I spent this morning soaking in my first Family Law class. Actually, I hesitated enrolling in the class because a large part of Family Law often focuses around divorces and child custody agreements. However, the practice area can also cover everything from what defines a "family" (roommates, cohabiting adults, homosexual partners) all the way to adoption law and if you have to return an engagement ring if you break off the engagement! I've always felt that the best way to be an advocate was to have a thorough understanding of any counter-arguments, and it is with that notion that I entered the lecture hall today.
I was immediately introduced to some interesting statistics. You may have seen similar comparisons before, but I think they allow for a deeper analysis when placed side-by-side.
First - divorce statistics for 2012 are estimated to be between 40-50%!
Unmarried (opposite sex) cohabitation:
Childbirth outside of marriage:
2010: 40% (more than half of all births were to women under 30)
Women in the workforce:
Anything strike you?
I think I've always had some form of understanding that changing family values and gender roles were a likely contributor to the increase in divorce, but I found it particularly interesting that my professor chose to place these statistics next to each other. One thing I learned early on in law school was that I needed to be careful about how I chose my words in regards to women in the workplace. I've talked more about my position here, but lets just say that one often encounters strong women with very intense views on gender equality in higher academia - or at least that has been my experience.
While an increase in women in the workforce is surely not the only contributing factor towards heightened divorce rates and crumbling family values, I also think that the numbers in this case are a clear indicator that there is a correlation between an increase in working women and an increase in divorce.
Why do you think that is?
I would like to speculate that it is partially a balance of priorities. Many of the women I know who are successful in their careers have had to sacrifice alot to get there. At times even I feel like because I am a woman, I have to work harder to prove that I should be in my position and am qualified for the job. While some might disagree, I don't believe this is as big of a deal when a couple is newly married - however I think things can get very complicated when children are added to the mix. It's no longer a question of simply work time or home time, but now there is the additional element of caring for the children and making sure their needs are met. If a woman is attempting to prioritize her career and her family life it seems like something will have to give. And honestly, it doesn't sound like a very enjoyable life either.
I've heard many women say that they don't have a choice, that they have to work. Again, I wonder if this is a question of priorities. Do you have to work to put food on the table or a roof over your head? Or do you have to work to be able to afford to be able to eat out on a regular basis or put a roof over your 3,000 sq ft newly renovated house with all the latest updates?