- 1900 - 800 petitions per year
- 1990 - 160,000 petitions per year
- Since the mid 1990's however the number of divorce rates has fallen, this is mainly due to the decline in marriage
- Divorce rate has stil remained high
- 1961 - 2.1 per 1000 married couples
- 1991 - 13.5 per 1000 married couples
- Many divorcees remarry later
Social distribution of divorce
AGE AT MARRIAGE - Teenage marriages much more likely to end in divorce. Immaturity? Resentment? Financial difficulty? Early pregnancy?
SOCIAL CLASS - The higher the social class, generally, the higher the likelihood of divorce. However, those at the bottom of the class are more PRONE to divorce. The highest rates are amongst the poor/unemployed = financial problems? Low status? Lack of education?
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE - When parents have been divorced, there is a greater possibility that their child will be divorced. If a person has been married before, there is a greater risk of divorce. Psychological insecurity? Lower aversion to divorce? Emotional baggage?
DIFFERENT SOCIAL BACKGROUND - More likely if the couple come from different social backgrounds. Social class/ethnicity/education/religion. Different expectations? Different directions by families and friends?
- CHANGES IN THE LAW - legal barriers have gradually been removed
- WAR - divorce rates rose after WWI/II (disruption, seperation, position changes etc)
- SECULARISATION - loss of religious influence, tolerance of divorces
- SOCIAL ATTITUDES - stigma & scandal has now declined
- POSITION OF WOMEN - able to cope independently (employment & state support)
- DEMOGRAPHY - We are living longer so people may not put up with it for so long
- HIGHER EXPECTATIONS - love & commitment are necessary
- INDIVIDUALISM - modern socity emphasises individual satisfaction/freedom/success
- POSTMODERNISM - no longer "one type" of family so changing the family structure is acceptable
- FEMINISM - women in paid emplyoment/domestic responsibility, more strain?
- People have been put off marriage by the high rates
- Cohabitation is increased as many people postpone marriage
- Increase in lone-parent families
- Increase of single-person households
- Greater willingness to end unsatisfactory marriage
- increase in remarriages
- Increased expectations
- FUNCTIONALISTS - allows unhappy marriages to end but must not get out of hand as it threatens the stability of the traditional family.
- NEW RIGHT - decline in the family, fewer stable homes for children, produces pverty, low educational achievement, deliquency, irresponsibility and dependency.
- MARXISTS - result of capitalism, divorce is an escape for the bourgeois & female exploitation, marriage is a source of tension & stress
- FEMINISTS - women able to escape from "bad" marriage, sign of independence
- POSTMODERNIST - divorce allows free will, can be seen as liberating for the individual but also a source of tension. Gives the individual an identity.