Divorce in urban and rural areas: Are there regional differences?
Institute of Sociology University of Vienna Vienna, Austria
Family life is, among a variety of other factors, shaped and influenced by the living conditions, social surroundings, and infrastructural realities that family members face. All these factors might differ considerably in urban and rural areas. Nevertheless, family research often does not take sufficiently into account that living conditions in cities and on the countryside might vary substantially. Regarding the issue of divorce, we might assume that divorce means something different for people living in a big city and those in the countryside, as there are differences regarding attitudes, expectations, social relationships, social control, etc.
This presentation is based on two Austrian studies using a multi-perspective, qualitative approach. The first study deals with the causes and consequences of divorce and takes into account the viewpoints of children, their mothers and their fathers. Our data indicate that there are regional differences concerning the causes and preliminaries leading up to the divorce as well as its consequences. Our interview partners who lived in small rural communities had considerably worse chances to overcome difficulties related to divorce than those living in an urban area. This was the case for children, women, and men. Possible reasons for these circumstances are: differences in the basic social conditions (fewer workplaces, child care facilities and possibilities for professional support, lower wages, specific housing situation); more traditional attitudes towards family, gender roles and divorce, a higher extent of social control, a bigger loss of social prestige after divorce, and less possibilities (and willingness) to require support. In addition, first results of a currently ongoing study, exploring children´s and their parents´ perceptions of different family forms in urban and rural Austrian areas, are presented.