Rising Divorce Rates in Pakistan – Its Impact on the Individual and Society
Home is ideally a place where a person receives protection and psychological satisfaction. Everyone needs this love and sense of security; without it one’s daily life problems would seem burdens too big to bear. Marriage is a legal bond which brings responsibilities to both partners, and divorce is the legal termination of that bond (Parveen, 2010).
The divorce rate in Pakistan has increased, due in general terms to people not fully realizing their marital responsibility. In 2010 in Karachi, a total of 40,410 divorce cases were reported in court. In Pakistani social circles, a divorce supposedly brings shame to the family and becomes the defining aspect of the individuals involved.
The following is a generic looking case that I found on a generic looking website: Rachel was ‘happily married’ just like any other woman when her husband announced to her that he wished to get a divorce. He was tired of their marriage, and had now fallen in love with another woman. Left no choice, Rachel accepted the divorce, and for weeks was unable to sleep, eat or focus on work. She began to have panic attacks. Her children suffered from insomnia and their performance in school slipped. She went on to seek counseling and was prescribed antidepressant and antianxiety medications (Carey, 2012).
About 150 divorce cases are reported daily in courts in Lahore (Kausar, 2014). Here I briefly review the reasons for and repercussions of this high divorce rate.
One of these reasons is getting married at an early age; people are presumably more mature and better at handling marital challenges in their late 20s or 30s, than when they are just stepping into adulthood. In 2013 in Gujranwala, out of 5000 couples who applied for divorce, 3000 couples had been married early and in haste (Parveen, 2010). Financial problems too may strain marriages, especially in lower middle class families. Additionally, the joint family system leads to disputes with in-laws which may culminate in annulment of the relationship.
Working women who are financially independent are less likely to remain in unfulfilling marriages, and may also be less interested in making compromises to make the marriage ‘work’. Extramarital love affairs are yet another lead-up to divorce. The partners can also be carrying unrelated frustrations (for e.g. from work) into their relationship. According to Freud’s Displacement Theory, a person will displace their anger at something onto someone else (Valliant, 2011).
Divorce can result in social isolation as readjustment to a new role may prove difficult. Financial constraints often follow divorce, particularly for women who are left with children to raise and little or no support system. In our culture even the word divorce bears a stigma. In society divorcees must put up with quick and loud judgments about their character.
Not only is the divorced couple personally affected, but children of broken homes are at risk of developing mental health problems (Kausar, 2014). A research was conducted at University of Punjab, Lahore to see the effects of parental conflicts on child’s self-esteem. They found that warm and nurturing parents had children with high self-esteem (Saeed, 2010).
In Pakistan, women are more vulnerable to depression due to uncertainties about the future being less socioeconomically stable than men. A research study in Lahore showed that women who were divorced experienced more social interaction anxiety, depression and higher level of anger as compared to married women. The findings also showed that the extent of social support predicts depression and loneliness. Insomnia, loss of appetite and inability to focus on work are other effects (Kausar, 2014).
As seen above, divorce status does indeed pertain to healthcare. An important contribution is that of nurses, as they can provide counseling as and when needed. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a useful tool. A nurse can help clients express their fears and anxiety and constructively explore their past coping strategies.
On a community level, nurses can counsel families and provide emotional support to children after their parents’ divorce. A nurse should help the client in identifying community resources e.g. counseling and social services to help in dealing with problem. On an institutional level, awareness sessions can be held on consequences of divorce, its effects on mental health, coping strategies, and how to break the stigma. The government’s role is to provide social services of healthcare, education and child support, and skills training programs for less educated, lower income and single working women.
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