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Modernization and Divorce: Contrasting Trends in Islamic Southeast Asia and the West

Gavin W. Jones
Population and Development Review
Vol. 23, No. 1 (Mar., 1997), pp. 95-114
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/2137462
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137462
Page Count: 20
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Modernization and Divorce: Contrasting Trends in Islamic Southeast Asia and the West
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Abstract

During the 1960s and 1970s, divorce rates rose to unprecedented levels in Western countries but plummeted in Islamic Southeast Asia from initially very high values in the 1950s and earlier, continuing thereafter to fall to levels well below those in the West. In Islamic Southeast Asia, explanations emphasize radical change in the mate selection context, linked in particular to extended periods of education for girls, whereby the couples contracting marriage gained a greater stake in its success. Greater wealth, less polygyny, and social and religious pressures to tighten divorce procedures all played a role. In Western countries, by contrast, increased emphasis on individualism and postmaterialist values are usually stressed. In the West, promotion of women's wellbeing emphasized the ease of breaking from unsatisfactory marriages; in Islamic Southeast Asia, the avoidance of entering into such marriages. Although sharing some common elements, the two regions started from such different situations that their divorce trends must be explained in their own terms rather than according to a universalist theory of divorce.

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