Effects of Divorce

in Divorce

Divorce is one of the major social issues facing the society today. It has become a common phenomenon undermining the institution of marriage, and it has come with both positive and negative impacts on individuals and society as a whole. While divorce is considered a basic right for couples, little attention has been paid to devastating effects of divorce, especially on children. This paper will compare effects of divorce from two perspectives, symbolic interactionism and crisis theory.

Theoretical perspectives

There are three main theoretical perspectives that are used by sociologists to explain divorce as phenomenon in the society. These include symbolic interactionism, functionalism, and conflict theory (Hecker & Wetchler, 2003). These theories take different approaches in explaining divorce.

Symbolic interactionism perspective views the society as comprised of symbols that are used to establish meaning, develop views about the world, and to communicate with one another (Hecker & Wetchler, 2003). Symbols are explained as things existing in our physical and social environment that we attach meanings to. These are things that make our social life possible, define relationship with our life, and allow us to coordinate actions with other people. According to symbolic interactionism, there are different symbols that attached to divorce including emotional satisfaction, love symbol, meaning of children, meaning of parenthood, perception of alternatives, and many others (Bowyer, 2007). One nature of symbolic interactionism is that social symbols are dynamic and keep on changing. At one time, divorce was seen as an immoral act, a disregard of public opinion, abandonment of responsibilities, and a shameful act, but all these have changed. In view of symbolic interactonism theory, a family is important as it provides shared beliefs and values. Individual’s conduct is product of shared interaction within the family. In this line of thought, the family holds important symbols that determine individual conduct. Therefore, one of the way divorce is likely to affect members of the family especially children is that they will lack family that provide shared experiences that will shape their behavior. For example, children who grow with a single parent are likely to experience behavior problems because of lack of shared interaction in the family (Taanila, Laitinen, Moilanen & Järvelin, 2002).

On the other hand, crisis theory looks at marriage in terms of resultant effects. According to crisis theory, when a person experiences acquired pattern of reaction they are not able to handle, then the person can be said to be in crisis. Crisis theory therefore looks at divorces in terms of how individuals can handle the resultant effects. It looks at adaptation of divorce process in phases which include denial, loss and depression, anger and ambivalence, reorientation of lifestyle and identity and acceptance and integration. According to crisis theory, divorce is an isolated traumatic event with different phases of shock (Bowyer, 2007). It is a process that individuals are supposed to adapt to, and individual resources determine the length of time one takes to adjust. Crisis theory assumes that if an individual goes through the phases, then they adjust well, but if they skip any of the phases, problems will appear in later life. For example, a couple that divorces may take time to adjust to their individual lifestyle and form new relationship. However, children will be hurt most because it will take time before they go through the five states and if they falter through one stage their life is significantly affected (Hetherington, Bridges & Insabella, 1998).


Divorce is one of the major social issues facing the society today. Sociologist explains divorce through three main perspectives – symbolic interactionism, functional analysis, and crisis theory. Symbolic interactionism looks at divorce in terms of interaction of symbols attached to marriage institution. It due to failure to integrate these symbols that leads to divorce. On the other hand, crisis theory explains divorce as a process that individuals have to adapt to through different phases.

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Effects of Divorce

This article was published on 2012/03/26
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