Conflict theory & divorce

marriage defined image by Christopher Walker from

Conflict theory interprets the issues surrounding divorce as influenced and "aggravated" by social and economic traditions. Rather than be a symptom of the couple's relationship, it is a manifestation, at least in part, of external elements that work upon them.

Theoretical Basis

Much of Conflict Theory can trace its origins back to Karl Marx and conflict as well as critical theory. Marx, and conflict theory, look at the oppressive structures of society as they relate to economic relations. In this sense, the tension felt within a marriage or family is a direct result of those socio-economic pressures.


Feminism stems from critical theory. It takes the perspective that socio-economic pressures ultimately create imbalance between genders. This is not a natural function of the husband/wife relationship, but a set of identities constructed for them by economic need, and which remain in conflict. Divorce can then be seen as partially or wholly a result of this perceived reality.

Minorities and Hardship

This model allows some conflict theorists to explain why failed marriages and domestic relationships occur more frequently among disadvantaged minorities. Some would extend this analysis to include the prevalence of domestic violence or spousal and child abuse within those contexts.

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