By Robert L. Mues   |   May 18th, 2013

Divorce, Employment And Marriage – An Analysis

divorceStudies have often attempted to examine the intricate details of divorce by indicating what causes it, which party causes it and how can it be prevented.  Below is an analysis of the National Institution of Health’s study by Liana C.  Sayer of The Ohio State University about how the changing spectrum of society can affect marriages.  First, we’ll review two theories, then compare these and evaluate an opinion based off of these theories.

Institutional Perspective

The study on divorce and employment is broken into two theories, the first of which is considered the “Gendered Institutional” theory.  This theory seeks to classify marriage as it has been traditionally, where the male is often the breadwinner and the female is often the caretaker of the home and children. This view is often referred to as the codified version of marriage (as most states don’t allow same-sex marriage).  This is a very traditional view on marriage as it looks to shifting of these roles since the 1980’s.

Prior to the 1990’s, female employment in the market was still considerably low.  Men dominated the market and females often stayed home and took care of the house and the children.  The shift after the 1990’s brought more females into the workplace and shifted the roles at home a bit.  This, according to this theory, put pressure on the norms that have been established in marriage and led to more and more individuals leaving and initiating divorce.  This theory discusses the implications of women entering the workforce and how this entrance puts pressure and stress on marriages, defying their social status and norms.

Gary Becker, a recognized economist, states that women in the workplace create stress at home.  He believes that the most efficient method for marriage is the male remains the breadwinner and the female remains the caretaker of the home and children.  He also believes that when men and women are both full- time employed, it can lead to competition, ultimately degrading the emotional and intimate levels of marriage, which would lead one of the parties to initiate a divorce.

There have been rebuttals to this theory and argument, including studies that state when men and women are both working it allows for a closer connection and creates less barriers between the two.  There has also been a discussion on how many individuals who get married simply don’t view marriage as an absolute commitment anymore.  Previously, marriage was considered for life; currently, many individuals who get married do not consider this a lifelong commitment.

Exchange-Bargain Perspective

The exchange-bargain perspective combines sociology with economics.  This theory focuses mainly on the resources either party generates at work and compares these resources to the satisfaction that males and females receive in marriage. Generally, the individual who makes more resources will have a higher bargaining power in the marriage; and if they do not receive what they want, there is a higher chance they’ll initiate a divorce. This perspective takes into account the recent trend of females entering the workforce in a more full-time position.  Below are some of the statistics that the perspective finds…

  • When females work full time, they’re more likely to initiate a divorce.  This is due to a few factors. The first factor has been called the “Women’s Independence” factor; this is a more recent factor as previously females didn’t enjoy the resources generated through full time employment.  This factor states that when a wife generates significant resources and has dissatisfaction with marriage, she is more likely to initiate a divorce if she can support herself (and her children) without the resources of her husband.
  • Resources allow “voice” or “exit”
  • Theory states that divorce will occur only if bargaining will not keep a marriage satisfactory.
  • The theory also classifies the likelihood of either party leaving by the equation below:

– A’s higher earning creates a higher likelihood of initiation of divorce by A, while A’s higher likelihood lowers the chance that B will initiate a divorce, and vice versa.

This theory delves into the statistics of divorce, claiming that women are more likely to initiate divorce only if there is a previous dissatisfaction, while men generally do not initiate divorce even if there is dissatisfaction.

Changing Gender System and Marriage

As the two previous perspectives discussed, there has been a drastic shift in the gender roles in the last 25 years.  Females have been entering the work place at a higher rate and obtaining full-time employment.   This has led to issues mainly regarding men.  As females work more and more, they expect the shifting of some of the housework and childcare to shift to the men.  Men are often reluctant to accept these roles because they’re expectation of full-time employment has not dropped, and these roles are often stigmatized as “women’s work” or viewed negatively by social norms.

This “conflict of interests,” has led to deeper and deeper dissatisfaction in marriage, and ultimately leads to more divorce often initiated by the females.

Divorce Theories – My Take

My take on these theories is somewhat different.  I believe that society is in a pivotal phase of gender equality and marriage equality.  Eroding are the days of old where men were the lone workers, where marriages where strictly between men and women, and where women were strictly caretakers of the home and children.  A shift in the next 20 years will bring down the barriers of sex equality between men and women.  Marriage should be viewed as a partnership where each party treats the other party with the respect and due diligence that one expects back.  If you want to preserve marriage men, do the dishes or vacuum the living room at some point, even if you don’t want to.  If it’s so hard to treat your spouse the way they prefer to be treated, then don’t get married.  You marry someone because you’re happy and expect to be with them for the rest of your life, not because you need a maid or a caretaker.

I want to acknowledge and thank our law clerk, Jason Irick, for all his help in researching and writing this article, “Divorce: How Employment Affects Men’s and Women’s Decisions to Divorce”. Jason is a newlywed and a smart guy. Rumor has it that Jason prudently sought input and collaboration from wife Renea in the project.  Nice job!

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.

Divorce: How Employment Affects Men’s and Women’s Decisions to Divorce
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