Thesis: Decline of the Institution of Marriage Divorce

Pages: 6 (1838 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage  ·  Buy This Paper

Decline of the Institution of Marriage

Anti-Divorce Roots and Rationale

The family revolution in the last half-century has been characterized by a decline in social power, functions and moral authority within the family (Wilcox 2007). It has been followed by pre-marital and extramarital child-bearing, divorce and single parenthood. Conservatives see these phenomena as a big drain the United States and its citizens and cause of family breakdown. The family revolution, which has led to family breakdown, in the last 50 years appears as a sharp deviation from the wisdom and intention of American Founders, such as John Witherspoon and John Adams. They saw and envisioned the family as the foundation of social virtue as far back as the colonial times. It was indispensable to the existence, functioning and survival of the new nation being founded by the colonists. Even contemporary liberal political theorists like William Galston and social scientists like Linta Waite contended that the family revolution was a threat to the people. They held that liberal values, such as equality, reason, respect for persons and self-governance should be preserved (Wilcox).

Despite the strong tide of family revolution, especially in the late 60s and 70s, conservative Protestant leaders and their institutions stuck hard to the institution of marriage and family (Wilcox 2007). They promoted a familistic ideology, which endowed the family with transcendent social, emotional and moral significance. They introduced a familistic viewpoint, aimed at preserving the marital status as the only acceptable condition for sexual activity, child-bearing and raising children. They complemented this hand-line policy by openly targeting and attacking non-marital sex, homosexuality, abortion, parenting and divorce. They rejected divorce because it directly opposes the imperative of the home as the basis of faith and morality for God and country. They urged the nation to make sure their homes are Christ-centered. Husbands and wives should behave as responsible Christians. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, for example, described healthy parenthood. It would consist in "love and control," which should operate in a family "system of checks and balances (Wilcox)."

A 2004 study showed that born-again Christians were as likely to get divorced as non-Christians at 35% (Dean 2006). About a quarter of surveyed Christians had a divorce twice or thrice. Christian respondents saw divorce as a sin at only 25%. Professor Andreas Kostenberger of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminar deplored how Christian marriages end up in divorce. He pointed to the sole root of divorce as sin and a low view and appreciation of marriage. He also explained the rise in church divorce rate as growing out of "a secular mindset," which offers only "superficial remedies that do not deal with the deeper problems." He argued that Christians need a deeper understanding of biblical marriage. It comes within the broader context of the Bible and not only from tips of better communication between husband and wife (Dean).

Divorce and the Media

The media have depicted and played up pathological occurrences within many married two-parent families (Whitehead 2003). Movies, programs and interviews of celebrities dramatize disturbing secrets of family abuse, violence, alcoholism and incest. A pop therapist reported that 96% of families in this generation are dysfunctional largely because of the addictions of society. Although confli8ct, violence and abuse are found in families, the attack on established families is seen as part of a massive campaign to promote large-scale social deviance. Former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan deplored how deviant behavior had increased "beyond affordable recognition" by the community. In an interview, the former senator said deviant behavior or values had been normalized. There has been a replacement. What was once deviant has become the social norm. A typical example is the married-couple family. These complementary responses not only reduced the reality of the deviance. It also erased the distinction between what was normal and what was deviant (Whitehead).

Many recent studies presented married family life after the last World War as the setting of alcoholism and abuse (Whitehead 2003). Married female respondents of the 50s viewed it as consisting of nothing more than "booze, bowling, bridge and boredom." Media practitioners played up with family scandals like that of the beautiful 1958 Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur, who was violated by her father from age 5 to 18. Food writers reported that the good mothers of the 50s were unable to move out of their existence as queens of the kitchen. This evolved and popular perception of family life was not solely that of the cultural elite. Surveys showed and publications reported that Americans today became less inclined than a generation ago to observe sexual fidelity, lifelong marriage, and parenthood as personal values. Through the massive and effective influence of the media, motherhood ceased to be inherent to adult womanhood and fatherhood to men as the norm. Surveys conducted in 1976 revealed that men no longer considered providing for their children as a goal in life. A large percentage of them considered marriage and children a burdensome restriction. Fewer among them considered sacrificing for others or family a positive moral virtue. In response to this wave of disregard for intact marriage and family, organizations and publications launched a massive drive against single parenthood, divorce, and out-of-wedlock birth as "a tragedy for children and a catastrophe for the rest of society (Whitehead)."

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dean, Jamie. Putting Asunder. Vol 21 # 23, World Magazine: worldmag.com, 2006.

Retrieved on December 11, 2009 from http://www.worldmag.com/articles/11925

Wilcox, W. Bradford. How Focused on the Family. New York: The Russell Sage

Foundation, 2008. Retrieved on December 11, 2009 from http://www.virginia.edu/sociology/News/HowFocsedontheFamily-wbw-gerson.pdf

Whitehead, Barbara Dafoe. Family, Children, Marriage, Divorce. Arlindo Correia, 2003.

Retrieved on December 11, 2009 from http://www.arlindo-correia.com/080203.html

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Solutions

The popularization of divorce threatens the adequacy of economic support from husbands and fathers to wives and children (Bergmann 2008). This has been increasingly taken up by women in single-parent homes, which suffer relatively from insufficient income and quality time for children and housekeeping. Government-sponsored initiatives to promote marriage and reduce divorce have been in force as inspired by the religious right. These initiatives have spent hundreds of millions of dollars for training courses and counseling for those entering marriage and those in troubled marriages. They are conducted mainly by religious entities. Prospective partners assess themselves if they are ready for the commitment of marriage. The attempt has helped reduce both marriage and divorce but not the proportion of children in single-parent homes (Bergmann).

Government money has also been spent for sex education in schools to encourage sex before marriage (Bergmann 2008). Sex education programs exclude the use or mention of contraceptives and the availability of abortion. The religious right is also behind the initiative of reducing sex outside marriage, at least for women. Complementing it is the drive to make men more willing to marry. The restoration of the practice of shotgun marriages may also be resorted by the religious right. Shotgun marriage pressures a man in a sexual relationship, which leads to pregnancy. It has, however, been identified as a major cause of out-of-wedlock births. Not only is the man unwilling to enter marriage. The bride also does not see many options other than agreeing to it (Bergmann).

Child support is the major response to the economic support of children of divorce (Bergmann 2008). But child support payments have been difficult to collect (Bergmann 2008). This is partly because the father sees the payment as unjust to him. He believes that the woman alone makes the decision to proceed with the pregnancy and to exact 18 years of payments from the man. Another reason is that payments are supposed to go to the legitimate needs of the child. But these payments instead become part of the household income and are used by the mother for her own purposes. A proposal to correct the situation is tax exemption for all adults aged 25-60 living with a child (Bergmann).

Looking for Effective Programs

The administration's proposed state demonstrations and research on marriage could serve as the foundation for a national movement to promote family and healthy marriage (Haskins et al. 2005). Recent reviews showed that many state and local organizations as well as a few foundations are planning and conducting a wide range of marriage initiatives. When sufficient evidence surfaces that these varied activities work, then public funding may be channeled to them. But diversity is encouraged more and more. One immediate problem is that the bills pending in Congress on programs on the promotion of state marriages do not require evaluation. Requiring an evaluation is not only inherently difficult and expensive. States may also not opt for the grant programs. The Secretary of Human Health Services may encourage state participation in these grant programs by selecting the most promising ones as targets. The HHS Department may then finance the evaluations. The Department or the Secretary may also elicit funding help from foundations for the evaluations in order to insure the effective implementation of the program models… [END OF PREVIEW]

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