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1. Identify and explain two reasons for the increase in divorce over the last 30 years.
One reason for the increase in divorce would be the changing attitudes to marriage.
It has been said that there is now a higher expectation of marriage. Data published by
Office for National Statistics shows number of couples getting divorced increased by
4.9% from 2009 to 2010.
Functionalists like FLETCHER (1966) believed divorce was rising because people were
raising their expectations of marriage, and therefore were more likely to be
This is supported by GIDDENS (1994) who stressed that in late modernity
relationships are very fragile and romantic love is now replaced by confluent love
where intimacy and emotion is the basis of relationships. People are very reflexive
by constantly reassessing their relationship and asking `does it still work for me?'
HALSEY, the ethical socialist, argued that there is now growth in individualism. He
blames Thatcher's government for encouraging competitive individualism: by
encouraging `self-interest and consumer choice' people who are not satisfied with
their partner feel entitled to leave.
Another reason for the increase in divorce would be the changes in the law. This made
divorce more accessible, cheaper and more socially acceptable.
In 1969 the Divorce Reform Act was responsible for a large rise in divorce; it
allowed people to divorce if they could prove their relation had `broken down
irretrievably'. The court no longer required a `guilty' partner to be identified.
In 1984 the law allowed couples to petition for divorce after just one year of
marriage instead of 3 years.
Other changes in the law might have also increased the number of divorces: in
particular laws which have improved women's opportunities in employment, and
therefore their opportunity to divorce. For example, 1975 Equal Pay Act meant that
women were now receiving the same amount of pay as the opposite sex and
therefore marriage was no longer an economic necessity for women in a good