James Quayle Dealey.

The family in its sociological aspects online

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struggling to maintain themselves in decency.
Churches, dazed by conditions not provided for
in their theology nor in their former experiences,
practically confine themselves to attempts to


maintain their present standing, or else virtually
cut loose from the masses and cultivate rela-
tionships with the classes who still profess belief
in the teachings and methods of the churches.
Philanthropies, also, overwhelmed by the expan-
sion of population and the rapid increase in calls
for charity, feverishly devote themselves to the
collection of money for almsgiving, neglecting in
their haste the possibilities of eliminating much
of the demand by furthering constructive pol-
icies. Even the schools, swamped by the influx
of so many of alien stock, devote themselves
chiefly to the problem of teaching the rudiments
of education to the children of native and alien
alike, neglecting thereby the necessity of advance
movements suitable to a progressive civilization.
The government, finally, both state and local,
becomes so interested in its economic expansion
that it ignores the rapidly accumulating series
of social problems developing in city and country,
and allows evils to multiply that might with
comparative ease be nipped in the bud.

By contrast to these conditions so plainly
destructive in kind there are other tendencies
constructive in their influence rapidly coming to
the front throughout the United States. Society,
overpowered apparently by the sudden onrush of
increasing urban responsibilities, is at last slowly
awakening to the situation and arousing itself


to grapple with modern social problems. Con-
structive movements of all sorts are becoming so
numerous as almost to defy enumeration. Gov-
ernment is becoming interested in the elimination
of social evils and in the upbuilding of the higher
aspects of rural and urban life. The city as a
municipal corporation is revising its chartered
organization so as to adapt itself to newer condi-
tions. It is developing a civic plan inclusive of
future possibilities of growth; it is becoming
esthetic and looks askance at its neglected back
yards, its slums, and its bedraggled scenery, and,
staggering at the heavy cost of its social evils,
begins to experiment somewhat in methods of
prevention so as to develop thereby a safer
environment for its families. The schools also
begin to find a respite from their undue absorp-
tion in their immediate problems and plan for a
larger education better adapted to modern voca-
tional and civic demands. In philanthropies the
cry for social justice is heard as against the ap-
peal for alms, and agitations innumerable are
arising against urban conditions of housing, sick-
ness, and disease. Churches begin to develop a
social conscience and to take interest in the
earthly welfare of the people as well as in their
salvation after death. In the industries also both
state and employer, realizing the value of efficient
labor as a factor in production, begin to admit


the economy and wisdom of banishing conditions
that produce sickness, accident, and low stand-
ards of living, and to take interest in cooperating
with their workers in building up a decent and
healthful atmosphere in home and shop. In fact,
throughout the entire social body associations
innumerable are rising up, each agitated about
some particular aspect of the social problem, but
all unitedly filled with the belief that society
must not rest satisfied with present conditions.
Disease must be banished from civilization, sick-
ness and accidents reduced to a minimum, child
labor abolished, and the conditions of Hfe in city
or country made such that every person may have
opportunity to enjoy his life and vocation, un-
hampered by the evils that now so closely beset
both young and old in modern civilization.



The influence of democratic and urban tend-
encies on the family may be well illustrated by
noting the modern problem of divorce and the
varying forms of marriage in use throughout the
United States. Marriage itself is based on mutual
consent in the case of adults, supplemented by
parental sanction if one or both of the parties are
minors. The civil law defines the procedure of
marriage, regularly requiring license, registra-
tion, and a ceremony performed by a magistrate,
or by a clergyman authorized by law, or in what-
ever other way the law may ordain. No priest or
clergyman may perform the marriage ceremony
unless authorized by the state, so that a person
offtciating at a marriage is to that extent a civil
officer. This uniform legal basis, however, is not
always in full accord with existing theories in
respect to the marriage relationship.

There are in fact six kinds of marriage exist-
ing side by side, some of which involve occasional
friction with the civil authorities. These may


briefly be explained as follows: (i) The Roman
Catholic theory is that marriage is a sacrament,
indissoluble and valid only when performed by a
priest after the rites determined by the church.
(2) Th'e Protestant theory is that marriage is a
holy relationship, the sacredness of which should
be emphasized by a religious ceremony when
authorized by the state, and that the bonds of
matrimony, once formed, should be loosened
only for reasons based on the teachings of the
New Testament. (3) The theory of civil mar-
riage is one authorized by the state, performed by
civil magistrates, and dissolved for causes deter-
mined by the state, (4) The common-law mar-
riage is that in which cohabitation and a common
life as man and wife are the essential steps of
marriage, though the state has full control over
divorce. (5) A free contract marriage is one in
which the state authorizes the contracting parties,
as in the case of Friends, to perform their own
marriage ceremony in the presence of witnesses
after compliance with legal requirements, di-
vorces being granted under state authority.
(6) There is an extreme free contract theory,
sometimes called "free love," in which marriage
and divorce are entirely withdrawn from the
authority of the state and depend on the wish of
the contracting parties. This is virtually the
fourth form of family developed in late Roman


civilization.^ From the legal standpoint the first
and second forms by themselves can exist only
in so far as they are made conformable to civil
requirements, the third is legal throughout the
United States, and the fourth and fifth forms are
legal only so far as authorized by statutes or by
common law. The sixth form is not a legal form
of marriage in modern times, but exists illegally
in the system of "mistresses" and is advocated
as a proper marriage by social extremists. In
actual practice nearly all marriages are performed
by priests or clergymen after legal authorization,
marriages performed by civil magistrates are not
usual, the free contract marriage is rarely used
outside of the body of Friends, who are weak in
numbers, and the common-law marriage, while
still countenanced by several States, is not
favored, since the States prefer to keep a record
of each marriage and hence as a rule demand
license and registration.

The problem of divorce has a further signifi-
cance as showing the influence of Christianity
and democracy on the family. Ethnologists can
still point to countries where metronymic condi-
tions of marriage and divorce continue to prevail.
Patronymic civilization exists throughout Asia
and presents the varied aspects of that well-
known type of familial organization. Japan, for
* See pages 38-39.


example, just emerging from the loose divorce
system of that stage, showed from its statistics
that, during the ten years from 1887 to 1896, one
divorce took place for every three marriages,
though since the adoption of a somewhat
stricter code (1898) this ratio has become one
to six. Nearly all divorces take place by mu-
tual consent and are merely recorded by the

In eastern and southern Europe the strict
religious teachings of the Christian Church
largely determine the legal basis of matrimony
and minimize divorce. Ecclesiastical restrictions
of a less rigid type prevail in northern Europe,
so that the number of divorces relatively in-
creases, the ratio being fairly high in some States,
though there are wide variations. In France
marriage and divorce are from the legal stand-
point purely civil, ^ religious teachings having
merely a social influence of varying importance.
In the French colony of Algeria, a Mohammedan
country, under the laxness of a patriarchal sys-
tem the ratio of marriages to divorces was three
to one in the years 1897 to 1905. In the United
States of America the question of divorce is a
national problem under full discussion, for not
only is its divorce rate the largest in Western

* The civil marriage, however, for social reasons is often
followed by a religious ceremony.


civilization, but it annually grants more divorces
than all the European states combined.^

In the voluminous discussion arising from this
fact many explanations have been advanced
seeking to show why a Christian nation of high
moral standards should have so heavy a divorce
rate. In general the cause is rightly ascribed to
the influence of modern democracy, but this it-
self is in need of explanation. If one may judge
from the statistics of Algeria and Japan, a divorce
system, largely dependent on male whim and
unchecked by religious prohibitions, furnishes a
divorce for every three marriages. If, however,
church and state combine to forbid divorce at all,
then obviously there are no legal divorces, and
yet there may be much prostitution, illegitimacy,
and adultery. As marriage becomes civil, and
church and state separate, divorce may slowly
become permissible so that the ratio of divorces
to marriages may steadily rise. When the regu-

* For a detailed study of the divorce rates of foreign
countries, see Governmental Report on Marriage and Divorce,
part I, 1909; but as illustrations of varying ratios may be
noted the following: —

Year Country Ratio of divorce to marriage

1906 Ireland i to 3777

1906 England and Wales i to 403

1906 German Empire I to 41

1906 Denmark I to 33

1905 France I to 30

1906 Switzerland i to 20
1906 United States i to 12
1905 Japan i to s


lation of marriage becomes entirely civil and
state and church are clearly separate, as in the
United States, the religious standards tend to be
supplanted by newer standards based on demo-
cratic theories of liberty and equality, while to
many the "pursuit of happiness " seems more im-
portant than adherence to a religious command.
This change takes place the more rapidly because
the churches in the United States do not form a
united body ; they teach widely varying doctrines
in respect to marriage and divorce, and hence
are not able to present a consensus of religious
opinion on the divorce problem. Furthermore,
under ecclesiasticism women rarely seek divorce,
but under democracy, on the other hand, as they
win equality with men in the economic, civic,
and intellectual spheres, they demand equality
also in familial relationships, and, should the neces-
sity arise, they do not hesitate to seek a separa-
tion from obnoxious husbands, as is shown by the
fact that two thirds (66.6 per cent) of all divorces
in the United States are petitioned for by wives.
In the early years of national history, demo-
cratic development in domestic matters found a
natural outlet in modifications of the mechanism
whereby divorces are granted. State legislatures,
from the founding of the Republic, have aimed in
general to satisfy popular demands, and among
these demands was an insistence on a broadening


UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNll^'*'"* "^iwiAHA. California


of the possibilities of divorce for causes other than
adultery and desertion, and an assertion that
women equally with men should be given the
right to sue for divorce. As at the same time
jurisdiction over divorces slowly passed from the
legislatures to the courts, a petition might be
filed in almost any locality, and a decree rendered
at comparatively slight cost to the parties, within
a short time, and with a minimum of publicity.
During the first hundred years of national his-
tory, therefore, the laws in respect to divorce in
general became lax, the ease of judicial procedure
in divorce cases became proverbial, and the num-
ber of applications steadily mounted upward,
almost without remark, since no statistics of real
value were available. Social opinion easily read-
justed itself to the new situation and a divorce
ceased to have much effect on one's social stand-
ing. After the close of the Civil War the growing
frequency of divorce began to attract the atten-
tion of churchmen, a few statistical studies were
made, and in 1878 the Rev. Dr. Dike began to
write and lecture on the question. Three years
later a Divorce Reform League was formed with
Dr. Dike as secretary, since which time he has
devoted his life to the study of divorce and
of other problems connected with the family.
Through the League an agitation was developed
aiming to have the National Government make


a careful study of American statistics in respect
to divorce and marriage, so far as these could be
obtained. Congress in 1887 authorized investi-
gations, and these were published in 1889. The
report at once attracted wide attention and ran
through three editions. On the basis of the infor-
mation thus furnished, movements at once devel-
oped throughout the several States for improve-
ment and uniformity in legislation respecting
divorce, and much progress in this direction has
been attained. In 1905 Congress authorized a
more comprehensive study of marriage and di-
vorce, and this investigation was printed in two
volumes in 1908-09. These reports furnish a
fairly satisfactory basis for a clear statement of
the entire question, and the conclusions are start-
ling enough. The total number of marriages in
the United States during the years 1887 to 1906
was 12,832,044. During the same period there
were 945,625 divorces, or in round numbers one
divorce for every twelve marriages. In the opin-
ion of departmental experts this ratio may be
subject to modification, since statistical records
in certain sections of the United States are defec-
tive, so that it is possible that the ratio may be
anywhere between one to twelve and one to six-
teen. The divorce rate in 1906 was over three
times that of 1867, the increase in percentage
being practically steady year by year except


in times of economic disturbance. The ease of
divorce is shown by the fact that of all petitions
presented to the courts about seventy-five per
cent were granted, fifteen per cent only being
contested. It is significant that in only about
forty per cent of the cases were children involved,
and in nearly one half of these again there was
but one child to the marriage. The causes as-
signed are in many cases conventional, but as
illustrative of the situation the figures for the
five years 1902-06 are as follows: —

Desertion 38.5

Cruelty 23.5

Adultery 15.3

Intemperance 3.9

Neglect to provide . . . .3.8
Miscellaneous . . . . .15.

While intemperance was a direct cause in only
3.9 per cent it was a factor in 19.5 per cent of the
cases. It is not to be assumed that the causes
assigned are in all cases the real causes. Petitions
naming relatively less obnoxious causes, such as
desertion, will seldom be contested, so that such
a cause by connivance may be agreed on in order
to avoid the publicity of a trial in a contested
case. Divorce under such circumstances prac-
tically amounts to divorce by mutual consent
formally recorded before a court.


In the early years of agitation for the reform
of divorce laws there was a demand for authority
to pass a national divorce law, on the assumption
that many persons moved to "easy" States so as
to secure divorces more readily, but it now seems
clear that there is little migration from State to
State for the purpose of securing divorce. Of the
divorces granted, 76.3 per cent are granted in the
states where the marriages took place, and the
remaining per cent, with a possible slight excep-
tion, represents the natural migration of popula-
tion from one State to another.

Continuous agitation and publicity in respect
to the divorce problem have naturally resulted in
suggestions of many remedies. In legislation this
has taken the form of attempts to have the States
adopt in substance a uniform divorce law, so as
to eliminate some of the recognized evils existent
in a lax legal system. Such and similar sugges-
tions emphasize a proper length of residence in a
State before a petition may be entered in the
court; a careful judicial examination of each case
preceded by attempts at reconciliation after
European models; a suitable interval between
the petition and the trial and between the trial
and the time within which the divorced parties,
one or both, may not be allowed to marry; and
finally, a strict regulation of those lawyers who
specialize on divorce cases and by advertising


multiply the number of applicants for divorce.
Moreover, it is recognized that many divorces
would be unnecessary if only hasty marriages
were rendered impossible by insistence on a for-
mal license, taken out in the locality where one
of the parties has domicile, several days in ad-
vance of the ceremony ; that legal age, or, in the
case of minors, parental consent be demanded;
and that the ceremony, whether before a magis-
trate or a clergyman, be made formal and solemn
so as to make clear the importance of the step
about to be undertaken.

From another standpoint, through the socio-
logical trend of the day an increasing emphasis is
being laid on the social factors that play so large
a part in the divorce problem, preeminent among
which, as a baneful influence in its efifects on the
sanctity of the marriage tie, is the prevalence of
prostitution and its contagious diseases,^ A con-
sensus of opinion is slowly arising that a real
cause underlying the excessive demand for di-
vorce is the existence of sexual diseases trans-
ferred from husband to wife. Inevitably this
results in mental anguish and aversion, in hateful
physical consequences to wife and child, or in the
evils of abortion and sterility. If sexual vice is
a chief factor in the rising ratio of divorce, then
divorce to that extent may be due to a moral,

* See Prince A. Morrow, Social Diseases and Marriage.


not an immoral demand. Admitting as one must
that divorces too often are sought for on ex-
tremely frivolous grounds and without a proper
appreciation of the sanctity of the marriage rela-
tion, admitting also that many marriages are
entered into without proper consideration or from
low and unworthy motives, the fact remains that
the increasing demand for divorce is in general
justified by public opinion. We are developing
as never before ideals of the sanctity of one's
personality and of a social obligation to poster-
ity. A marriage connection that depresses and
defiles the inner self is unholy, and when it results
in the birth of abnormal children mentally and
physically defective is in the highest sense of the
word immoral. When an intelligent wife with
moral sensibilities realizes that sexual vice on her
husband's part preceded or followed the mar-
riage, no dictum of church or clergy can make a
tie seem sacred which fills her with horror and
loathing. A marriage, in other words, is sancti-
fied only when the parties to the contract are
themselves fit bodily and spiritually for a holy
ceremony and remain so throughout life. Nor
should churches place themselves in opposition
to divorce so long as they unite in what should be
a holy marriage the pure and innocent with the
impure and defiled. When churches refuse to
marry those unfit for conjugal and parental rela-


tions, then they may with a good conscience in-
sist on a permanent marriage tie. The state also
will as public opinion develops assume the same
attitude, and make sound physical and moral
health a prerequisite for a legal marriage.



The harmonious unity of the sexes through
marriage is so fundamental to any theory of con-
jugal stability and so necessary to an advanced
civilization, that it may be advantageous to trace
in review the varying aspects of sex relationship,
so as to show the trend toward a higher form of
cooperation in the marriage tie.

In primitive civilization human beings, de-
scended from a common ancestry and subjected
to a similar environment, would naturally de-
velop a sort of democracy. In physique, in men-
tality, and in capacity to struggle for existence
there would be an approximation toward equal-
ity, even though slight variations might be nu-
merous. The sexes, too, were not unequal, since
the physical superiority of the man was offset
by the probable mental superiority of the woman.
Fortunately for civilization, woman in the earlier
metronymic stage was from the social stand-
point rather more important, since the family
was molded into a social group through her in-
fluence. She developed language and the home,


multiplied the comforts of life through her in-
genuity, and by her knowledge of edible vegeta-
tion and medicinal herbs she supplied her fam-
ily with food, served as their physician in times
of illness, and was even their interpreter in the
mysteries of the supernatural. Within the group,
children were under her guidance, and as they
approached adolescence acquired their larger
education through imitation of their elders. By
a system of judicious neglect they had to become
economically capable or starve, so that those who
reached maturity were virtually self-sufficient
through natural selection. Each might aspire to
whatever position seemed best suited to his
capacities; there were neither slaves nor social
inferiors; occupation, marriage, and honor were
open to all, as opportunities to be utilized or

Yet if through changing conditions, such as
migration or the rise of private property, there
came racial and social conflicts, conquest and
defeat would be followed by relationships of
superiority and inferiority. The lower would
still be equal among themselves, and the higher
equal one to the other, but the earlier unified
democratic group would become aristocratic, as
the population separated into classes and castes.
Superiority might be based on physical, eco-
nomic, or intellectual capacity, but once attained


and asserted it tended to become permanent,
since the dominant class would control social
regulation and would maintain conditions favor-
able to its own supremacy.

A similar change in status may be clearly seen
in the social relationships of the sexes. There is
naturally a permanent distinction in the phys-
iology and psychology of male and female, and
this fundamental differentiation from the begin-
ning made the social function of women different
from that of men. There was a democracy among
women, and a democracy among men, but the
two sexes were not necessarily on exact terms of
equality in their relations with each other. Dif-
ferences, however, became accentuated, when in
patriarchal civilization men became the providers
of foods, monopolized higher occupations, and
won supremacy in religious and intellectual life.
Woman's work in consequence ceased to be first
in social utility, and her function tended more
and more to become that of a bearer of children
and a sharer with the slave in the performance
of the drudgery of the group. Those women
found favor in men's eyes who were attractive
through their beauty or accomplishments, or
through their docility and patient endurance
under privation and toil. Less tractable females
were eliminated through harsh treatment, or
"tamed" after the method elaborated by Shake-


speareinhis Taming of the Shrew. Naturally women
did not submit readily to this position of inferi-
ority, so that patriarchal literature is full of male

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Online LibraryJames Quayle DealeyThe family in its sociological aspects → online text (page 6 of 8)