• Definitions
  • Statistics
  • Reasons for high divorce rates
  • Change in laws
  • Who divorces?
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Divorce is the termination of a marriage due to inetrievable breakdown.

Divorce Rate = Number Divorcing Per 1,000 married of the population in  a given year

  • Britian has the highest divorce rates in Europe.
  • 2008 England and Wales fell to 11.2 per 1,000 married population compared to in 2007 11.8 per 1,000 married.
  • Lowest level of divorce was in 1979 at 11.2
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Historical Statistics

1938 - 6,000    1950 - 31,000    1960 - 24,000    1970 - 58,000    1980 - 148,000    1990 - 153,000    2000 - 141,000    2008 - 122,000    2009 - 114,000

 (National Statistics Historical Data for England and Wales.

Men and women in their late twenties have the highest divorce rates of all ages.

Since 1998 the average age at divorce in England and Wales has risen from 40.4 to 44 years for men (2009) and from 37.9 ro 41.5 years for women (2009)

Approx 20% of men and women divorcing in 2008 had a previous marriage ending in divorce. Doubling since 1981.

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69% of divorce in 2008 were to couples where the marriage was the first for both parties.

For 67% of divorces in 2008, the wife was granted the divorce

In 2008 the most common reason for divorce was behaviour

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Reasons for High Divorce Rates

Demographic changes (living longer can increase divorce rates)

Women being less financially dependent on men

Changing attitudes of society so less stigma attached

The changing world with traditional values being less important (Beck & Beck Gernsheim)

Hart states women are frustrated at their 'double burden'

Giddens says we are looking for 'confluent love' were both partners feel fuffliment in the relationship

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Goode 1971 believes secularisation relevant

Thomes & Collard believe women have higher expectations and feminists would argue 'if men lack it leave them'

Functionalists argue that people still value marriage and are looking for the ideal partners. Flechter backs this up by focusing on rate of remarriages showing people will no longer tolerate an insufficient partner.

However another major cause of the increase in the rate of divorce in the last 100 years relates to changes in the law.

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Pre 1857 - divorce only by Private Act or Parliament

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 - Allowed divorces on proof of a matrimonial offence however women had to show adultery plus a 2nd offence. Equality was introduced in 1923.

Matrimonial Causes Act 1937 - Extends matrimonial offeces to include cruelty and insanity.

The Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 - Making it finically easier to obtain a divorce.

The Divorce Reform Act 1969 - Removes matrimonial offences and introduces the concept of 'irretrievable breakdown of the marriage'

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