The project deals with the problem of divorce among African American families. The opening paragraphs induct into the overall state of affairs in the African American demographic group. Further sections of the research give insight into the reasons and the outcomes of family breakups for all family members. The research reflects the opinions of leading family planning, divorce, and psychology experts.
Keywords: divorce, family, cause, effect, African, American
Marriage is the formal unity of a man and a woman recognized and approved by the law and the church. However, there comes a time when a married couple is no longer willing to retain their marriage alliance for a number of reasons that vary from personal to economic motives. Family disagreements and conflicts eventually culminate in a mutually agreed upon divorce or the dissolution of marriage, by which spouses split up officially. In the USA, African Americans are the demographic group that demonstrates the highest rate of divorce. The separation of African American couples has its reasons and consequences for all family members.
Broman (1993), Cherlin (1998), and Trent and South (2003) stated that blacks tended to experience higher chances of separation and a poorer marital quality, as compared with other ethnic groups found in the USA (as cited in Bulanda, 2004). According to Moore (2012), the marriage rate of African-Americans who are not marriage-minded is inversely proportional to their divorce ratio. Poverty, age, and education levels are the main factors of marriage success and failures. Based on a study conducted by the Demographic Research in 2003, ethnic groups other African Americans do not show as high levels of divorce as the latter do, with 32% of African American, 21% of white and 22% of Hispanic couples deciding to terminate their marriage. Professor of Sociology Andrew Cherlin claimed that the reason for black American couples to divorce was poverty that puts its strain on marriage. Unlike European Americans, placing importance on the connection between wives and husbands, African Americans tend to cultivate ties to their aunts, grandmothers, and other relatives, which rationalizes higher divorce rates. In their study called “The Topography of the Divorce Plateau”, Dr. Larry Bumpass and Dr. Kelly Raley suggested that education, age, and income were among the main reasons of divorce for all ethnic groups; however, they are said to be prevalent among African Americans.
These reasons motivate 70% of black women to petition for a divorce, as against 47% of white women. Dr. Pamela Thompson noted that women’s earning more than their fiancés due to a more favorable career track puts additional pressure on African American families and disrupts the natural order of things. Under such conjuncture, male breadwinners who fail at performing their share of duties are the source of family vulnerability (Moore, 2012). According to Jackson (2013), economic grounds play a vital role in marital relationship. There tends to be a sharp contrast in the breadwinning potential between family members in African American married couples since women have better educational backgrounds as well as being higher-salary earners, as opposed to men. The most widespread scenario is woman’s having a master’s degree and man’s having a high school certificate. Such women are not willing to pay alimony for maintenance to their husbands. Money controlling function gives African American women a stronger negotiating position (Jackson, 2013).
Important are money issues for any family. Not having control over family budget may leave husbands distraught and render them jealous of their fiancés, which may well result in divorce. According to University of North Texas (1999), the economic grounds of divorce among African Americans are their desire to maintain middle-class status in the society, wherein social discrediting and racial discrimination remain unrestrained. African American women are eager to integrate into a white consumer culture. Hence, their spending in a consumerism-indoctrinated American society grows out of proportions, which puts additional strain on the family budget. Women’s autocratic spending decisions is said to questions men’s authority. Not resorting to husband’s advice on purchase-related issues deducts from their self-esteem.
According to Moore (2012), associate minister of redemption United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Reverend Cedric Brooks opined that low marriage ratios and high divorce rates were attributable to the decrease in church participation. For women to live unmarried and have a child born out of wedlock used to be considered an unacceptable stigma years ago. As of now, women aspiration is to give birth to children and raise them in fatherless families. Another cause is the integration of the blacks into the American society through the acceptance of views and attitudes that dominate it. At the core of the American society is the chase for material objects and money that marginalize family values and the social institution of family as such (Moore, 2012).
Black women may often be heard accusing their husbands of immaturity, self-centeredness, unreliability, and non-monogamy that do not shape black males as marital role models, in women’s estimation. The stereotype of non-monogamy suggests as if black man had extramarital sexual intercourses with other women. The pervasion of violence among black families plays its critical role in family dissolution as well. The ignorance of family disagreements also contributes to marital instability. Some African American men get married because of their girlfriends’ pregnancy, which is the reason they rush into marriage to save their loved ones from inadequacy and self-doubt. Not only men’s immaturity, but also the lack of consideration of whether spouses are fit for marriage is also a motive of the family breakup. The socially shaped stereotype, such as the necessity to marry before the age of 25, women-like feeling of the pressure put by the biological clock, and the urgency of having children are the rationales behind men’s hasty and ill-though-out decision to get married (University of North Texas, 1999).
Whatever may be the reason of divorce, family breakup does have its negative outcomes for spouses. Molina (2000) noted that Member’s Assistance Programme employees had interviewed 30 divorced African American women. The results showed that the respondents felt the effects of financial and emotional issues induced by low wages, the lack of alimony and child support. The problems of discrimination further aggravate the already difficult situation. However, close family connections, the belief in God, strong achievement orientation and work ethic help them handle their post-divorce difficulties (Molina, 2000). According to University of North Texas (1999), sociologist Dr. Erma Lawson admitted that men experienced a shocking distress after the loss of their fiancés. Though wanting to separate from their spouses in some cases, men had a mixture of anger, guilt, loss, and the sense of failure dominate their mood. Such sentiments bear relation to a gender role since men consider marriage an important prerequisite to success in all life spheres. Besieged by depression and meltdown states, African American men are very sentimental in the post-divorce period. Apart from attempting to handle divorce-induced pain by means of drugs and alcohol, men can come to commit suicides. Unlike women, men cannot enjoy the benefits of support systems for want thereof. Not getting adequate support from their male friends either, they seek the help of their ministers instead. Being raised in fatherless families makes children feel depressed.
Philosophy Doctor Paul Amato (n.d.) stated that black children are usually born to single mothers. Thus, they do not witness the positive patterns of marital functioning, which increases the chance of divorce in their adult lives. At the time of reaching adulthood, such children do not possess traditional attitudes towards family life and marriage. It is contentiously married parents rearing children that demonstrate the norm of a lifelong marriage. Philosophy Doctor Patrick Fagan and Robert Rector (2000) opined that children who stem from divorced families were prone to abuse. They show higher rates of behavioral, health, and emotional issues, to say nothing of drug abuse and frequent suicide attempts. Lower ratios of college graduation, higher drop-out indices, and unsatisfactory school performance due to family divorce-related issues are presumed the main outcomes of the parental divorce.
African American families show the highest rate of divorce for a wide variety of reasons. Women’s excessive spending to meet the standards of the consumer society puts additional strain on black families that sometimes face discrimination-caused lack of proper job opportunities. Better educational backgrounds of women, as opposed to men, and the subsequent failure to perform bread-winning functions properly on the part of men expedite family breakups. Low church attendance and the accusations of male non-monogamy can result in divorce as well. The necessity to marry before the age of 25, the feeling of the pressure put by the biological clock, and the urgency of having children are reason why African American men sometimes rush into marriage, without evaluating the pros and cons of doing so.
The desire to save a pregnant girlfriend from inadequacy and self-doubt can also shape the decision of men who give little consideration, if at all, to whether their girlfriend will make good wives. Violence, the lack of economic opportunities, discrimination, stereotypes and other reasons rationalize the high incidence of family breakups in the USA. The consequences of divorce are also well documented. Divorce may result in economic hardships, emotional meltdown states, and suicidal sentiment that may affect both spouses. Parental separation cannot but affect children who tend to show unsatisfactory school performance, the propensity for alcoholic beverages, and drugs. Overall, African American married couples demonstrate high rates of divorce, which has extremely negative outcomes for both spouses. Hence, if the USA is to save its family institution from eventual decomposition, the country needs to take adequate measures to address the welfare and educational background issues and raise awareness among black Americans who are in need of developing the mature attitude towards family creation and children’s birth.
Amato, P.R. (n.d.). Divorce among African Americans. National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. Retrieved from: http://www.healthymarriageinfo.org/download.aspx?id=2698
Bulanda, J.R. (2004). Race-ethnic difference in marital quality and divorce. Center for Family and Demographic Research. Retrieved from: http://www2.bgsu.edu/downloads/cas/file35757.pdf
Fagan, P.F. & Rector, R. (2000, June 5). The effects of divorce on America. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2000/06/the-effects-of-divorce-on-america
Jackson, C.K. (2013, July 4). Nine interesting facts about divorce for black couples. Essence. Retrieved from: http://www.essence.com/2013/07/04/9-interesting-facts-about-divorce-black-couples/
Molina, O. (2000). African American women’s unique divorce experiences. [Abstract]. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 32(4). Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J087v32n03_05#.U6qzBPl_vKM
Moore, D. (2013). African-Americans and marriage. Divorce 360. Retrieved from: http://www.divorce360.com/divorce-articles/news/trends/african-americans-and-marriage.aspx?artid=1176