Divorce Key Terms

The key terms within the divorce section of AS Sociology

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The voluntary union between one man and one woman.

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The termination of a marriage due to "irretrievable breakdown". 

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Divorce Rate

The number of divorcing people per 1000 of the married population.

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Reason for Divorce 1

Demographic changes: due to lower death rates there is an ageing population, living longer can increase divorce rates.

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Reason for Divorce 2

Changing position of women (Genderquake) : a past reason for remaining marriage was financial support but due to the fact that women can now acquire their own career they are less financially dependent on men. 

Women's financial dependency is also decreased by the introduction of benefits and the welfare state. 

This means they are less likely to tolerate living in an unhappy marriage. 

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Reason for Divorce 3

Changes in the law: in the 19th century a divorce was difficult to obtain particularly for women. Changes in the the law have made it gradually easier. 

From 1857 onward the Matrimonial Causes Act (1857) allowed divorces if a matrimonial offence could be shown though women had to prove two offences had been committed. Equality was introduced in 1923.

Matrimonial Causes (1937) added cruelty and insanity to the list of offences.

The Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 made it financially easier to obtain a divorce.

The Divorce Reform Act 1969 removed matrimonial offences and introduced the concept of an irretrievable breakdown, if a marriage to be proven to be irretrievable and the couple were married for three years a divorce could be obtained. 

As of 1984 a divorce could be obtained after just one year of marriage.

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Reason for Divorce 4

Secularisation: refers to the decline in religious beliefs within society. Society used to be hugely based on religion and due to the hugely dim view on divorce by most religions it was considered to be shameful and people would tolerate unhappy marriages to keep their social status. Nowadays the influence of religion has fallen and the number of cohabiting couples with religious beliefs had increased (2001 census)

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Reason for Divorce 5

Increasing expectations of marriage: people are now looking for the perfect partner and are less likely to tolerate and unhappy marriage and more likely to pursue the concept of the perfect partner. 

Functionalist, Fletcher looked at the rate of remarriage and found a high number end in divorce because many people who remarry have divorced a partner for a reason and are unlikely to tolerate an unhappy marriage for a second time so divorce with less though. 

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Ashleigh Hastings


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