The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Incubating Feminists

Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson

Nothing turns women into feminists faster than divorce. Indeed, the role of divorce in shaping a feminist outlook emerges clearly in a study by Breanne Falls, a women’s studies scholar at Arizona State University, who analyzed the life histories of 98 women who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1967.

Above all else, Falls’s data establish the political consequences of divorce. “Divorced women,” Falls reports, “were significantly more likely to endorse a liberal political orientation than were married women.” What is more, “100%of the women in this study who espoused a radical political orientation were from the divorced group.” In contrast, “married women were most likely to endorse a moderate or conservative viewpoint.” Underscoring the political consequences of divorce, Falls adduces evidence that “divorced women did not differ from married women in their political history preceding marriage and divorce.”

The power of divorce to reshape women’s perspective especially manifests itself in gender politics. Unlike married women—who typically accept existing gender roles—“divorced women reported experiences with the highest stage of feminist identity development”—namely, “active commitment to feminist identity” (p.01).

The politicizing effects of divorce predictably translate into political involvement. For although the divorced women in this study actually “participated less in general organizational activities” (such as those sponsored by civic, volunteer, and church groups) than did their married peers (p.05), these divorced women were “somewhat morelikely to participate in specifically political organizations” (p.10).

If nothing else, the study dispels any doubt as to why the National Organization for Women favors liberal divorce laws.

(Breanne Falls, “Second Shifts and Political Awakenings: Divorce and the Political Socialization of Middle-Aged Women,”Journal of Marriage & Divorce 47.3/4 [2007]: 43–61, emphasis added.)