Marriage, Divorce and the Working Woman


The Conflict Theory and Divorce

A renowned sociological theory that tries to explain divorce in marriages is the conflict theory, which was pioneered by Karl Mark in 1844. The theory proposes that conflicts are inspired and intensified by deficiency, distribution of power, and emotional involvement. In relation to divorce, the conflict theory states that married couples face long-lasting problems trying to restrict themselves to the interests of each. The conflict theory also holds that when one of the spouses is deprived of some aspect of their marital relationship, time, attention, competition for affection, and power tends to increase. As a result, a negative state of interdependence arises between the married individuals. Additionally, the theory explains the aspect of emotional involvement, which is an important factor towards conflicts in marriages. If there is a high emotional involvement between the couples, conflicts are likely to prevail and induce a divorce. The implication is that people conflict over competing self-interests such as resources, wealth, and power. The conflict theory is a credible hypothesis in explaining divorce because it describes the forms of competition that exist between couples and the negative effects inflicted on marriage.

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The State of Marriages and Divorce in the United States

Marriage and divorce are common experiences in the US, and 90 percent of the populations marry before the reach the age of 50 years. Healthy marriages are considered good for both the mental and physical health of married couples as well as the physical, educational, and emotional wellbeing of the children growing in those families. However, 40 to 50 percent of all marriages break before the children attain the age of 18 years. Presently, divorces in the United States have been recognized as major challenges facing many marriages, which is attributable to a belief that married women are increasingly getting engaged in paid labor, and are accustomed to working away from home. The number of working married women gradually increased from 31.5 percent in 1947 to 60 percent in 1999. Similarly, the percentage of working men declined from 86.5 percent to 74.7 percent during the same period, which implies that the number of employed women taking care of the spouses has increased, which makes many women act as the breadwinners of their families and also suggests changing gender roles. Related studies have established that the rates of divorce today are directly proportional to the percentage of women getting employment. Scholars suggest that employed women are independent, and upon attaining financial stability, they have high incentives to investment at the expense of their families. Also, the studies show that when a married woman enters the working class, chances of conflicts within the family increase thus increasing the chances of divorce. Further, when married women start working, they are more likely to continue their education and participate in management of companies. In case women take up such roles, the likelihood of them neglecting family duties increases, which subjects their marriage to high chances of break up.

Why Working Women Are More Likely To Seek a Divorce

The number of well-educated women practicing professional careers in the US is higher today than never before because many women have attained financial stabilities, which makes them rely less on their spouses when they intend to pursue their interests such as further education. Up to 50 percent of all new admissions to institutions of higher learning in fields such as law, education, business, and medicine are women. Additionally, women are participating in corporate management positions in reputable organizations including Fortune 500 companies. By the end of 2011, 3.2 percent of all professional women held management positions in publically traded companies. Additionally, women have taken up positions in male-dominated careers, such as aviation, engineering, transport, and management among others. These trends are likely to continue, which implies that changing gender roles will continue. With the prevalence of these situations, divorce, whose leading cause is attributed to increased change of gender roles, will not end soon.

The recent increase in the number of professional women engaged in employment has led to devastating effects on social, economic, and matrimonial foundations of the American families. According to Fuwa, working women are three times more likely to divorce as compared to their stay-at-home counterparts. Various sociologists have come up with theories to explain this phenomenon, which remains a mystery to many. Some propose that working women have positions in their workplace, which makes them unhappy when at home, while others suggest that women pursuing careers are financially stable and, thus, less afraid of poverty when their marriages break. Similarly, families of working couples are under continuous tension related to division of labor, which leads to disappointment in marriages. The eventual result is divorce and family disintegration.

Based on these allegations, many husbands find it hard to cope with their wives after they get employed because they are said to become less responsible and stubborn. Consequently, many women are responsible for providing for their families after their partners part ways. It has been observed that the number of women responsible for family upkeep has doubled in the last twenty years with up to 25 percent single mothers acting as the breadwinners for their families, which has been a significant increase from 7 percent thirty years ago. These trends of women acting as breadwinners for their families have for a long time been thought to be almost impossible, but the financial pressures in the modern families lead to situation that working women cannot avoid.

Impacts of Divorce

Divorced couples find themselves in self-denial about the effects of their marriage disintegration. More than 75 percent of the divorced parents believe that their children cope well after divorce. However, only 18 percent of the youngsters are contented with the situations they are subjected to when their parents separate. Many divorced parents do not realize their children are more prone to drug and substance abuse, crime, and possibilities of committing suicide. According to many social science journals, the effects of divorce include physical, emotional, financial, and psychological among others. When not properly monitored, these effects are likely to bother the children to their adulthoods and also affect the future generations. When the situation is explored further, the effects of divorce are more than it can be imagined. They cover a wide range of effects on children, the divorced couples, and the entire society.

Firstly, there are increased probabilities of children becoming victims of abuse whereby children whose parents have divorced are likely to be abused by members of their extended families and other members of society. Abuse increases their possibilities of suffering from behavioral, health, and emotional problems. Consequently, these children can be involved in crimes, drug abuse, and have higher chances of committing suicide. Secondly, divorce affects children’s academic performance. Children of divorced parents are likely to perform poorly in academics as compared to their counterparts whose parents are happily married. For this reason, they may repeat grades or become victims of school dropout.

Thirdly, divorce leads to impoverished financial levels. Families that were financially stable before divorce are likely to see their income levels drop by as much as 50 percent. In addition, more than 50 percent of the parents who divorce experience poverty after divorcing a few months after breakup. Fourthly, divorces affect religious worship of the broken families. After the parents’ divorce, chances are high that their religious worship is affected. The parents and their children no long rely on religion as a source of better health, better marriages, and elongated family life.


Divorce is one of the major challenges facing the modern day marriages and is associated with devastating effects on the couples, children, and the society. The high rates of divorce are attributed to conflicts in marriages fueled by differing self-interests in relation to resources, wealth, and power. Too often, in families where both parents are employed, conflicts emerge because of arguments on contribution to family expenditures and performance of familial roles. Mostly, divorce rates increase when married women get into employment. In this study, the conflict theory has increased the scope of understanding why married women are more likely to seek divorce because it has expounded on the likely causes of conflicts and divorces in marriages. The rationale for this is that employed women attain financial stability, hold reputable positions at work place, and are accustomed to working away from home, which leads to changing gender roles. Eventually, they ignore the orders of their husbands, which leads to conflicts and divorce. This study is consistent with the conflicts theory because many conflicts between couples are based on differences in self-interests in regard to resources, power, and wealth. To ascertain this theory, this study notes that families where women are unemployed are less probe to conflicts and divorce because the women are worried that poverty might strike when they leave their employed husbands. Also, such families experience less conflicts about power, resources, and wealth because there is no competition. Therefore, the conflict theory can be considered as very crucial in understanding the aspect of divorce in families.


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