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  • Created by: penski5
  • Created on: 05-04-15 12:29

changing patterns in divorce

-Since the 1960’s the number of divorces in the UK has risen.

-7 out of 10 applications for divorce come from women.

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Explanations for the increase in Divorce 1.) chang

Divorce is now easier to obtain. 1923 grounds of divorced equalized between men and women. 1969 divorce reform act made

‘Irretrievable breakdown’ of marriage the sole ground for divorce.


Although changes in the law make it easier for people to get divorces this does not in itself explain why more people are getting them…


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2.) declining stigma + changing attitudes

In the past churches frowned upon divorce. Mitchell + Goody note that an important change since the 1960’s has been the rapid decline in stigma attached to divorce. As stigma declines divorce becomes more socially acceptable.


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3.) Secularisation

Decline in the influence of religion in society. The traditional opposition of churches to divorce carries less weight in society. People are less likely to be influenced by religious teachings when making decisions.


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4.) Rising expectations of marriage


Fletcher argues that higher expectations people place on marriage are a major cause of rising divorce rates. Linked to the ideology of romantic love- the belief that marriage should be based on just love. If love dies there is no justification for remaining married.  In the past marriages were often for economic reasons. People marrying for money were unlikely to have high expectations about marriage as a romantic union. Today marriage is viewed as a relationship in which individuals seek personal fulfillment and this encourages couples to seek divorce if they do not find it.  


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5.) changing position women

Women’s economic position has changed which means they are less economically dependent on their husbands. Equal pay and anti-discrimination laws have helped narrow the pay gap. Girls achieve better in education helping them achieve better-paid jobs. The availability of welfare benefits means women can leave their husbands.

 Feminists argue that because women are now sometime wage earners this creates a source of conflict between husbands and wife’s leading to more divorces.

While there have been big changes in the public sphere for women (education, politics and employment etc.) feminists argue that in the private sphere of family change has been slow. Marriage remains patriarchal with men benefiting from triple shift (Paid work, emotion work and domestic work). 

 Hochschild- At work, women feel valued. At home, men’s resistance to doing housework is a source of frustration and makes marriages less stable. Now both partners work there is less time for the emotion work needed to address the problems that arise. Both these factors lead to more divorce.

 Bernard- Many women feel dissatisfaction with patriarchal marriage. She sees growing divorce rate and that most the petitions come from women as evidence of their acceptance of feminist ideas. Women are becoming more confident rejecting patriarchal oppression

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The meaning of high divorce rates

New Right: see high divorce rate as undesriable as it undermines nuclear family. Divorce creates an underclass of welfare dependant female lone parents and leaves boys without male role model. 

Feminists: Disagree with New right. They see high divorce rates as desriable as it shows women are breaking free from the opression of the patriachal nuclear family.

Postmodernists: See high divorce rates as givings indiviuals freedom to choose to end a relationship when it no longer meets their needs. They see it as a cause of greater family diversity.

Funcationalists: Argue a high divorce rate does not necessarily prove marriage as a social construct in under threat. It is simply the result of people's higher expectations of marriage today. The high rate of re-marriage show's people's continuing commintment to the idea of marriage. 

interactionists:Morgan argues that we cannot generalise about the meaning of divorce because everyones interpretation of it is different. Mitchell and Goody provide an example of this. One of their interviewees described the day her father left as the best day of her life, whereas another said she had never recovered from her Father leaving the family.

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