As in most families worldwide,marriage and family life have undergone major changes in the last three decades.Overall, rates of marriage have declined, the number of couples living together before, or instead of, marriage has increased dramatically. Also, the number of children born in de facto unions rather than marital unions is increasing and women are delaying child-bearing and couples are having smaller families.Arguably though, the change that has had the most wide-ranging and far-reaching consequences for family life is the increase in divorce. While the increase in the rate of divorce has slowed recently,more marriages are being dissolved due to divorce than widowhood for the first time.Divorce continues to be a pervasive feature of our social life with majority of current marriages expected to end in divorce and it has been predicted that this may increase over the next few decades if current trends in recent marriage cohorts continue.Many,although not necessarily all, couples whose marriages break down are able to successfully move on with their lives, and those with children often renegotiate their post-divorce relationship in positive ways.
A recently divorced shared with me her tribulations as we downed cups of coffee recently in a public forum that brought together high end engineers from different fields.She was kicked out by her eight months old husband.Reason given to her was that he couldn’t afford to pay rent any-longer after losing his job due to what the divorced lady told me was his wanting conduct including having a fling with MD’s skirtie. Apparently the bloke has since started dating another lady working at a local bank as a teller.The 25 years old chemical engineer story is among million of cases involving women around the world.Since she’s an ardent reader of this blog,I wish not to share more of her painful episode.Nevertheless, there are major social, emotional and financial implications for separating and divorcing couples. Further, there are major changes in the conduct of family life after separation and divorce.Many children lose regular face-to-face contact and some lose contact altogether with their non-resident parent, who is usually the father.In her case, she revealed to me that co-parenting, re-partnering and the formation of step and blended families after divorce have added to the diversity of family and household forms in her country, and the complexity of family and household arrangements.
In Contador Harrison’s view, the death of a spouse represents a ‘clear’ break from the marriage, in the event of separation and divorce, there is a continued ‘post-marriage marriage’ involving the negotiation of shared parental responsibilities and parenting time schedules for children across households.The costs of marriage breakdown, however, extend beyond those incurred by the individuals and families involved.For example absenteeism and low work productivity have also been linked to relationship problems.Over the past three decades, divorce policies in various countries have concentrated on areas designed to reduce the emotional and financial burden of divorce. In Western world its not uncommon to see policies that aim to prevent marriage breakdown.Most of them have highlighted the apparent failure of the court system in its operational form to provide adequate support to marriages and families.In Africa, a number of countries policy initiatives have focused on preventing separation and divorce, primarily by increasing funding to relationship and premarital education and marriage counseling services, and the evaluation of those services.
Research suggests that these types of services are effective in reducing marital conflict and marriage breakdown across a range of social and demographic groups but have some limitations as witnessed in countries like Nigeria and South Africa where such services are in place.The risk factors for separation and divorce are complex and extend far beyond the couple and individual dynamics on which these policy initiatives are focused. In Uganda, Uganda Health Marketing Group(UHMG) report two years ago found that couples who were most at risk of marriage breakdown were also the least likely to use marriage education or marriage counseling services. While for some couples divorce is not necessarily a negative outcome and is the best solution to an unhappy or unworkable marriage, for many marriages that end in divorce it is believed that with appropriate help couples could have negotiated happy and workable marital relationships.Research identifying the broader social and demographic factors associated with marriage breakdown and who initiates separation, such as that proposed here, can complement recent policy initiatives.