Why did people marry in 1971?
- Financial support
- Social expectations
- Marriage gave social status
- Only acceptable setting for sexual activity and child bearing/rearing
Why is marriage less popular?
- Cost (average wedding now is £15,000)
- Alternatives displayed in media (Brangelina)
- Economic independence of women
- Awareness of divorce (1 in 4 couples get divorced)
These are similar to the reasons for the rise in cohabitation.
- In 1931 less than 4,000 people got divorced compared to over 165,000 in 2004.
- The marriage rate peaked in 1971
- Around 40% of marriages end in divorce
- The UK has the highest rate of divorce in the EU
- Divorce rate is now on the decrease (fewer people are actually getting married)
- The 1971 Divorce Reform Act had a significant impact of divorce rates
Reasons for increase in divorce
Secularisation: A decline in religion means that people do not stay in a marriage for religious reasons.
High expectations of marriage: People find the reality of marriage disappointing as they are now marrying for love and not other reasons such as financial security. This means they are willing to get divorced in order to find love somewhere else.
Reduced stigma: Stigma refers to a negative label/social disapproval. As divorce is more popular people in society are not as shocked by it and therefore are less likely to judge somebody because of it.
Legal Changes: Legal changes such as the Divorce Reform Act which came into effect in 1971 mean that divorce is cheaper and easier to access so people aren't staying in loveless marriages because they cannot afford to leave it. This act also made it so divorce could not only come about if someone in the marriage had committed a matrimonial offense. Divorce became available if the couple did not love each other anymore, this is know irretrievable breakdown.
Feminism: As women become increasingly independent they do not feel they need marriage to support them financially or emotionally.
Theorist views on divorce: The New Right
The New Right see a high divorce rate as undesirable because they think it undermines the nuclear family. In their view divorce creates an underclass of welfare dependent female lone parents and leaves boys without the adult male role model that they need.
Theorist views on divorce: Feminists
Unlike The New Right, feminist see divorce as desirable because it shows that women are breaking free from oppressive patriarchal marriages.
Theorists views on divorce: Post Modernists
Post Modernists see divorce as giving individuals the freedom to end a relationship when it no longer meets their needs. They see this as a good thing as it is a greater cause of family diversity.
Theorists views on divorce: Funtionalists
Functionalist think that a high divorce rate does not prove that marriage as an institution is under threat. It is simply the result of people's higher expectations of marriage today. The high rate of remarriage shows peoples continuing commitment to the idea of marriage.