Examine the reasons for the changes in the patterns of marriage, cohabitation and divorce in the last 30 years.

This is an AS essay fro mthe AQA Specification, marked at an A. I hope it's helpful.

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Examine the reasons for the changes in the patterns of marriage, cohabitation and
divorce in the last 30 years.
Claire Jones
In the last 30 years, the British society has experienced many changes affecting the family. There
have been changes in attitudes to and expectations of family life, as well as official changes such as
government legislation. Society has been affected by feminism, which has led to increased awareness
of women's rights and freedoms, as well as postmodernism and secularisation. The changes resulting
have affected marriage rates, which are decreasing, and more people are now marrying later in life and
more than once. More people are choosing to cohabit, either before or instead of marrying, and this is
becoming increasingly common in young couples. Divorce rates have also increased in the last 30 years,
following changes in legislation and attitudes.
As society's view of a `conventional family' has changed over the last 30 years, the acceptable
norms have widened. In the past, an unmarried woman would be looked down on, as it was expected
that women would marry and invest their time in raising a family. If they didn't, it could be presumed that
could they couldn't find a willing partner, or that there was something wrong with them. Although 95.1% of
British women still marry before they are 49, it has become more acceptable to choose not to get
married, and rather than being looked down on, single women are more likely to be viewed as strong,
focussed, and independent. This means there is less pressure on couples to marry quickly, and so has
also affected the rise in cohabitation. Society no longer views marriage as the only definition of a
serious relationship, and this has given credibility to couples choosing to cohabit instead. 30 years ago,
living together outside of marriage was rare, but cohabitation can now be seen as an acceptable
alternative to marriage. This is partly because changing attitudes to sexual relationships mean that sex
is no longer seen as only legitimate within marriage, and far fewer members of younger generations
consider cohabiting morally wrong. Many people now view the legal contract of marriage as far less
important than the relationship, so the relationship of a cohabiting couple is regarded as just as valid as
a married couple. Divorce rates have also increased as a result of changing social attitudes. While in the
past, there was a lot of stigma attached to divorce, it is now considered far more acceptable and
`normal'. The attitude to marriage has changed from it being a lifelong contract to a serious relationship,
and it is far more acceptable for a relationship to end than a contract to be broken, so divorce becomes
more acceptable, and more people feel able to end a relationship in which they are not happy.
Since the second wave of feminism started in the 1960s, feminist views have been increasingly
impacting our society's values, and the patterns of family life. Feminists believe in the independence of
women, both socially and financially, and view marriage as oppressive to women due to male domination
within marriage. They reject the idea that women should find fulfilment in homemaking and childbearing,
and so welcome the decline of marriage, and the increase in cohabitation. They would argue that women
should have the freedom to choose whether to and when to marry, cohabit or divorce, raise children
alone or with a partner, depending on their personal feelings. This has impacted of society's view of
acceptable behaviour, and encouraged more women to focus on a career rather than marriage or a
family, which has decreased the marriage rate. Feminist views encourage laws making divorce easier,
because it means there is more freedom for women to leave violent, oppressive or abuse relationships.
MarxistFeminists also go as far as linking gender inequality to class inequality, and so would say that
the falling rates of marriage and rising rates of divorce are signals of society in general becoming less
controlled by capitalist men. Feminists say that as women take on a more equal role in society, they are
able to support themselves financially, and so can afford to be free from male oppression by either
being single or cohabiting without having to rely on a man for financial support.
When laws relating to marriage and divorce have changed in the last 30 years, they have both
helped to shape and influence social attitudes, and also reflected the changes in attitudes that have
taken place. The Civil Partnerships Act in 2004 enabled people of the same sex to enter in to a civil
partnership, or gay marriage. This has meant that the concept of marriage has been widened beyond

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This could have an impact on
patterns of heterosexual marriage because people no longer feel they need to fit a certain mould,
because the law has changed to be more inclusive. Legislation has also made divorce a lot easier than
before and more of an option for many people. In 1984, the law said that rather than being married for 3
years before a couple were allowed to divorce, the time was reduced to one year.…read more

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Various sociological theories have attempted to explain these changes, particularly postmodernism, but
the fact that 95.1% of British women still choose to marry before the age of 49 shows that while our
views on marriage and family life becoming more flexible, they still remain an important part of our
society.…read more



This was absolutely splendid!, however I do feel it is a little long winded, bearing in mind in the exam you probably won't have that much time. Thank you so much! 

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