Critiquing an Argumentative Essay
This essay explicitly asks the student to use "sociological arguments" to support or refute a proposition - a classic argumentative essay.
Task: Apply the writing principles you have learned
so far to this student essay.
For comments about the paragraphs (as numbered), press the symbol after each paragraph.
Title: The rise in the divorce rate in modern societies indicates that people are becoming selfish and irresponsible in marriage. What sociological arguments would you use to support or refute this statement?
 Divorce is a kind of marital break down . It refers to the legal termination of a marriage. Despite minor fluctuations, there has been a rise in divorce rate in modern, industrialised societies; e.g. in S.E. Asian and Europe in 1991, 859 petition for divorce were filed in England and Wales of which some three quarters were granted a decree absolute. But, can we regard this phenomenon as an indication that people are becoming selfish and irresponsible? In fact, what are the meaning of selfish and irresponsible?
 Before we have the answers, let us examine the reasons leading to divorce first.
 In When Marriage Ends, Nicky Hart argues that three factors must be considered for any explanation of marital break, they are those affect: the value attached to marriage; conflict between the spouses; and the opportunities for individual to escape from a marriage. These factors will be considered from a functionalist perspective. From this view point, behaviour is largely a response to share norms and values.
 According to the value attached to marriage, functionalists such as Talcott Parsons and Ronald Fletcher point out that marriage is increasingly valued. People expect and demand more from marriage. They tend to evaluate marriage in terms of personal satisfaction. A higher value placed on marriage may result in increased divorce as people are more likely to end a relationship which may be acceptable in the past. Now, let us take the case in Japan as an example.
 Before industrialization, traditional value was dominant. Women's role were mainly for domestic work. Even though they were treated cruelly, they would not voice their anger. But after Industrial Revolution, since they now become economically independent, their values towards marriage change. They now expect their spouses to have more affection to them, otherwise divorce will be inevitable.
 Secondly, those affected the degree of conflict between the spouses should be regarded. Functionalists argue that economic system has placed a high strain on families adaptation. After industrialization, nuclear family, instead of the extended one, can be found. William J. Good argues that such family carries a heavier emotional burden when it exist independently than when it is a small unit within a larger kin fabric. Such an emotional overload may increase the conflict between the spouses.
 An industrialized society enable the family specializes in fewer functions. For instance, the educational function will be performed by schools while production is done in a factories. Bond to unite its members are weak. Only the emotional attachment can hold the couple together; without it, divorce will be resulted. However, can we regard the divorce as selfish and irresponsible? From a functionalist perspective, it can be argued that what is functional for one part of the social system can be dysfunctional for another part. Thus, for the greater good of the social system, divorce is the price paid.
 Referring to the opportunities for individuals to escape from a marriage, we can see that the stigma attached to divorce has been considerably reduced. Goode argues that the change in attitudes towards divorce is part of the more general process of secularization in western societies. Secularization refers to the declining influence of the church and of religious belief in general. Sociologists say that secular beliefs and values increasingly direct behaviour. People now ask themselves whether divorce is a procedure to fulfil their needs, instead of as a moral one.
 The changing attitude towards divorce have been institutionalized by various changes in law. In past few decades, procedures of divorce is expensive. Since 1857, the costs of obtaining a divorce have been decreased. For instance, the Legal Aid and Advice Act of 1949, which provided free legal advice, had widened the ground for divorce.
 In the past of the west, the adversary system was introduced. For a divorce to be granted, one spouse had to bring charges (e.g. cruelty, desertion, adultery) against the other. In 1971, Divorce Reform Act was introduced in U.K. It defined the grounds for divorce as irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and abandoned the idea of matrimonial offence. Such Act lead to an increase in divorce in U.K. in 1972. But in Philippines, as the Roman Catholic Philippines has consistently uphold the Church's anti-divorce stance, separation is common and increasing.
 After seeing the functionalist perspective, we now have another point of view - Marxian.
 Nicky Hart argues that the increasing divorce rate can be seen as a product of conflict between the changing economic system and its social and ideological superstructure (notably the family). Due to the material aspiration - the demand for goods that families desire, raised by the capitalists, both men and women become the wage earners. However, working wives are still expected to be responsible for housework and play a subservient role to the husband. These expectations contradict the wife's role as a wage earner as she is sharing the economic burden now. Eventually, conflicts may be resulted and divorce is inevitable. Besides, jobs require separation between spouses, or different marital expectation stem from the sub-culture of the particular social group of the spouses or young marriage but lack of working experience may also lead to divorce.
 From the different aspects mentioned before, we know that divorce may occur much easier in this modern society. In fact divorce rates are obviously not a direct index of marital unhappiness. It does not include people who are separated but have not been legally divorced. Besides, people who are unhappily married may choose to stay together - because they believe in the sanctity of marriage, or worry about the financial or emotional consequences of a break-up, or wish to remain with one another to give their children a family home.
 On the other hand, what is the meaning of selfish and irresponsible? In fact, it is quite a subjective concept as it involves value-judgement and cannot be measured so accurately. To me, irresponsible in marriage means that one is not properly care about the marriage, while selfish means one is chiefly thinking of one's own needs and welfare. According to definition, the rise in divorce rate cannot sufficiently indicate the selfishness and irresponsibility of people . In order to have a clear concept, let us use some cases to indicate it.
 In the past, divorce was absolutely disapproved and only granted in case of non-consummation of marriage. But, does the existence of the marriage mean that both spouses are satisfied? Maybe, they have constant fighting or one of them is physically and sexually abused by their partners, or they just concern their own benefits though they are living under a same roof. In this case, though no divorce take place, selfishness can be found.
 Take another example. People in Hong Kong would like to pay money to foreigner for a mock marriage cause they want to migrate to that country. After they are able to live in that country, divorce will be resulted. In this case, we cannot say that both people are irresponsible and selfish in marriage since they need not to care the other's feeling. What they concern is to obtain the money or citizenship.
 Nowadays, though women can choose to terminate the marriage once there is marital disharmony, they will not to do so. In Hong Kong, many poor women with dependent children claim they will get a divorce as soon as their children have grown up. In Japan, prior to 1970, most divorcees were under 30; by mid-80, they were in their early 30. The latest trend is the middle-age women, who is starting to assert her independence after her children have grown up. From the above, can we say that the rise in divorce rate indicate the selfishness and irresponsibility among people?
 To conclude, increase in divorce rate is due to the social changes. Nowadays, people re-evaluate the marriage and try to pursuit romantic love. In fact, divorce can only indicate the legal termination of marriage but not the subjective value of selfish and irresponsible. Thus, I disagree that "the rise in divorce rate in modern societies indicates that people are becoming selfish and irresponsible in marriage".
Sociology Term Essay: Divorce essay
"The rise in divorce rate in modern societies indicates that people are becoming selfish and irresponsible in marriage. What sociological arguments would you use to support or refute this statement?"
The main requirement of the question, that the writer make use of sociological arguments is not really satisfied by the writer.
Nicky Hart's three factors are borrowed to structure the essay, and the usual Functionalist-Marxian dichotomy is established as a comparative analytical framework, one suspects direct from Hart (no references !).
This framework is used for around the first 60% of the essay, after which point the essay degenerates, losing structure and certainly any coherent sociological argumentation.
It ends with an almost incoherent conclusion.
Comments by paragraph: These are only for students interested in a close analysis of the essay; the comments are personal, expressing one point of view. If you want to see the paragraph referred to, press .
To conclude, increase in divorce rate is due to the social changes. Nowadays, people re-evaluate the marriage and try to pursuit romantic love. In fact, divorce can only indicate the legal termination of marriage but not the subjective value of selfish and irresponsible. Thus, I disagree that "the rise in divorce rate in modern societies indicates that people are becoming selfish and irresponsible in marriage".