be found in
two studies on problems closely allied to the sexual
difficulties experienced during the divorce process. The
first deals with the cessation of marital intercourse.
Edwards and Booth (1976) found that marital coitus had
ceased for a definable period (median eight weeks) in one-
third of a random sample of 365 spouses in intact marriages,
who were relatively young and had been married an average of
11 years. They found that 32 per cent of the males and 36
per cent of the females reported such a cessation. Among
those reporting cessation of intercourse, 42 per cent of the
males and 35 per cent of the females reported marital
discord as the cause. This was by far the most common
reason given, followed by illness, decreased interest in
sex, and surgery. Since marital coitus is discontinuous on
such a widespread scale in intact marriages, and since
marital discord is the chief cause, it is justifiable to
assume that usually intercourse between spouses ceases early
in the divorce process, which typically is frouqht with
The other study worth mentioning is by Rindfuss and
Bumpass (1977). They report that a recent Current
Population Survey indicates that about 8 per cent of the
births to twice-married women in recent cohorts occurred
between the dates of their divorces and remarriaqe (U.S
Bureau of the Census, 1974). Many of these babies may have
been conceived in the former marriages, but at the same time
this estimate underestimates the extent of childbearing
during marital disruption because it excludes births between
separation and divorce. Actually a quarter of remarried
women in the 1970 National Fertility Study (Byder and
Westoff, 1971) reported a birth during a period of marital
disruption. Possible explanations of these pregnancies are:
(1) they were a "last chance" effort to save the marriaqgs,
(2) they were caused by future spouses, or (3) they were
fathered by someone else. The effects of these births on
the postdivorce trauma and adjustment merit serious study as
there is no relevant information to date.
Paul Gebhard (1970) published his findings on the sexuia
activity of women whose marriages had been disrupted. His
most salient findings were the following. (1) The majority
of women whose marriages had ended engaged in sexual
intercourse while divorced, separated or widowed. (2) These
women most commonly began postmarital intercourse within one
year after the end of the marriages. (3) The averaqc
frequency varied from 36 to 73 times a year up to the age of
40, after which there was a marked decrease. (4) The
divorced exceeded the widows in terms of the per cent wao
had postmarital relations, the frequency of these relations,
and the speed with which such relations were begun after the
end of the marriages.
Disruptions in Her Social Life
The divorcee is apt to find herself like the "fifth
wheel" in social situations with former friends. Lantz et
al. (1968) asserted that married and engaged women regard
the divorcee as a threat to their relationships with their
husbands or fiances. Ploscowe (1955) expressed the opinion
that many men think that the divorced woman can be sexually
seduced more easily, since they assume she is now sexually
inactive while they know she is sexually experienced. Weiss
(1975a) and Hunt and Hunt (1979) found much supporting
evidence of this attitude among sales. Divorcees, in
consequence, feel an urgent need to make new friends, and
these are frequently found among the ranks of other
divorcees who have shared experiences (Hunt and Hunt, 1979).
Kirkpatrick (1963) stated that to the divorcee, society
seems to be an alien and lonely place, and that sae usually
desires to escape from those things which remind her of her
former husband, or rushes headlong into frenetic
activities. Some prefer to isolate themselves and nurse
their hurt egos in private, while others return to their
families of orientation, seeking the comfort they received
Albrecht (1980) found that his female respondents
reported dropping their memberships in clubs and
organizations, and increasing their interaction with
relatives--a change in their social lives away from
organizations and back towards their families of
Many established social patterns of behavior are
effectively disrupted by divorce, requiring the divorcee to
develop new patterns. The pair relationship is broken
making it necessary to learn to function and live alone
again without the companionship of a spouse. Further, she
may be socially inhibited from revealing her true feelings
if she is bitter, confused or profoundly hurt, and finds
herself forced, as Mowrer (1935) and Horney (1950) pointed
out, to play roles that are undesirable and repelling.
Disruptions in Her Financial Status
In Goode's study, the ensuing financial situation after
the divorce was not perceived as a significant problem by
those mothers who had remarried. However, those who had not
remarried reported financial problems. On the average,
those divorced women had almost as such income, from all
sources, as their ex-husbands had earned. In sharp contrast
to these findings of the late forties, recent data indicate
that objective financial reality for divorced mothers in the
70s was indeed very grim. Single-parent families headed oy
a woman had only half the income, cn the average, of single-
parent families headed by a man, and a mere third of the
income enjoyed by husband-wife families (U.S. Bureau of ta~
Census, 1973). This coincides with more recent data on the
overall picture of the earnings of men and women. In 1977
the median weekly earnings of women were $156, compared with
$253 for men (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1978).
Albrecht's findings (1980) indicate that divorced women's
perceptions of their current income coincide wita the facts.
Two-thirds of his female respondents reported that their
incomes following divorce were significantly lower than
before it. In spite of the passage of time, a mere 7 per
cent of them were able to report a higher postdivorce
income. Consequently, the divorcee is likely to have to
live on a much smaller income than she was accustomed to
during her marriage, and perhaps have to learn to handle her
personal finances herself for the first time in her life.
The number and ages of the children influence the
divorced mother's financial status (Landis and Landis 1968)
and in the majority of cases, child support and alimony are
inadequate for the needs of the divorcee and her children.
The trauma of this experience is often increased by the fact
that she failed to anticipate it realistically (Groves and
Groves, 1947). Many such mothers who never worked before
find it necessary to make a belated entry into the
workforce. Further, their financial situation is often made
worse by difficulty in establishing credit.
Blair (1969) found that the levels of adjustment aiter
divorce were significantly related to Rodqers' (1964) and
Rowe's (1966) stages of the family life cycle. Adjustment
was most difficult for divorcees in Stage VI, at which point
all the children were still living with the divorcee.
Adjustment was least difficult in Stage VII, when the
children were being launched, and the youngest child who was
living with the divorcee was over 20 years of age. This
finding suqqests that the family life cycle stage, rather
than the number of children, may be a more accurate
indicator of adjustment after the divorce.
Approximately 60 per cent of all divorces involve minor
children; "around 1 million children a year suffer through
the dissolution of their families" ("Children of Divorce,"
1980:58). Divorce often produces trauma in these children.
This is especially so when the children believed that their
parents were happily married. On the other hand, where the
marriage was obviously unhappy, the children often
experience relief when the divorce takes place (Landis,
Legal Process Source of Trauma
The Adversary System
Until a decade ago the adversary system of divorce was
used and is still in wide use today. This process tends to
generate strife and bitterness because one of the partners
is accused of wrongdoing, and the attorneys of both parties
seek to get the best possible settlements for their
respective clients. Virtually all authorities agree that
such of the vindictiveness which traditionally has been
associated with divorce is traceable to the hostilities tnat
are engendered by the divorce process (Leslie 1982:565).
Spanier and Anderson (1979) conducted in-depth interviews
with 205 people in Pennsylvania who had been separated 26
months or less. Over half of their respondents indicated
dissatisfaction with the legal process includingq the laws,
judges, attorneys, etc.) and 84 per cent desired change in
the Pennsylvania law, still usinq the adversary system
exclusively. These respondents experienced a wide range of
problems with the legal system, most of them centering
around the attorneys. One-third of them found their
attorneys no help at all, half of them believed the
attorneys' fees were outrageous or too high, and 29 per cent
of them were advised by their attorneys to do things which
were calculated to aggravate their spouses. They suggested
such things as not paying bills, not speaking to the other
spouse, taking money out of the savings account, and moving
out of the house. The study strcnqly suqqests that the
adversary system encourages collusion and dishonesty.
Significant numbers reported lying in hearings and using
trumped-up statements in court which were to their own
advantage and damaging to the spouse.
Under the adversary system of divorce, roundsd" for
divorce have to be presented. About 52 per cent of all U.S.
divorces have been granted on legal grounds of physical or
mental cruelty. Mental cruelty is an umbrella category
which includes suspicion, jealousy, untruthfulness, and
vague subjective complaints (Levinger, 1966). About 23 per
cent of divorce cases were granted on qrcunds of desertion,
4 per cent for non-support, and about 1 per cent for
adultery. Needless to say, these legal rounds for divorce
are not necessarily the real causes of divorce, and may uot
coincide with the causes perceived by the spouses involved.
Studies have found little relationship between statutory
grounds for divorce and the actual causes of marital
failure (Harmsworth and Minnis, 1955; Mowrer, 1924; Stetson
and Wright, 1975).
In a study of 600 couples filing for divorce in
Cleveland, Ohio, Levinqer (1966) reported on the causes
presented by the divorcing couples. Overall, wives'
complaints were twice as numerous as husbands'. They
complained 11 times more frequently than husbands about
physical abuse, four times more often about financial and
drinking problems, and three times more than husbands about
Only in three categories did husbands complain more
frequently than the wives: sexual incompatability, in-law
trouble, and excessive demands. Mental cruelty was brought
up most frequently by both sexes: 40 per cent of the
females and 29.7 per cent of the males mentioned it. Next
came neglect of home and children: 39 per cent of the
females and 26.2 per cent of the males singled tais cut.
Financial problems and physical abuse tied as the third most
widespread complaint from the females: 36.3 per cent of
them listed both. By comparison, only 8.7 per cent of the
males referred to financial problems and a mere 3.3 per cent
complained of physical abuse. This last figure on physical
abuse raises some questions in view of the fact that other
studies have found that up to one-third of families in whica
violence is used report physical hitting by the wife
As might be expected many more females (26.5 per cent)
than males (5 per cent) complained of spouses with drinking
problems. In the matter of infidelity, 24 per cent of the
females and 20 per cent of the males accused their spouses
Levinger found that complaints differed across
socioeconomic lines. In general, spouses in tae middle-clasa
were more concerned with psychological and emotional
interaction, while those in the lower-class mainly mentioned
financial problems, and the physical actions of their
partners. This coincides with Galbraith's observation:
"In a poor society, not only do economic considerations
dominate social attitudes but they rigidly specify the
problems that will be accorded priority" (Galbraith,
1964:117). Further, Maslow (1954) stated that each human
desires to fulfill a variety of needs and postulated the
following categorical order in which they can be gratified.
(1) Subsistence needs of hunger, thirst, and other
physiological requirements. (2) Needs for safety and
protection from external harm. (3) Needs for love, belouq-
inqness and inter-personal warmth. (4) Needs for esteem and
respect from other persons. (5) Only after the above are
satisfied to a minimal extent can the individual seek to
Levinger concludes that even in the U.S. a large
proportion of married couples are so heavily engaged with
coping to satisfy the needs of the first and second levels
(subsistence and safety), that they are unable to worry
about the achievement of mature love or interpersonal
respect, not to speak of that rare quality of self-actual-
ization. Verbal therapies may be not merely unsuccessful,
but largely irrelevant to the needs of individuals striving
at the basic level during and after the divorce process.
Komarovsky (1964) and Rubin (1976) had similar findings
in their studies of working-class couples. In these
marriages they found little attention given to such
qualities as sharing, communication, and intimacy. Their
most important marriage goals were being able to provide a
reasonably good living and "being good to the children."
As a better and more realistic approach to divorce and to
reduce the trauma involved, Florida and California
implemented no-fault divorce laws in the early 70s (Nye and
Berardo, 1973). Since then over half of the American states
have adopted various forms of no-fault divorce laws (Wriaht
and Stetson, 1978). In general, these new laws dropped the
term "divorce" and substituted "dissolution of marriage," to
be granted because of the irremediable breakdown of the
Under no-fault laws either spouse can be required to pay
alimony, and the court can require either or both to
contribute to the support of minor children. In California,
since its law went into effect, a significantly smaller
percentage of women with young children have been receiving
alimony than formerly (Bunt and Bunt, 1979:209). However,
it is unclear if this is the result of the new laws or
simply the continuation of an already existing trend,
because a national survey in 1975 found that only one out
of every seven separated or divorced women had been awarded
alimony or maintenance--half as many as in 1939 (Bryant,
The no-fault divorce laws would appear to be more liberal
than those of the adversary system, making it easier for
parties to obtain divorce. But that does not mean that the
no-fault laws led to higher divorce rates. Indeed, making
divorce laws more restrictive or more liberal has appeared
to have had little effect on the divorce rate (Abel, 1973;
Wright and Stetson, 1978). Besides, it has been claimed
that strict laws have failed to restrict climbing divorce
rates because those seeking divorces have been able to
manipulate the laws and the legal system (Blake, 1962;
Spanier and Anderson, 1979). Bheinstein (1971) argued that
perjury, falsification of evidence, and unnecessary
animosity and hardship, rather than a lowering of the
divorce rate, have been the outcome of the adversary system.
Trauma Peak Precedes Divorce Decree
Existing data indicate that the period of greatest trauma
for the couples is not at the time of the divorce itself.
Goode's respondents indicated that the worst time was at the
final separation. In Albrecht's study (1980) they
characterized the period of final decision as the most
difficult. This was a period of increasing conflict between
the spouses, forcing them to choose divorce as an
alternative to a bad relationship.
This is consistent with the findings of Brown et al.
(1976) who, during in-depth interviews with a sample of
divorcees living in the Boston area, found that a
significant majority of those women reported that things
were "easier now" compared with the period prior to the
divorce. It would seem that despite the problems faced by
the divorcees in heading a family all alone, and in trying
to provide for it on reduced resources, they consider their
lot better than what they had to endure during the final
stages of their marriages.
Anyhow, typically by the time the divorce actually takes
place, at least the very worst is over. The individuals
work through the trauma by drawing on their own inner
resources, and with help from their own families and
friends, and sometimes from professionals too.
After divorce they move steadily towards dating and then
remarriage. Goode (1956) found that 54 per cent of mothers
who had been divorced two years had remarried. Hunt and
Hunt (1979) found that divorcees in recent years had become
more cautious about entering new love relationships and
remarriages, probably because the spiraling divorce rate
caused wariness towards remarriage. They found that only 40
per cent of all divorcees had remarried within tree years
after the divorce. This may be partially explained by the
current phenomenon of living together.
During the 1970s living together became a widespread
social phenomenon, especially among college students. In
1979 there were over two and a half million Americans living
together without being married. This was more taan double
the number reported in 1970 (U.S. Bureau of the Census,
1980). Very few studies of this phenomenon among non-
college student populations have been conducted. One such
study collected data from a nationwide random sample of 2510
men between the ages of 20 and 30 years (Clayton and Voss,
1977). The authors concluded that cohabitation may be a
prelude to marriage for some persons. For others,
especially those who have experienced unsatisfactory
marriages, cohabitation may be a temporary or permanent
alternative to remarriage. So this phenomenon may partially
explain the apparently slower rate of remarriage among
divorcees in recent years.
Another explanation may be found in the "marriage
penalty" tax law. It was created in 1969 by Congress waen
it revised the tax laws to reduce a sizeable penalty imposed
on single taxpayers, but the correction created a new
problem. The tax on the combined income of a husband and
wife with comparable salaries is considerably higher than it
would be if the earners were single and reported their
Under the law, marriage can cost $391 for a couple making
$20,000 a year. If the couple jointly earns $60,000, the
"marriage penalty" amounts to $3,654.
To get around paying the extra tax, some married
couples have gotten divorced, some singles live
together out of wedlock, and some who find
cohabitation morally uncomfortable have postponed
wedding plans. ("Tax laws may end profits gained
by 'living in sin.'" 1981:12A)
Many authors for many years have been pointing out that
although divorce is costly from a social and psychological
standpoint, it is undesirable and indeed impossible for
couples to remain married in all cases (Llewellyn, 1933;
MacIver, 1937; Bee, 1959; Udry, 1966; and Woable, 1966).
Consequently, divorce can be a positive, beneficial
experience offering a legitimate escape from an intolerable
situation and an avenue to a new life in remarriage or
mature singlehood. Even when divorce is a traumatic
experience it can be transformed into a creative process.
A creative divorce is essentially the beginning of
a journey of self-discovery and development,
triggered by the crisis of separation, that can go
on for as long as you live. The elements of a
creative divorce are found in even the earliest
stages of separation when you recognize and
appreciate the "seeds beneath the snow," those
early signs of the undiscovered person that was
buried in your marriage. (Krantzler, 1973:236)
Cycle of Divorce
Divorce is a very complex and prolonged experience as
well as a painful one. That is because so many things are
happening at once in the process. These various components
of the complex experience can come in different orders and
in varying intensities, and they are the more painful and
puzzling for the individual because our society is not yet
equipped to handle any of them well.
Bohannan (1970) identified six main components in the
divorce experience, components which he calls overlapping
experiences. They are as follows. (1) The emotional
divorce which centers around the problem of the
deteriorating marriage. (2) The legal divorce based on
grounds. (3) The economic divorce which deals with aoney
and property. (4) The coparental divorce which deals with
custody, single-parent homes and visitation. (5) The
community divorce surrounding the changes of friends and
community that every divorcee experiences. (6) The psychic
divorce, dealing with the problems of regaining individual
Further comment on these six components will be confined
to the first and last on the list. These two, the emotional
divorce and the psychic divorce, merit fuller explanation
because they shed much light on the postdivorce adjustment
cycle, which is central in this dissertation. Besides, the
other four components have been amply elaborated on
Emotional divorce is likely to be the first visible stage
of a deteriorating marriage. This occurs when the partners
withold positive emotions and displace them with negative
ones. They may continue to work together as a social team,
but their attraction and trust for each other have
disappeared. The natural and healthy "qrowinq apart" of the
stable married couple is very different from this. As
marriages mature, the spouses grow in new directions, but
they also develop bonds of growing interdependence. With
emotional divorce, people do not grow together as they grow
apart. Instead they become mutually antagonistic and grate
on each other. Conflicts erupt over real or perceived
issues, and sometimes they are afraid to fight over the real
issues, but instead, through displacement, fight over the
two major socially accepted issues: sex and money.
Finally comes the psychic divorce. It is usually the
last and always the most difficult. Bohannan (1970) stated
that he could not find a word sufficiently strong or precise
enough to describe the difficulty of the psychic divorce
process. Weiss (1975a) uses the term "imprinting." The
phenomenon of imprinting in the animal world is well
documented. Something analogous takes place between
spouses, and the ensuing bonds are extremely hard to sever
definitively. Each partner to the ex-marriage must turn
himself or herself again into an autonomous social
individual completely independent of the former spouse.
Further, people who are married tend to become socially part
of a couple or a family and lose the habit of seeing
themselves as individuals. As they are faced with the need
to become autonomous again they are probably afraid and feel
unable to cope, and are certainly lonely. This partly
explains the widespread phenomenon experienced by
researchers of divorce: the tendency of divorcees to
indulge in "instant intimacy," pouring out their most
intimate troubles to a perfect stranger as a catharsis. The
grief has to be worked out alone without benefit of
traditional rites. In divorce one is very much on one's
Cycle of Readjustment
Waller and Hill (1951) proposed a general theory of
readjustment which postulated four stages of reaalustment
through which divorcees progress: (1) breaking old habits,
(2) beginnings of reconstruction of life, (3) seeking new
love objects, and (4) readjustment completed.
Blair (1969) found that three-fourths of her divorcee
respondents had attained a medium level of adjustment and
that breaking old habits was the longest and most difficult
stage in the cycle. They completed the four stages of
adjustment not in the order listed by Waller and Hill, but
in the following sequence: (1) beginnings of reconstruction
of life, (2) seeking new love objects, (3) breaking old
habits, and (4) readjustment completed. These stages will
be described now in this empirical sequence.
1. Beginnings of reconstruction of life. Readjustment
involves a painful mourning process which is filled with
memories of the past. The divorcee begins to emerge from
the stage of regression in which she first found herself
when sex expression on the adult, socialized level was
blocked. This emergence may involve some degradation of
sex, and promiscuity. Some few remain blocked at this level
but the majority progress as they find solace for their ego
wounds. The divorcee re-forms her social world to meet her
new circumstances. The world organized for dual
participation no longer accommodates her conveniently and
she must alter her associations somewhat and form new
friends. With great pain new habits begin to be formed.
After the shock of loss, she may not care to go on living at
first, but she does go on living. She must eat, sleep,
shop, and work alone. For a time these activities are
meaningless, empty, and painful. She may find herself
unburdening her secrets and troubles in casual contacts
because of the pain of lost intimacy.
2. Seeking new love objects. At this stage, in the area
of sex the divorcee is no longer seeking an outlet for her
blocked sex life, but searches for a new love obiect--one to
love and to be loved by as before. This may involve a
series of affairs which gradually approach or even surpass
the nature and intensity of the one that has been broken.
One's daily tasks begin to take on meaning again even though
a certain amount of mourning still endures.
3. Breaking old habits. Habits, especially those laden
with emotion and based on close intimacy, prove to be quite
difficult to be broken. Part of the difficulty lies in the
fact that the regular routine of daily living must go on,
and these actions--sitting down to breakfast, deciding what
to cook, solving problems, etc.--all bring back memories of
the former spouse, because he was part of or central to
these activities. This gives rise to poignancy and grief
over and over again. Even when it seems that one has gotten
over it, some insignificant object or action, or meeting an
old friend can trigger it all again. It is like a chronic
illness that comes and goes but keeps going on and on.
(4) Readjustment completed. The mourning process is
terminated, and unsettling memories eventually cease.
Sexual readjustment is complete in that one has found a new
meaningful love object or arranged one's sex life in some
other way in mature adulthood which no longer causes
conflict. Habits take on a new meaning and are organized
into a new life. A strain of consistency exerts itself into
the personality. A new life organization and a new
philosophy of life emerge. Readjustment is complete.
The theoretical framework for this survey is based on
Lee's theory of migration in terms of push and pull factors
(Lee, 1966). First, Lee defined migration broadly as a
permanent or semi-permanent change of residence. No
restriction was placed by Lee upon the distance of the move
nor upon the voluntary or involuntary nature of the act, and
no distinction was made between external and internal
migration. Since divorce involves permanent or semi-
permanent change of residence for at least one of the
spouses (except in the instance when both continue to live
under the same roof after divorce) divorce can be included
in Lee's broad definition of migration. Besides the process
of physical movement there is also, of course, the departure
and re-entry or relocation in both the social and socio-
Factors in the Divorce Decision and Process
The factors which enter into the decision to divorce and
the process of divorce may be categorized under four
headings. (1) Endogenous factors associated with the
marriage itself, which is the point of origin. (2)
Exogenous factors associated with divorce and after, which
form the destination. (3) Intervening obstacles and
facilitating networks and resources. (4) Personal factors.
In every marriage there are many endogenous factors which
act to hold the spouses together in the marriage, and still
other endogenous factors which tend to separate them. There
are still others to which spouses are essentially
indifferent. Some of these factors affect most people in
the same way, while others affect different people in
various ways. Thus fulfillment and happiness would tend to
keep the spouses together, whereas serious continuous
conflict would tend to repel them away from each other. By
contrast, protectiveness would be viewed positively by a
dependent type spouse, but negatively by an autonomous type.
Turning now to the destination, divorce and after, a
spouse may perceive positives and negatives there which are
called exogenous factors. Autonomy, professionalism,
further education and similar factors would be seen as pull
factors. Lower income, greater responsibility, loneliness
and similar considerations could be seen as repelling
Needless to say, all factors that serve as push and pull
forces at the locus of origin--marriage, and
destination--divorce and after, are precisely understood
neither by sociologists nor the spouses themselves. Like
Bentham's calculus of pleasure and pain, the calculus of the
push and pull factors at the origin and destination is
However, this important difference between the factors at
the locus of origin and destination needs to be noted. The
factors at the locus of criqin are present, pressing and
well perceived by the spouse involved. But the factors at
destination are distant, in the future, and somewhat
uncertain. This uncertainty can cause either fear or
excitement depending on one's personality.
While divorce may result from a comparison of the
endogenous factors at origin and the exoqenous factors at
destination, a simple calculus of the plusses and minuses
does not bring about the decision to divorce. The balance
in favor of the move or decision must be enough to overcome
hesitancy and fear to act.
Further, between the two points or loci there stands a
set of intervening obstacles which must be overcome. Amonq
these obstacles are the legal divorce process, custody of
children and property settlements, and community norms
counter to divorce. These obstacles differ from state to
state, individual to individual, and community to community.
Overcoming these obstacles can be made easier by
facilitating networks and resources, such as good friends, a
helpful attorney, professional aid, and financial resources.
Finally, there are many personal factors which facilitate
or retard the decision to divorce. One such important