Divorce

Throughout U.S. history, perceptions and practices regarding divorce have been closely intertwined with definitions of manhood. There have been two broad historical patterns. First, generally strict divorce laws prior to the twentieth century bolstered male domestic authority—an important element of masculine identity—by permitting men substantial leeway in domestic affairs. Beginning as early as the late eighteenth century, however, divorce laws changed (and the grounds for divorce expanded) in ways that reflected an ongoing redefinition and erosion of that authority. Second, divorce suggested until well into the twentieth century that a husband had violated prevailing standards of manhood. During the twentieth century, however, changing perceptions of marriage, the advent of “no-fault” divorce, and the growth of a new masculine ideal grounded in freedom from marital ...

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