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Examine the reasons for the rise in the UK divorce rate in the last 50 years.
Since the 1960s there has been a big rise in the number of divorces in Britain. Between 1961 and
1969 the divorce rate doubled, and had doubled again by 1972. Sociologists have suggested a
number of explanations for this increase, including changes in the law, our attitudes and expectations
Most important factor
I believe the most important factor affecting the increase in the divorce rate is the changes in the
position of women. This includes the idea that women have more opportunity to be financially and
economically independent, due to their ability to do paid work, as well as the idea that when both
partners are working and the woman also has to do housework the couple is put under more strain as
there is another area for conflict.
Hochschild argued in 1997 that many women found the home compared unfavourably with the way
they were treated at work. At work women may be valued or have people working for them
whereas their home life may be the opposite. They may find they aren't treated with the same
respect they are in the workplace, and don't receive any help with housework. This can lead to the
woman feeling unwanted and filing for a divorce, or a conflict between the couple which may over
time also lead to divorce. Studies have shown that couples who both work but have an equal share of
housework roles are less likely to be divorced than couples who both work and all housework is
done by the woman.
I believe this point is important as the number of women working has risen whilst the divorce rate has
done the same. This appears to show a link between the two.
Three other factors
Other factors that may have had an effect on the rising divorce rate are the rising expectations of
marriage, the idea of secularisation and the changes in the law.
Functionalists have argued that the higher expectations people hold of marriage nowadays means
couples are less willing to tolerate an unhappy marriage. This point was argued originally by Ronald
Fletcher in 1966. In 2001 Allan and Crow said the cornerstones of marriage now are different to
before. They believed people are more focused on the idea of love, personal commitment and
intrinsic satisfaction as a basis for a marriage, and in the event of these all being absent the marriage
should be at an end.
Over the last couple of centuries the ideology of romantic love has become dominant. Many people
now believe marriage should be based on this ideology and if this love dies, the marriage should end
with it, so that each person can renew their search for their "true soul mate". This is contrasted with
the past as people often had little choice in who they married, often formed due to economic
reasons, or ones duty to their family. Due to these circumstances in the past people were unlikely to
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have high expectations of marriage being romantic, as many people view it today. As they entered
marriage on the basis of financial gain they were unlikely to be disappointed by the absence of
Secularisation defines the decline of beliefs and people practising religion as has happened over
time. Many sociologists believe this idea that religions are losing their influence and society is
becoming more secular. One example of this is how church attendance rates are continuously