Content and Analysis
In total I have done 3 interviews, 6 people have participated in these, 2 couples and 2 single persons. The ages of these participants are varied.
(Names have been changed)
The first person to interview was my Aunt Petunia aged 47. She is widowed and only been married once, she has never been divorced.
Secondly I interviewed Sally 46 and James 56; they have been married for 18 years.
Dom 16 from my sociology also class took part in my project.
And lastly Monika 21 and Samuel 24 who are a cohabiting couple.
My first key finding was that marriage and divorce nowadays is not seen as a such a big issue as it was once, when asking my sister Monika and her partner Samuel, a young couple whether they intended on marrying they said that they probably wouldn’t but that if they did it wouldn’t be for themselves, but for their parents who did see it as important.
Monika said “I don’t see marriage as a big deal, it’s only a bit of paper, I don’t need it, I already know Sam loves me and he knows I love him, what’s the point? Too much work!!”
Her partner Sam seemed to share this opinion with her, “If Monika sees getting married as a big deal I wouldn’t mind, but if she doesn’t then that’s cool too”.
They both seemed to be in love with each other and completely comfortable about talking about their future plans with me, they also seemed very honest and didn’t seem to just tell me what they thought I wanted to hear.
Dom my youngest participant said that he was too young to even be thinking about marriage but that if he was to end up in a serious relationship he wouldn’t mind whether he married the girl or not. “I don’t really see why bother, it wouldn’t change anything but not getting married is better really because if you get along badly you don’t have to divorce after”.
This suggests that people do see divorce as a threat and that people may be choosing not to marry so as to avoid divorce.
Therefore my first key finding likes to the study of Robert Chester (1985).
Robert Chester said that the nuclear family wasn’t going to stop existing, families would still have 2 adults together, it would just change its form, instead of having married couples step families or cohabiting couples living together. This has been the case with my younger participants.
Sally and James revealed to me during our interview that although they weren’t in love that they would never consider divorce as they have their children and religion to think about, they also need each other economically.
“Why divorce if we’re fine as we are, it’s a big effort and me and the children wouldn’t be able to survive without James’s help, and he wouldn’t be able to survive without mine either, also our religion doesn’t allow us to divorce as it’s seen as wrong, I completely agree with this.”
When talking to Petunia I found that she was more religious and traditional than I had thought, I discovered that when her husband had been alive they had had marital problems and he had committed adultery, yet she never left him or asked for a divorce.
“I just saw divorce as wrong, my opinions have changed not, but before I thought that if you don’t want to be with somebody you shouldn’t marry them in the first place, I made a promise and I had to keep it, no matter what”.
Petunia used to see divorce as something very extreme and would never have one; this was because of the way she had been brought up and her religious beliefs, in her “old age” this has all changed.
Another key finding was that nowadays if people do en up marrying it is more out of love than before because they know that if they fall out of love they can simply divorce, unlike before when you had to marry because of expectations and stay married for the same reason.
In my interview with Petunia I asked her if she had loved her husband and if this was the reason why she had married him, she said “I did learn to love him, but that wasn’t the reason why I married him, I married him because it was expected of me, I learnt to love him later on”.
As she comes from a religious family when she was younger her being single was seen as wrong, she therefore married the first “good man” she found, despite not being in love. Luckily she learnt to love him as she wouldn’t have considered a divorce no matter what.
Sally and James, an older couple didn’t marry due to love either, when I asked why they married then Sally answered “I got pregnant”.
I was shocked by her answer but didn’t show this, I controlled my facial expressions and body language.
When Sally said this, James looked didn’t look at all shocked, I could tell that this was something that they had already spoken about. They saw it as the right thing to do.
When I spoke to Sally alone I asked her if she had ever considered divorcing James as she wasn’t in love with him, she came across as a bit unhappy to me although she tried to hide it, she told me that although she had considered divorce in the past “it just wasn’t possible” .
Dom despite not wanting to think about marriage and divorce at such an early age revealed that he would only consider getting into such a thing if he was in love, “I don’t need it, but if the girl I’m with wants to and I love her I’d make the sacrifice for her”, he than laughed and made a joke “we’d probably end up divorcing anyway, why bother?” Although it was a joke it made me think about how young people see divorce, years back this joke wouldn’t even occur to people, now as divorce is seen as so normal people even find jokes like these funny.
Sam, from the cohabiting couple said “the only reason we’re with each other now is out of love, and if I were to get married I would have to be in love, but whatever, if she wants it we will, if not we wont, it won’t change anything, for me it’s not a priority”
This suggests that because love is now more of a priority in relationships divorce is more common and acceptable, because if love doesn’t last people want to move on.
This makes me agree with what functionalists Ronald Fletcher and Talcott Parsons say, they believe that people expect more from marriages nowadays, therefore they would consider divorcing more if things don’t work out as expected.
Ronald Fletcher says that people are not rejecting the idea of marriage, they are just expecting more from their relationships.
My third key finding is that people DO think that divorces can affect your mental health, whether it is in a positive or negative way.
Dom my youngest participant told me that his parents are divorced, he told me that it has affected him badly although he has gotten used to the situation now. His parents divorce occurred when he was only 13 as they were always fighting, he said to me that it did affect him in a negative way, he rebelled against his mother as it was her who had wanted the divorce therefore he thought she was to blame for everything, he stopped going to school, deep down he knew that the divorce was for the best as his parents were very unhappy and there were a lot of arguments all the time.
Sally and James didn’t have much to say in this part of my interview, they did say that they believed divorcing was something that must be thought about carefully especially if the couple have children as peoples health must be considered and taken into account. Sally told me that she had never experienced a divorce close to home and was grateful for this. James unfortunately couldn’t say the same as his brother got divorced not long ago.
He told me that when his brother got divorced that he didn’t know how to help him and felt useless. He also said his brother became extremely depressed and how his brothers’ children also suffered and spent a lot of time in his house. James’s also spoke about his brothers ex-wife and how her quality of life became a lot better since the divorce, he said that she began to look after herself again and began to enjoy life and was more happy. This proves to me how divorce can affect people positively as well as negatively, depending on the situation and the person.
Sam didn’t have much to say in this part of the interview, he said that the only person he knew intimately who had been affected by a divorce was Monika, he spoke about how unhappy Monika had been when her parents split. When interviewing Monika I decided to talk about this in complete privacy. I already knew how she had been affected by divorce as we share parents but I thought that I should interview her either way as I had to be professional.
When talking Monika became very upset and even cried, she said how much it hurt her as she is not in contact with her mother anymore and doesn’t know where she is and how she felt so lost and lonely since her parents divorced, she said how everything is different now and that although she was grown up how she felt that she still deserved and needed both of her parents attention and wasn’t getting it. Since the divorce Monika has begun to suffer from panic attacks and depression. The divorce has affected Monika in a very tough way.
The last person to talk about the effects of divorce to me was Petunia, Petunia told me that although she doesn’t know anybody who has been affected by a divorce that she thinks that it must be extremely traumatising for somebody, whether it is one of the people getting divorced or their child. Petunia said “getting divorced must be terrible, especially for the children, they aren’t to blame for anything yet suffer from all the consequences.”
I believe that these findings have things in common with Anthony Giddens (1991) findings; he said that divorce can have good points and bad points; he said “it can cause great psychological harm, yet can also offer new opportunities and freedoms”, this judging from my findings is completely true.
My fourth and final key finding is that most people believe that the increase in divorce is due to the changing role of women.
Monika from my cohabiting couple told me that she believes that divorce is on the up as women are more free and independent than they used to be, “now we can work and do whatever we want, we don’t need a man to look after us which is only right, we can support ourselves emotionally and most importantly economically”.
Sam her parent agreed with her but didn’t say much, he did admit that less sexism was the reason though.
Dom from my sociology class also agreed with this, he said that men weren’t “the rulers of this world” anymore, that women were having more and more rights as time passed and that they had it easier than a few years back, as Dom does sociology he has studied this subject and was able to talk to me about it clearly and had a good idea about the subject. He spoke to me about expectancies from women and how things were better for them now. “The reason why so many people divorce now is because women can, good for them”.
He spoke about how nowadays women can work and live alone without people judging them or seeing them as “weird”.
Sally and James didn’t talk much about this aspect of my project to me.
Sally said to me in private that if things were before “in her times” like they are now that she would never have married James, she made me promise to not tell him this, and I of course promised and didn’t say anything. She also said that she was happy that things were better for women nowadays and that less sexism was good as it meant that less and less women would end up in her position. She said all this despite her religion.
James didn’t seem too keen on this, he said that it was “all a bunch of *******” and that women wanted too much freedom, he also said that women were too liberal in these times and how things were so much better before.
Petunia also thought that the reason for more divorce was the changing role of women, she told me that although when her husband was alive she depended on him that once he had passed away she became completely independent. She told me about how she used to be scared as she didn’t have any qualifications and had never worked in her life and then amazed at how easy making her own money and decisions had been. “Before when I was younger I used to think about how great being a man must be as they were in charge, now I love being a woman.”
Feminists such as Barrett, McIntosh and Sylvia Walby mostly disagree with my findings as they believe that we still live in a male dominated world, my participants all agreed that rights are equal now, whether this is true or not I cannot say.
The older respondents seemed to suggest that if women’s roles had been equal to men’s when they were younger they would have had more opportunity to divorce.