I want to admit to being confused on the intentions of this discussion...
I had understood the initial post to suggest that although not all of society's problems are created by divorce, broken families and single parent homes, we must none-the-less conclude that these forces are driving many social problems and represent a danger to society. And the poster wants to inquire into the validity of this conclusion.
In my first post I attempted to respond to this question ("Can we blame these problems on divorce?"). But now I wonder if I missed the point.
I recognize the nuanced view that the poster is offering. The initial post questions the value of a traditional family structure and states that many factors might lead to societal problems. I can see that. However, the question the poster is finally asking seems, to me, to be whether or not we can consider divorce as a a cause for social problems.
The poster states that the causes for society's ills are probably not as simple as divorce, but then seems to ask if we can disregard the complex view in preference to a conclusion claiming that single-parent family's are a real social danger.
This was my take on the the meaning of the post and the discussion here, but I am not so sure now. In deference to rrteacher and also a (kind of confusing) reiteration from blues8, I am ready to abandon my initial interpretation.
Are we really asking what the other causes of social problems (drug abuse, etc.) might be, outside of divorce?
While the original post was not very clearly written, it seems to be suggesting that divorce is actually not the cause of the problems we have been discussing on this thread. I agree, and I would argue that in many cases, a divorce, handled with care, diplomacy, and concern for the children involved, might be the healthiest possible solution for all involved. However, sometimes the problems that led to the divorce--many of which have been mentioned here--are not solved by the divorce. In other words, a selfish mother or father may remain that way after the divorce. In any cases, the US Census has revealed that divorce rates have dropped considerably over the past few decades, as the following story outlines: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-05-19/living/divorce.rates.drop_1_divorce-rate-divorce-laws-marriage?_s=PM:LIVING
I would say that the problem with divorce is often not the separation of the family unit but the attitudes and problems created by arguing parents. Some children in divorced families do turn out just fine. Often, these are situations where the parents are willing to work together and remain amicable at least in terms of raising the children. Too often, children are put between the parents and used to hurt the other parent. It is bad for children when the parents do not agree on how to raise them. It is bad for children when a parent speaks negatively of the other parent. This bickering and emotion turmoil within a family can easily cause some of the problems you listed.
Single parent families are becoming far more commong (at least in the US). I would not suggest that single parent families are bad for children, but a single parent family is likely to have a more difficult time than a two parent family. This is not to suggest that they are wrong or that they shouldn't exist. Wonderful children can be raised by a single parent.
I would also point out that not all two parent, traditional families are patriarchal. The orthodox Jewish family, for instance, holds the mother in far higher regard than the father. The mother is the one in charge of child rearing decisions and many other major choices. The traditional family may still look the same on the outside (mother, father, and children) but it is certainly not the same traditional family from the 1930's.
Divorce rates have actually been fairly flat over the last thirty years in the UK according to The Guardian and that matches my intuition about the US as well. Though rates have increased in just the last few years, they have not increased over the last decades.
So if we are seeking an explanation for societal changes taking place in the last few decacdes we have to look further than divorce rates to find it.
Broken families do have a significant impact on children's development, but to say that single parent homes pose a danger to society seems a step (or two) too far.
I think that in almost all cases, a broken family is a negative thing. It may be true that there are times when a family needs to split, but by then the family is already essentially broken anyway and much of the negative effects have already happened.
Family turmoil and instability are devastating to kids and their ability to adjust and function in constructive ways. Yes, many kids overcome this obstacles, but it is much harder for them than for kids from functional families.
I agree with pohnpei. Divorce is not the problem. In reality, divorce is the outcome of the existence of problems. That said, if people are willing to address their personal issues in a healthy and proper manner, many divorces could be avoided. On the other hand, if people are not willing to look within themselves for issues, and blame others, nothing positive can ever come.
As the child of divorced parents (and being divorced myself), I have to say that not all children come out of a divorce "damaged." Given that divorces are greater than they have been in the past, children have learned to deal with the problems associated with divorce through others.
I don't agree. I think that what is really happening is that both divorce and the other problems you mention have a common cause. In other word, divorce doesn't cause the problems. They're both caused by a general rise in self-centeredness and an emphasis on fulfilling individual desires regardless of what is good for the family or the group.