Most people today survive into old age, this has many effects on households:
- Many couples are composed of those whose children have left home
- Many single-person households are made up of women, as they are living longer
- Because life stretches on for longer, people may put off marriage/childbirth untill later life. This therefore leads to more single-person/cohabiting couples
- For women in particular, a long period of life is avaliable after family completion
- The birthrate has declined leading to smaller families
MORE CHOICES AVALIABLE
There is now less pressure to conform to the "traditional" and as a result more opportunities have been made avaliable for individual achievement.
- Marriage and childbirth now come second to careers and education
- With more social mobility, there is less pressure/support from the extended family which could either lead to a higher level of divorce and more individual choice
- The decision not to marry can also been seen as a positive choice e.g financial debt which weddings can burden onto a couple
CHANGING SOCIAL ATTITUDES
Many of the changes which have taken place have happened alongside changing social attitudes. This has become a "snowball effect" as people see examples of this and incorporate them into their own lives and so forth.
- Cohabitation is no longer "living in sin"
- Marriage is no longer seen as necessary
- Illegitimacy is more acceptable
- "unmarried mothers" -- "single-parent families" become more tolerated
- Homosexual relationships are open & tolerant
- More focus on the needs of the individual
- Cost of marriage creates a negativity to the notion of marriage
- Divorce is no longer seen as a "scandal", more acceptable
- Rising divorce has influenced some couples into extending cohabitation
CHANGES IN THE LAW
- Divorce is now more easily obtained as it is quicker and more avaliable.
- "no blame divorces"
- Legal aid to help fund the costs of divorce
- The period of necessary marriage before has been shortened
- Equal rights for women through employment, opportunities and finance
- Extension of laws protecting children
POSITION OF WOMEN
In the last 40 years women have gained many rights and have begun to achieve equally to men, in education and in work roles.
- Majority of women now have a career/job and see this a highly important
- Women are now feeling generally more independent
- Women are now able to support themselves without the assitance of a man. This has lead to some significant changes e.g the level of divorce has risen as women feel able to bring up children by themselves. In 1950 3/4 of divorce petitions were by men, by 1990 however 3/4 were by women.
- This reflects a confidence & security in the position of women
- Proportion of people attending religious institutions as declined significantly.
- This reflects that religious beliefs/vows have a less direct influence
- Increase in civil marriages reflects that marriage is no longer seen as a religious institution (unbreakable, sacred vows). Therefore the possibility of divorce is greater
- British society has become more diverse in culture, religion and ethnicity. This diversity has lead to the unliklihood of a ceremony conducted by one particular faith/denomination. In modern society there has been an increase in multi-faith/race marriages.
SUPPORT FROM STATE
- Women in particular, feel more able to support themselves independently as a lone mother/divorcee as the state provides help e.g child benefits/income support
- Families feel more able to leave elderly relatives to live on their own when the state can provide support for them e.g meals on wheels, pensions, care homes etc.