Examine the reasons for changes in the patterns of marriage, divorce and cohabitation over the past 40 years

'A' grade essay on the above title.

Specifically for AQA AS Sociology, Unit 1 - Families and Households students

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AS Sociology F&H 17th November 2009
Marriage, Divorce and Cohabitation Essay
"Examine the reasons for changes in the patterns of marriage, divorce and
cohabitation over the past 40 years."
The patterns of marriage, divorce and cohabitation over the past 40 years has varied
quite significantly. In 1972, the highest ever number of couples (480,000) since the
Second World War got married. Now, obviously there is a reason for this. According to
the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this was due to the baby boom generation of
the 1950s reaching marriageable age and these people choosing to marry at a younger
age compared with previous generations.
However, after this period, the number of marriages in England and Wales then went
into decline. Most recently, marriages reached an alltime low in 2005 when only
244,710 couples got married. Some people would say that it reached so low because
people are rejecting marriage and are no longer bothered about it. But in fact, statistics
reveal that many people are actually delaying marriage. It is said that most people will
marry at some point in their lives, but people are deciding to marry later in life, most
likely after a period of cohabitation. A reason for this is probably because couples want
to "Test the water" before they make any commitments. Evidence to support the
"marrying later in life" view is that the average age for firsttime bridges in 2003 was 29
years and for all grooms 31 years, compared with 22 for women and 24 for men in
1971. In particular women may want to delay marriage so they can advance their career
prospects.
As well as a decline in the total number of marriages, there is also a decline in marriage
rates (the number of people marrying per 1000 of the population aged 16 and over). In
1994, the marriage rate was 11.4 but this had declined to 10.3 by 2004. The male rate
declined from 36.3 in 1994 to 27.8 in 2004 whilst the female rate declined from 30.6 to
24.6. Once again, even though there is a decline, British Social Attitude Surveys
indicate that most people, whether single, divorced or cohabitating, still see marriage
as a desirable lifegoal, and therefore will most likely will get married at some point in
the future, particularly if they are having children, because they believe that this is best
done in the context of marriage.
Another change in the patterns of marriage is that two fifths of all marriages are
remarriages, in which one or both partners have been divorced. These people are
obviously committed to the institution of marriage despite their previous negative
experience of it. The reason for this trend could possibly because their first marriages
were emptyshell marriages. This is where there is no love or intimacy between them,
but the marriage persists for the sake of the children until they are old enough. They then
might have wanted to start a new life, including a remarriage.
Chris Cartwright

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AS Sociology F&H 17th November 2009
Marriage, Divorce and Cohabitation Essay
Despite the decrease in the overall number of people marrying, married couples are still
the main type of partnership for men and women in the UK. In 2005, seven in ten
families were headed by a married couple.…read more

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AS Sociology F&H 17th November 2009
Marriage, Divorce and Cohabitation Essay
Finally, functionalist sociologists argue that high divorce rates are evidence that
marriage is increasingly valued and that people are demanding higher standards from
their partners. They believe that couples are no longer prepared to put up with unhappy,
emptyshell marriages, as people want emotional and sexual compatibility and equality,
as well as companionship.…read more

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