Explanations of increasing divorce rates
- Divorce laws - making it easier for couples to separate after short period of time
- Less stigma - As divorce became more common, it became more acceptable and part of everyday life
- Changing role of women - About 75% of petition for divorce are made by women. Women are now: Education to higher levels, Work more and have independent finance, Less likely to stay in an 'empty shell' marriage
- People live longer - People spend more time together and therefore have more chance of falling out. Plus people in unhappy relationships now feel there is time to leave and start again with someone else.
- Secularisation - The decline in the religious significance of marriage, Less church weddings, Promises made 'before God' not seen as binding
- Privatisation of family life - Rather than a 'haven in heartless world' some see the family as the source of discontents. Search for intimacy creates tensions within relationships, People expect too much from each other, Less pressures from wider kin to stay together
- The value of marriage - Functionalists like Fletcher & Parsons argue that people place a higher value on marriage now than in the past (1950s) People expect more from a partner and will no longer put up with second-rate relationships
Evaluation of increasing divorce rates
- Cohabitation - However, despise this most couples who cohabit do tend to get married, it's just the average age of getting married has risen
- Religious significance - However, this majority of first-time marriages take place within a religious context, which suggests that religion still has some influence on the decision to get married
- Women's position - Feminists argue the position of women doesn't necessarly mean they don't married, they merely put off marriage until their careers are established. Women being wage earners as well as homemakers can often create conflicts between husbands and wives which can lead to divorce Marriage still remains patriarchal, men benefit from their wives - 'triple shifts' of paid work, domestic and emotion
Reasons for family becoming more 'child-centred'
- Adults control children's daily routines, what they eat, where they go and take them to school
- Control the speed at which children 'grow up'. They define whether a child is too old or young for a activity, responsibility or behaviour
- Child support agency in 1991 - gave children legalrights to be financially support by their parents, whether living with the child or not. Also made courts have to ask for the child's point of view
- More products are advertised to children because advertisers have the financial power of children - "pester power" - children will pester their parents to buy the product
Conjugal roles are the roles of husband and wife within marriage
Two types conjugal role have been distinguished:
Segregated conjugal roles - the roles of husband and wife are very different. The husband is the main breadwinner and has little involvement with housework and childcare. Husbands tend to spend leisure time away from the family with male friends while women spend more time with female kin such as their mothers and sisters.
Joint conjugal roles - involve men and women doing some paid work and also both spouses being involved with housework and childcare. Typically, with this type of conjugal role, men and women spend more time together and less time with their own groups of same sex friends.
The symmetrical family
Young and Willmott claimed that joint conjugal roles were becoming more common in the symmetrical family. They found a move towards greater equality within marriage in that wives were now going out to work and husbands were providing more help with housework.
These views were heavily criticized by Ann Oakley who notes that in Young and Willmott's research a family was regarded as symmetrical if the husbands did any housework at least once a week, this hardly represented equality within a household.
Disappearance of childhood
Postman claims thatthe distinction between childhood and adulthood has eroded in recent years so that childhood no longer exists as a distinct stage in the life course
He explains the disappearance in the following ways:
- The growth of the mass has exposed children to the adult world. It is easy for them to access images of sex and they can view suffering and death on television news programmes. More recently, the internet provides children with access to images and information from which they were previously sheltered.
- The difference between adulthood and childhood is increasingly blurred, examples of this:
- adults trying to dress and act in more youthful ways
- the lack of clear cut transition of adulthood as adolescence is extended and young people often delay getting a job, setting up their own home, getting married and having children
Reasons for change in position/status of children
- Laws restricting child labour and excluding children from paid work. Children became an economic liability by being financially dependent on their families rather than an economic asset.
- Introduction of compulsory schooling in 1880, raising the school leaving age and recent government policies to keep children in fulltime education or training until 18 has extended this period of dependency
- Growth of the idea of children rights. For example, the children act defines parents as having 'responsbilities'; rather than 'rights' in relation to children
- Laws and policies that apply specifically to children, such as minimum age for activities from sex to smoking have reinforced the idea that children are different from adults and so different rules must be applied to their behaviour
- Most sociologists agree that the process of industrialisation - the shift from agriculture to factory production as the basis of the economy - underlies many of the above changes. For example, modern industry needs an educated workforce and this requires compulsory education
Demography and the birth rate
The birth rate - the number of live births per thousand of the population per year
The fertility rate - the number of live births per thousand women aged 15 to 44 per year
The death rate - the number of deaths per thousand of the population per year
Migration - the number of people entering a country (immigration) and the number of people leaving the country (emigration) Net migration refers to the difference between the numbers entering and leaving the country
Falling infant mortality
The infant mortality rate (the number of children dying before their first birthday per thousand live births) has fallen dramatically as a result of factors such as rising living standards, improving hygiene and sanitation, improvements in healthcare and improved monitoring of child welfare as a result of the development of the welfare state.
Geographers say these circumstances lead to a demographic revolution in which birth and fertility rates fall because women no longer feel they need to have a large number of children to protect against the risk of infant mortality.
Reasons for the ageing population
The main reasons for an ageing population are:
The falling death rate - people tend to survive more years after reaching adulthood, leading to a growing number of elderly in the population
The falling birth rate and fertility rate - children constitute a proportion of the population