Throughout American history, divorce rates have fluctuated, yet steadily trended up. In 1969, then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, enacted the nation’s first no-fault divorce bill. Many pundits marked this as the start of the “divorce revolution,” with 49 states passing similar measures by 1985. With the laws that bound husband and wife partially dismantled, the nation’s divorce rate more than doubled over the next twenty years.
While states were busy simplifying the divorce process in the mid-70s, divorce was still considered morally unacceptable by 60 percent of U.S. citizens. However, while the majority of citizens were seemingly looking to the government to encumber the divorce process, the divorce rate started climbing.
By 1980, the divorce rate reached an all-time high, with 22.6 divorces per 1,000 population. The next few years, however, marked a significant shift in these numbers. Marital bliss started to balance out and divorce numbers began to decline.
According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention poll, the divorce rate dropped to 3.2 per 1,000 population. Couples are more committed to building a solid foundation prior to marriage, resulting in longer, healthier relationships.
Interested in researching the subject of divorce morality further, Gallup began a new project in 2001. First-year numbers revealed only 59% of Americans found divorce morally acceptable. Since that time, moral acceptability has seen an increase of 14%, with the latest polls revealing a 73% acceptance rate. And these numbers represent every member of the community, from the young and secular to the elderly and more religious and everyone in between.
The rise and fall of these numbers offers significant information regarding society’s evolving attitude towards relationships, marriage and divorce. Young adults have learned from friends’ and family members’ mistakes, choosing to postpone marriage in favor of cohabitation. Some psychologists believe the subject of marriage and divorce is now viewed as more of a legal process and less of a moral one.
While no one envisions their marriage ending in divorce, even the strongest of couples find themselves in this position. The grace and respect in which we handle these trying times is also a testament to society’s changing viewpoints.