Sweden: Immigrants more likely to divorce

The myth that immigrants live in stable families and hold the family together is nothing more than a myth, says Mehrdad Darvishpour. Chileans and Iranian women divorce 4-5 times more often than Swedish women, and often it's the woman who takes the initiative.

Darvishpour, professor in sociology at Stockholm University and Mälardalen College, says that immigrant women go through a quicker time-travel in their new homeland and will get divorced before their husband adapts himself to a more equal relationship. He researched the situation of immigrants and has seen that divorces among immigrants are more common than among Swedes, a consequence of woman's emancipation from man.

Just like in Swedish families, the probability of separation increases when women are more independent and manage without a husband. the difference is that the displacement of power among Swedes has been going on for decades. Swedish men have had a long time to adapt. Darvishpour says that immigrant groups go through it in a short and intensive time after their immigration. Seperation is therefore a natural consequence of women's emancipation in their new homeland.

The majority of the women interviewed in his study took the initiative to divorce. Despite the stresses of separation - pressure from family and friends, in some cases threats and violence from their husband, after the divorce, economic hardships and lonelinees - women felt happier with their situation after the divorce. Darvishpour says that not one changed their minds.

He found that non-European immigrants divorce more often than European immigrants. Iranians divorce 4 times as much, Chileans 5 times. Immigrants from African countries also have high divorce rates. Turks, Iraqis, Finns, Danes and Norwegians have an also somewhat higher divorce rates than Swedish man, but Turks belong to the immigrant group that divorces the least.

The differences in divorce numbers are explained by the fact that Iranian and Chilean women are most often secularized, well-educated and middle-class. Turkish women are not as well educated, often come from rural areas and have a more traditional view of marriage. Iranian woman are a selective group that doesn't represent that whole Iranian population. They feel more at home with Swedish values.

Darvishpour says that the statisticians and researchers haven't taken into account the gender perspective which he says is the most important explanation for the high number of divorces. Immigrants are more vulnerable social-economically. Immigrant groups are younger than the Swedish average population and younger people divorce more often than older people, but equality is more important.

Darvishpour says it's true that women divorce when they find themselves and men when they find someone else. Women are most dissatisfied in the relationship. Coming to a new country can be a tremendously painful process. When norms and values that held in the homeland are turned upside down. This often causes conflicts that tempt the relationship, when the husband loses his role as the family's head.

On the other hand, the woman's situation improves within a very short amount of time. They're better off economically and judicially, aren't oppressed in their sexuality and enter Swedish society where they can make demands.

If the husband succeeds in adapting to the conditions of the new homeland, the chances for a divorce are smaller. Those who don't, go through a sort of powerlessness and start oppressing the woman. This can explain also why domestic violence is more common among immigrants.

After a divorce the man suffers more than the woman. They're lonely, lose their status and don't get to see their children if there's been violence. Many go back to their old homeland, find a new woman that hasn't experienced equality and go back to square one. Those who adapt to Swedish circumstances have a better life and experience positive effects.

Women find that the divorce process is harder than they would have ever imagined. When they try to build new families, they are rejected by their countrymen and are rejected socially. They pay a very high price, but they think it was worth all the difficulties.

Darvishpour concludes that a divorce has a positive effect on the development of equality among immigrants. He intends to continue his research and his currently writing about gender and generational conflicts among immigrants. The results of the new study will be published in the book "migration och etnicitet" (immigration and ethnicity) to be published in January 2008. He sees that the same power displacement that takes place among immigrant couples also take place among children and parents. There's a gender perspective there too, where young girls challenge the family structure.

Source: Uppsala Nya Tidning (Swedish)

See also: EU: Simplifying divorces could lead to promotion of sharia law, Denmark: More Muslim divorces

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