AQA Sociology AS: Changing Family Patterns

Covers AQA specification point:

• Changing patterns of marriage, cohabitation, separation, divorce, child-bearing and the lifecourse, and the diversity of contemporary family and household structures. 

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  • Created by: Chloe
  • Created on: 04-01-12 17:28


  • Since 1960s, great increase in amount of divorces in UK. Doubled between 1961 & 9169 & again by 1972. 1993 - peaking at 180,000. fallen to 157,000 in 2001.
  • 40% of all marriages will end in divorce. 
  • 7/10 divorce applications come from women.
  • Marriages at higher risk include those who marry young, have a child before they marry, cohabit before marriage & those where one or both partners have been married before.
  • Reasons for divorce increase:
  • Changes in the law - Divorce cheaper, grounds for divorce widened. Desertation, legal separation and empty shell marriages.
  • Declining Stigma & Changing Attitudes - divorce is more socially acceptable than in the past.
  • Secularisation - tradition and religion is playing less of a role in marriage.
  • Rising Expectations of Marriage - that love is only reason for marriage. No love = marriage pointless
  • Changes in the Position of Women - women less dependent on husbands, paid work, equality in pay, girls have better success in education.
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Divorce Views

New Right: high divorce is undesirable because it undermines the traditional nuclear family. Creates an underclass and boys do not have an adult male role model.

Feminists: high divorce rate desirable because it shows that women are breaking free from oppression. 

Postmodernists: high divorce rate is giving individuals freedom. Cause of family diversity.

Functionalists: high divorce rate does not prove that marriage institution is under threat. High rates of re-marriage show peoples commitment to idea of marriage.

Interactionists: everyones interpretation of divorce is different.

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