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Ready, Willing and Able: The Divorce Transition in Sweden 1915-1974
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Population Studies (CPS).
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis attempts to extend the historical scope of divorce research in Sweden by providing an analysis ofhow the variations in the divorce rate over time and across geographical areas are connected to the economic, normative and institutional restructuring of Swedish society during the period 1915-1974. The thesis finds that the economic reshaping of Sweden into a modern market economy is at the center of the process that has resulted in decreased marital stability during the twentieth century. The shift from a single- to a dual-provider model and an increased integration of both men and women into market processes outside the family have resulted in lowered economic interdependence between spouses, which in turn has decreased the economic constraints to divorce. This conclusion is supported by the empirical finding that indicators of female economic self-sufficiency are associated with increased propensities for divorce, during the entire period under research in this thesis. That changes in the constraints experienced by women have been important is further emphasized by the finding that women have been more prone than men to initiate divorce, and that this gendered pattern of divorce was established already during the early twentieth century in Sweden.The results further indicate that the growth of divorce is connected not only to a shift in the provider model but also to the way sustained economic growth has resulted in a general increase in the resources available to individuals, as proposed by the socio-economic growth hypothesis. During the 1920s and 1930s, high-strata groups, such as lawyers, journalists, engineers and military officers, exhibited a divorce rate on the same level as in the general population of Sweden today. By the early 1960s, however, this positive associa- tion between social class and divorce had changed: by then it was rather couples in working-class occupations who exhibited the highest probability of divorce, which is a pattern that appears to have persisted since then. These findings indicate that a general increase and more even distribution of economic resources betweenboth genders and social classes have facilitated individuals’ possibilities to sustain themselves independent of family ties. This democratization in the access to divorce has meant that growing segments of the populationhave gained the means to act on a demand for divorce.However, another result of the thesis is that it is not possible to limit the analysis to a strictly economic perspective. Rather, economic changes have interacted with and been reinforced by changes in values, as wellas in institutions, during the periods when widespread and rapid behavioral change has occurred. In Sweden, like in most other Western countries, this was primarily the case during the 1940s and a period covering approximately the second half of the 1960s and first half of the 1970s. The studies of the thesis suggest that these two periods of rapid growth in the divorce rate stand out as periods in Swedish history when attitudes also changed more rapidly toward values that can be regarded as permissive, secular and more open to indi- vidual freedom of choice. Trenchantly, these two periods also correspond to the two harvest periods in Social Democratic welfare state policy. In the thesis it is argued that the marked increase in government services and social security at these time points integrated with and reinforced economic restructuring in a way that worked to “de-familializate” individuals by making them less dependent on family ties for social security. Institutional changes of this type have been particularly important for making single life more feasible for women and low- income groups. In the thesis, it is argued that the timings of substantial behavioral change become difficult to understand if the analytical perspective does not explicitly incorporate how such contextual-level changes in values and institutions have integrated with changes in the provider model and the economy during thesedynamic periods of the divorce transition in Sweden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University , 2012. , 104 p.
Series
Report from the Demographic Data Base, ISSN 0349-5132 ; 32
Keyword [en]
history, divorce, marriage, Sweden, twentieth century, gender regime, emancipation, individualism, dual-provider model, socio-economic growth, de-familialization, welfare state
National Category
History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60216ISBN: 978-91-7459-485-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-60216DiVA: diva2:558807
Public defence
2012-10-26, Hörsal F, Humanisthuset, Humanisthuset, Biblioteksgränd 3, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2012-10-05 Created: 2012-10-05 Last updated: 2012-10-05Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Time–space trends in Swedish divorce behaviour 1911–1974
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Time–space trends in Swedish divorce behaviour 1911–1974
2011 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of History, ISSN 0346-8755, E-ISSN 1502-7716, Vol. 36, no 1, 65-90 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study examines how the divorce rate in Sweden has varied over time and across different geographical areas during the period 1911-1974, and how these variations can be connected to the political, socio-economic, and cultural development in Sweden. The analysis provides empirical support for the hypothesis that increased divorce rates has been the result of changes in the structural conditions that determine the degree of economic interdependence between spouses. There is a strong connection between the degree of urbanization and the divorce rate on a regional level for the entire research period. The statistical analysis of the regional data indicates that these patterns are connected to the more diversified economy that has developed in urban settings, in the form of a more qualified labor market and higher wages for females. These characteristics resulted in a faster and more pronounced reduction of economic interdependence between spouses, which made divorce more attainable in these areas as compared to rural settings.

Keyword
Divorce, Twentieth century, Sweden, Time trends, Gender regime, Regional variations.
National Category
History Gender Studies
Research subject
History
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-46778 (URN)10.1080/03468755.2010.543521 (DOI)
Available from: 2011-09-13 Created: 2011-09-13 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
2. Ready, Willing, and Able to Divorce: An Economic and Cultural History of Divorce in Twentieth-Century Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Ready, Willing, and Able to Divorce: An Economic and Cultural History of Divorce in Twentieth-Century Sweden
2011 (English)In: Journal of Family History, ISSN 0363-1990, E-ISSN 1552-5473, Vol. 36, no 2, 210-229 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study outlines a long history of divorce in Sweden, recognizing the importance of considering both economic and cultural factors in the analysis of marital dissolution. Following Ansley Coale, the authors examine how a framework of multiple theoretical constructs, in interaction, can be applied to the development toward mass divorce. Applying a long historical perspective, the authors argue that an analysis of gendered aspects of the interaction between culture and economics is crucial for the understanding of the rise of mass divorce. The empirical analysis finds support for a marked decrease in legal and cultural obstacles to divorce already during the first decades of the twentieth century. However, economic structures remained a severe obstacle that prohibited significant increases in divorce rate prior to World War II. It was only during the 1940s and 1960s, when cultural change was complemented by marked decreases in economic interdependence between spouses, that the divorce rate exhibited significant increases. The authors find that there are advantages to looking at the development of divorce as a history in which multiple empirical factors are examined in conjunction, recognizing that these factors played different roles during different time periods.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Minneapolis: The Council, 2011
Keyword
divorce, twentieth century, Sweden, economic history, cultural history, gender studies
National Category
History Gender Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-46780 (URN)10.1177/0363199010395853 (DOI)
Available from: 2011-09-13 Created: 2011-09-13 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
3. Socio-economic determinants of divorce in early twentieth-century Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Socio-economic determinants of divorce in early twentieth-century Sweden
2011 (English)In: The History of the Family, ISSN 1081-602X, E-ISSN 1873-5398, ISSN 1081-602X, Vol. 16, no 3, 292-307 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Using a combination of census data and aggregated divorce statistics, this study investigates how socio-economic conditionsinfluenced the risk of divorce among men in different occupations during the 1920s and 1930s in Sweden. The results support thetheoretical presupposition that the stability of marriage was associated with the degree of economic interdependence betweenspouses. Rural, low-income, single-provider households with many children exhibit a significantly lower probability of divorcethan urban, dual-provider, high-income households with few children. This lends support to a socio-economic growth hypothesisstating that lower levels of marriage stability first developed in the more affluent strata of society living in urban settings. Thetendency of decreasing marriage stability then successively spread to the middle and lower classes as the divorce rate continued toincrease during the course of the twentieth century.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press, 2011
Keyword
Divorce; Sweden; Early twentieth century; Social stratification; Female labor force participation
National Category
History Gender Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-46779 (URN)10.1016/j.hisfam.2011.06.003 (DOI)
Available from: 2011-09-13 Created: 2011-09-13 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
4. Socio-economic determinants of divorce in Sweden 1960-1965
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Socio-economic determinants of divorce in Sweden 1960-1965
2014 (English)In: Social science history, ISSN 0145-5532, E-ISSN 1527-8034, Vol. 38, no 2, 127-153 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

During the 1960s in Sweden, socio-economic differentials decreased sharply at the same time as the labor force participation of married women and aggregate divorce rates increased more rapidly than during any other period of the twentieth century. The aim of this paper is to investigate how the socio-economic composition of the couple influenced the probability of divorce during this period of rapid restructuring. The study uses a large dataset covering the entire married population of Sweden in 1960 and applies a binary model whereby the couples are analyzed as units rather than separate individuals to model divorce during the period 1960-1965. The main results show that the equalization process between genders and social classes during this period contributed to the decrease in marital stability. Dual-provider families exhibit substantially higher probabilities of divorce as compared to traditional single-provider families. We also find that the socio-economic gradient of divorce had become negative by the early 1960s and that couples with low socio-economic status contributed more to the increase in divorce than did couples in the higher strata. A difference between the results reached in this study and those from divorce research covering later decades is that children do not reduce the probability of divorce when the wife's labor force participation is controlled for. The results indicate that the determinants of divorce have varied across different phases of the divorce transition during the twentieth century and that a historical perspective is necessary if we are to understand the long-term process that has produced current marital behavior.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge University Press, 2014
Keyword
Divorce, Sweden, 1960s, Socio-economic determinants, Female labor force participation, Socio-economic growth
National Category
History Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
History; Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60211 (URN)10.1017/ssh.2015.13 (DOI)000356145000011 ()
Available from: 2012-10-05 Created: 2012-10-05 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
5. “Laws shouldn’t chain people to one another”: Attitudes toward divorce in Swedish public debate 1964-1972
Open this publication in new window or tab >>“Laws shouldn’t chain people to one another”: Attitudes toward divorce in Swedish public debate 1964-1972
2011 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

During the 1960s and 1970s in Sweden, both the labor force participation rate of marriedwomen and the divorce rate increased more than during any other period of the twentiethcentury. Higher levels of extramarital fertility, cohabitation among unmarried spouses andincreasing age at first birth accompanied the rise of these two rates. These developmentsexemplify phenomena associated with the second demographic transition, and weremarkedly evident in Sweden during the 1960s and 1970s. Studying the national newspapersfrom 1964 to 1969, this paper traces the impact of these demographic and socioeconomicchanges on the public debate on divorce prior to the implementation of the 1974divorce law.The Swedish divorce law of 1974 was based on unilateral no-fault and thus meant aremoval of more or less all legal constraints against divorce. The aim of this paper is toidentify the normative views of divorce that dominated the public debate during the secondhalf of the 1960s, just prior to the implementation of the new divorce law. In thispaper, the daily press is used to detect the arguments that were publically raised for andagainst an increased access to divorce and how the argumentation changed over time.With regard to gender and socio-economic position, the study further identifies the participantsin the debate and whether they represented any political or other group affiliations.Focusing on this divorce debate, the findings will contribute to the knowledge onhow changes in cultural and normative values in society interact with dramatic demographicdevelopments and institutional changes.

Keyword
Divorce, Sweden, 1960s, Gender Regime, Second Demographic Transition, Post-materialism, Welfare State, De-familialization
National Category
History
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60212 (URN)
Conference
36th Annual Meeting of the Social Science History Association, Boston, Massachusetts, 17-20 November, 2011.
Available from: 2012-10-05 Created: 2012-10-05 Last updated: 2014-01-24Bibliographically approved

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