Social Trends Institute

Does divorce contribute to social inequalities?

Understanding families in order to understand society. This is the motivation behind Marta Castillo González’ Master’s Degree work. She intends to analyze whether divorce provokes social inequalities. Is this real?

Marta Castillo González received a Social Trends Institute grant for the Master’s in Social Science Research at the University of Navarre. Through her research project, she intends to analyze whether divorce provokes social inequalities. Her work is based on the conviction that the family is the seedbed of sociability.


Why do start from the assumption that divorce provokes inequality?

One of the first consequences of divorce is the splitting up of homes. Where once there was one home with mutual contribution, now there are two.

What inequalities does divorce create?  Are we to understand that those who have suffered divorce are at a disadvantage compared to those who remain living as a couple?

Sometimes its not so obvious and the inequalities are subtler. The study aims to decipher these inequalities, in what generation they manifest themselves and how far their consequences extend. There are studies that have related divorce to reduced school success, to economic inequality, to less purchasing power… But all this must be looked at.

Who are the most affected by divorce?

In the first place the couple and their children, if they have any. And in the second place, the family, which experiences the break-up as a dismemberment or lack of unity. And finally, a separation affects the whole of society. There is reciprocity between family and society. We are not talking about independent realities, but rather about interrelated, communicating ones. The family tells us something about society and a worthy goal might be to learn to combine these perspectives.

How is society as a whole effected by a couple’s divorce?

It affects the relationship the couple has with society. The rupture of their life as a couple is inseparable from the rupture that is produced in the society. Further, a divorce is, logically, the failure of a marriage. In this sense, one should understand which values disintegrate in the break up of a marriage. We mustn’t forget that we live in a deeply individualistic society, in which talk of commitment may cut against the grain.

Why is a divorce a rupture with society?

Because we give up on the idea of commitment. This idea should be understood not just in terms of marriage, but rather in terms of the commitment that we all have to serve a wider group in which we find ourselves immerged: society.

Why do you think divorce is ever more common?

Because individualism is gaining ground. The ideas of commitment and mutuality are being abandoned, and individual ends are pursued that often do not fit well with the idea of having a stable and lasting partnership. This exaggerated individualism is a very modern idea. The other is perceived as an obstacle to achieving my goals. There may be other reasons, like the economic crisis, labor mobility, the rejection of forming a family...

You have said that the family’s role should be recognized and empowered.  How can this be done?

It’s quite a challenge - perhaps the hardest to achieve right now.  We are living in a time in which each person defends what he wants to be. In a moment of flux, it’s important to get some distance and reflect on the essentially human community that is the family.

Is the family disappearing or transforming?

It’s perhaps too dramatic to talk about loss, but it is undeniable that the family is in a period of transformation, which includes its roles and functions, its status, its make-up… that’s why we should reflect.