Question Two: Normalization of Divorce
The assertion by Beck-Gernsheim (2002) that divorce has become ‘normalized’ is true. Social and demographic changes over the past decades have significantly impacted the institution of marriage. Though considered in the public discourse as an indication of moral decline, about one-third of Australia’s marriages are now likely to end in divorce. Less restrictive and liberal laws, individualism, and feminism, and emphasize personal satisfaction are some of the factors that explain the normalization of divorce in today’s society.
The adoption of less restrictive and more liberal divorce laws is among the cause of the surge in the divorce rate in today’s society. Such laws imply the normalization of divorce not only in Australia but globally. Stigmatization of divorce stopped, and separate between disagreeing couples became acceptable to the society. People are becoming less committed to marriage because of these cultural and legal elements. Therefore, divorce is increasingly becoming an alternative solution to intimate and personal problems among couples (Hewitt, Baxter, and Western, 2005). Being divorced also does not affect employment opportunities and status, implying that couples are less scared of the impacts of divorce, and are most likely to resort to it as a solution to an unhappy marriage.
The idea of individualization as exemplified by Beck & Beck–Gernsheim (2002), is another factor for normalizing divorce in society. The authors’ term individualization as the disintegration of formerly prevailing social norms, including increasing fragility of classifications such as class and social status, family, neighborhood, and gender (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2002, p. 2). Individualization in social theory is thought to emanate from societal changes linked to industrialization and subsequent consumer society. In the consumer society, also termed as a late-modern society, individuals’ identity depends much on their lives instead of how they are positioned to friends or families. The resulting implications are that people are likely to describe themselves and act principally as individuals (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2002). The emphasis on individualism in the modern has weakened the family and marriage institutions, with divorce becoming highly normalized.
Divorce is also considered in the late-modern society as an opportunity for new experiences and self-realization or self-reflection, characterized by impermanent relationships. People create their individualities through the scheme of the self. There is an overemphasis on happiness and making most life opportunities, including advancing one’s career, which has affected the institution of marriage. Families also spend most of the time apart due to emphasis on self-realization, such as career development. Study shows that marriage is no longer regarded as an establishment that emphasizes personal responsibilities/duties and promises the power of mutual responsibilities. Instead, it is based on self-fulfilment, peoples’ pursuit of happiness, and a relationship just as friendship (Hewitt, Baxter, and Western, 2005, p 176). The expectations are more focused on personal satisfaction, and any slightest dissatisfaction is likely to result in a divorce.
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There is numerous justification for the degeneration in marriage, which also applies to the divorce rate increase. Less restrictive and liberal laws, individualism, and feminism emphasize personal satisfaction significantly to divorce today.
Beck, U., & Beck–Gernsheim, E., 2002. Division of labour, self-image, and life projects: New conflicts in the family. Their Individualization: Institutionalized Individualism and its Social and Political Consequences.
Hewitt, B., Baxter, J. and Western, M., 2005. Marriage breakdown in Australia: The social correlates of separation and divorce. Journal of Sociology, 41(2), pp.163-183.
Short Answer Questions
Question Three: Role of Friendship in Contemporary Society
Friendship is emerging in contemporary society as a social integration source and personal development, playing a fundamental role in establishing and maintaining social realities. Friendship is a vital source of support, both emotional, social, and financial. Many families are becoming dysfunctional making friends to be an alternative family. Besides, friendship is valued in contemporary for career connections and motivational purposes. Sometimes these values attached to friendship may even become more important than the family relationship
Research has shown that friends are an essential source of support for individuals who do not have partners, single parents, and those that do not depend on families in times of need. The support may cut across emotional, psychological, social, and economic support. What distinguishes friendship from other forms of relationships is that the former is based on equality, not hierarchical. Friendship is formed between two or more people who are at least ideally equal. Family relationships are equally significant but sometimes involves monotonous and serious negative interactions that are unbearable. Most friendships are built on similar ideologies such as religiosity, education backgrounds, work-relations, economic status, and age, making continuous interactions and support for whatever kind possible (Davies, 2011). The perceived high-quality of social support can be a significant factor for above-average emotional and cognitive performance.
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The study also indicates increased dysfunctional families, both in Australia and globally, characterized by a surge in divorce cases, decline in marriages, and single parenting, hence the growing emphasis on friendship in place of family. Finch (2016) asserts that the proportion of single-mother-headed households increases across nations, fuelled by high social deviance and welfare dependency within communities (Finch 2016). The surge in divorce and other changing family practices, such as the increase of unwed parenthood, cohabitation, and the marvel of open lesbian and gay households, also contributes to the dysfunctional family relationships (Smart 2000). Such profound “dysfunctionality” of the contemporary family as left may people, both young and old, turn to friends for social, emotional, and economic support and as an alternative family.
Besides, friendship is also valued in contemporary society to create career connections and motivational purposes. People are more likely to change with a few friends within organizations before placing a CV. Having a robust friendship circle provides networking and mentoring opportunities, which are vital elements for career advancement. Friends also motivate one to be healthier. When one has a friend who does workout and saves money, they are likely to participate in the same behaviour. Such values make many people consider friendship as an alternative family. For instance, Finch (2016) believes that what makes a group of people a family depends significantly on meanings assigned to practices followed by its affiliates (p 13). Friendship in contemporary society can be regarded as an alternative to family because the values it adds to one’s life, including social, emotional, and financial supports, have family connotations.
Friendship is becoming an alternative family in contemporary society and more sustainable than even the conventional family. Having some good friends is associated with support, improved health, and well-being.
Davies, K., 2011. Friendship and personal life. Sociology of life
Finch, J., 2016. Displaying families. Sociology, 41(1), pp.65-81.
Smart, C. (2000). Divorce and changing family practices in a post-traditional society. Family Matters, 56, 10-19.