Kurz's 'For Richer, For Poorer' Confronts Inequalities of Divorce

For Richer, For Poorer: Mothers Confront Divorce by Demie Kurz 288 pp. New York: Routledge $17.95

In For Richer, For Poorer: Mothers Confront Divorce, Demie Kurz examines the impact of divorce on American women. Her book is a counter argument to this conservative attitude of politicians who blame female-headed households for the decline of family values, high crime rates, and "epidemic" rise in teen pregnancy.

Kurz does not look at the situation through harsh, cold facts. Instead she views each divorcee on an individual basis. Her sympathetic portrait of the divorced woman's plight confronts the media's assault on the wicked welfare mother who is slowly destroying the American society.

Kurz arranged interviews from a random sample of divorced women to discover their concerns and situations. She gleans essential information about their vast responsibilities. According to Kurz, women usually have more social and financial responsibilities than the men after the marriage is terminated.

Kurz's data offers a startling view of the problems faced by these women. Regardless of the women's background--her standard of living and resources--economic, legal and social policies generate an environment which causes the divorced woman's status to decline. In addition, more than fifty percent of divorced fathers refuse to give any amount of child support. These explain the reason why a thirty-seven percent of divorced women's with children live below the official poverty level.

Kurz's interviews provide a comprehensive human perspective which reveals the socioeconomic and emotional complications of divorce for mothers. Kurz reveals the link between empirical evidence and human experience. The conclusions of her study provide an essential transition from current media debate to the of government for instance, she criticizes family courts' refusal to enforce child support laws. The Family Support Act of 1988 tries to reform the father's negligence by training fathers of children on Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) so they could gain employment, but funding is low, and even this act refuses to acknowledge that husbands refuse to pay out of spite.

One may then ask why women continue to divorce their husbands if the facts reveal an inevitable decline in their lives and the lives of their children. Kurz discovers that most women divorce out of necessity. Kurz claims, "Women do not divorce casually, or for trivial reasons."

Serious difficulties such as domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and chronic infidelity plagued these marriages. More than fifty percent of the interviewees reported a few violent incidents during their marriages which sometimes continue after the divorce. Most women find that divorce in itself is not the problem, but the economic struggles which follow.


Kurz refuses the ideas that the family breakdown and divorce are direct causes the work force without devoting though time to their families. Instead of declaring a media war on the decline of the family, Kurz demands real legislation to combat family poverty and domestic violence.

Facts reveal that funds for the AFDC have consistently declined while wages have consistently gone down and eligibility for AFDC has tightened. In other words, Kurz points out that the growth in divorce rates and the increase in female-headed families have not been addressed adequately by social reforms.

In the end, Kurz's criticism of society's lack of concern for the divorced mother's problems delivers a much needed opinion in social discourse. Kurz's outlook on divorced women, particularly mothers, and the problems they face is sympathetic. However, her solutions are not comprehensive though Kurz offers more answers than most politicians.

Kurz vaguely discusses the need for social supports such as reform in custody and visitation laws, recognition of the unequal status of men and women (most divorce law assumes equal parenting between men and women), and improvement in wages and benefits for women. Kurz says, "Such measures would show a real commitment to the family. We must also renew our commitment to enduring violence against women by enforcing existing laws against violence."

Kurz fails to elucidate her position on how all these reforms would be carried out. Instead she repeatedly asks for a reexamination of the facts. She leads us to expect a detailed program of reform instead of vague catch phrases which trigger the public's progressive nerve. Despite this lack of clarity, Kurz answers ambitious questions in her search for a comprehensive analysis of sociological facts in divorced mothers' lives.

For Richer, For Poorer confronts the stigma behind the problems of divorced women and reveals the necessity for social reform to confront the decline of opportunity regardless of social-economic background. Instead of blaming divorced women for the country's woes, Kurz scrutinizes the unequal status of women in comparison to divorced men and bravely .