The increasing divorce rate can be seen as a ‘product of conflict between the changing economic system and its social and ideological superstructure (notably the family)’. In advanced capitalist industrial societies, there is an increasing demand for cheap female wage labour.

Wives are encouraged to take up paid employment not only because there is a demand for their services, but also because the capitalist controlled media has raised ‘material aspirations’ which regulate the demand for desirable goods. These material aspirations can only be satisfied by both spouses working as wage earners.

Divorce Rate


However, conflict results from the contradiction between female wage labour and the normative expectations which surround married life. ‘Working wives’ are still expected to be primarily responsible for housework and raising children. In addition, they are still expected, to some degree, to play a subservient role to the male head of the household. These normative expectations contradict the wife’s role as a wage earner since she is now sharing the economic burden with her husband. Conflict between the spouses can result from this contradiction, and conflict can lead to marital breakdown.


Divorce rate around the world
Divorce rate

While laws and procedures regulating divorce were altered, the divorce rate tended to increase quickly and since each new piece of legislation made divorce more readily available, the rate rose rapidly for a time before leveling off. Today there is one divorce in Britain for every three marriages. (In the USA the divorce rate is one in two.) Many people have suggested that the higher divorce rates reflect an underlying increase in marital instability; the problem with this argument is that we have no way of knowing how many ‘unstable’ or ‘unhappy’ marriages existed before legislation made it possible to dissolve them in a public (and recordable) form.

The married couples
Married couples


Some commentators have gone further and argued that more permissive divorce laws in themselves cause marital breakdown. But we can certainly be sceptical of such a view, suggesting as it does that happily married couples can suddenly be persuaded to abandon their relationship, propelled by the attraction of a new divorce law.

A more plausible explanation for rises in the divorce rate after the passage of a law is that unhappily married couples were for the first time given access to a legal solution to pre-existent marital problems; in other words, changes in divorce laws are less likely to cause marital breakdown than to provide new types of solutions where breakdown has already occurred.

Minimum Wage


We hope you have found out the reasons for divore after readin this article. . .

A. What do the following refer to?

1. ‘their’ (Text 1):

2. ‘this argument’ (Text 2):

3. ‘them’ (Text 2):

4. ‘such a view’ (Text 2):


1. What is the effect of the rise in ‘material aspirations’ on female employment?
2. Explain the contradiction between the female wage labour and the normative expectations of married life.
3. Give two of the opinions on the rise in the divorce rate after the introduction of legislation making divorce more readily available.
4. Each text examines divorce from a different approach. Write down the difference.

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