Has War Changed the Way We Do Relationships?

A few interesting correlations with industrialization, war, and relationships.

Society and relationships changed furiously with the backdrop of industrialization and the move from agrarian society into a society with strict schedules. School prepares one for an industrial work schedule and removes the aspect of play in both relationships and physical activity. In the 30s there was 100 percent school enrollment except for some of the most underserved communities. This means many kids who might have learned a trade and worked with their parents and experienced many aspects of relationships modeled by their parents ended up in a sedentary setting for many hours a day over many years only interacting with each other during set aside times.

The growth and speculation which drove the stock market to crash in the 30s was only remedied with the plan for WWII. WWII sent many men overseas and split apart many families for 3 years. Kids born during the beginning of the war may have had an absent father during the first three years of their existence. When their parent came back, they might have suffered from PTSD (or “shell shock” as it was called). Five years later, we had the Korean War (1950–1953). Two years later we had the Vietnam War (1955–1975). Involvement in the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. Operation Desert Shield and Storm in 1990–1991. The Iraq war from 2003–2011 and the Afghanistan War started in 2001 and still going.

Divorce rates have spiked after wars. Divorce/marriage percentage rates have basically increased twofold or so since before WWII. Currently, that ratio is hovering right around 50%. There has been a greater decrease in marriages than divorces starting in 1984.

There’s a huge spike in divorce rates per 1000 people right after WWII. There’s another more gradual, but still suspiciously elevated increase right as people’s service terms from the Korean and Vietnam wars end and they came home. That increase continues right up through the no-fault divorce laws and through 1981. The data has a seeming linear trend in the data after accounting for the wars. A portion of that trend is the rise in divorce rates from 1870 through 1920. This period is also known as the Second Industrial Revolution, which was accompanied by a nearly 10x increase in the value of American goods.

The greatest increase in industrialization in the United States happened from just after 1860 through 1910. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Industrialization_per_capita_1750-1900.svg)

What does that trend indicate? Is it merely that we value people less as population increases? Is it that industrialization has ruined us as people? Is it that we no longer know how to negotiate the realities of long term relationships? Is it both?

I don’t have answers, but I have many questions:

  1. What would the impact be on kids learning to develop healthy attachments if their father went off to war for three years?
  2. How does PTSD impact relationships and parenting?
  3. What kind of examples of relationships do you remember your environment providing you?
  4. Did you have any examples of inter-generational platonic relationships?
  5. How much does the invention of the radio and television play into the examples of relationships we see and try to model?
  6. How do you remember being able to learn to navigate relationships? Was it just limited to recess time and when you weren’t doing homework or chores?
  7. How many relationships were originally put together on the basis of sex and lust and not based on practicality?
  8. When do we know when we’re ready to navigate a marriage?
  9. How much has the move towards equality impacted how women navigate marriage and determine when to leave (and can we actually ever know that at a quantitative level)?
  10. How does urbanization, commuting, and traffic impact one relationships?
  11. How does the population density impact your view of a relationship being expendable, just like the many homeless people you might pass by on a daily basis (i.e. “There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”)?

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