Sociology 5 Changing patterns

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  • Created on: 22-06-21 18:49


40% of marriages now end in divorce.

This is six more times than 50 years ago.

There are several reasons for this:

- Legal changes

- Less stigma

- Secularisation 

- Higher 3xpectations of marriage 

- Women's financial independence 

- Feminist explanations 

- Modernity and individualism

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Legal changes

19th century -> divorce = impossible

20th century -> legal changes = easier to fer a divorce.

Changes e.g:

Equalising the grounds between the sexes (1923) + widening the grounds (1969 irretrievable breakdown) and making divorce cheaper e.g 1949 legal aid was introduced.

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Less stigma

Stigma = negative label.

Divorce used to be stigmatised e.g most churches looked down on divorcees.

Since the 1960s, this stigma has been decreasing.

As divorces are more acceptable nowadays, more couples are willing to solve their problems through it.

As divorce is more common today, it is becoming normalised and therefore destigmatised. 

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Secularisation = decrease of the influence of religion in society.

Wilson -> religious institutions and ideas are losing influence e.g fewer people go to church.

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Higher expectations of marriage

Functionalsits -> Fletcher argue that higher expectations of marriage = higher divorce rates.

This is because the ideology of romantic love aka marriage is now based on love solely and not economic factors.

If they love 'dies' the individual has no reason to stay with their partner and they can continue looking for their 'true soulmate'. 

People had lower expectations of marriage before as the family was a unit of production, a marriage was needed for financial stability and so it was unlikely people would get divorced.

Functiobalists are optimists -> high rates of remarriage = divorcees haven't rejected marriage.

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Women's finanical independance

More woman -> paid work.

Lone parent benefits are aviable.

Women are less economically dependant on their husbands and can afford divorce,

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Feminist explanation

Women becoming wage earners = a new source of marital conflict.

At work, women are more likely to be treated equally yet when they return home they are expected to carry out the triple shift.

Their awareness of patriarchal oppression may result in divorce.

This explains why 70% of divorce petitions come from women. 

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Modernity and individualisation

Beck + Giddens -> in late modernity, trad. norms (e.g the duty to stay married for life) lose their influence.

People become freer to follow their own self-interests.

This causes more divorces as people are unwilling to stay married if they are not personally fulfilled by the marriage.

Modernity encourages both sexes to follow their ambitions and adopt a consumerist identity that is based on self-interest.

This causes marital problems that can break relationships.

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There is fewer first marriages because:

- Changing attitudes = less pressure to marry.

- Alternatives such as cohabitation as less stigmatised.

- Women's economic independence gives freedom to not marry.

- Feminism = some women see marriage as patriarchal.

- Rising divorce rates may discourage some from marrying.

- More re-marriages -> more divorces = more divorcees to remarry, increases serial monogamy.

Later marriages -> young people spend longer in education and choose to cohabit first.

- Fewer church weddings = due to secularisation and churches not marrying divorcees.

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- Cohabitation -> 1.5 million couples in Wales and England cohabitate. This is due to the decreased stigma regarding sex outside of marriage and women's improved economic independence. Cohabitation may be:

--> Trial marriage, cohabitation before marriage is now the norm.

--> An alternative to marriage, couples who see marriage as patriarchal may choose cohabitation as a more equal relationship. 

- Gay marriage and same-sex relationships -> there is greater acceptance + movement towards legal equality and policies. Weeks -> acceptance is leading to more stable relationships between gays. 

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Over half of children born today are born outside of marriage (x5 the amount in 1971) = caused by cohabitation. 

Most births are jointly registered by both parents.

Women are having children later, remaining childless or having fewer children, mainly because they have more options.

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Lone-parent families

1/4 of all families are lone-parent families -> numbers have tripled since the 1970s.

This is because of the increase in divorce and the decrease of stigma surrounding births outside of marriage.

TNR blame generous welfare benefits for this increase -> 'dependency culture'.

Over 90% are female-headed as there is a belief that women are suited to the expressive role and so courts give them custody.

Reconstituted or stepfamilies -> increasing due to divorce and remarriage. They make up 8% of all families with children (mostly from the woman's prev. relationship)

Stepfamilies are at a higher risk of poverty because they have to support more children.

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Ethnic diversity

-> More balck lone-parents (49%) than white (23%) or asian (11%).

This may be a result of:

- The legacy of slavery

- The result of high male unemployment

- Black women valuing independence highly.

-> Larger Asian households are caused by the cultural importance of the extended family as well as the need for support when migrating.

- However, most Asian households are nuclear. 

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The extended family today

Functionalists -> in modern society, the nuclear family replaces the extended family.

However, Willmot found that it still exists today as a dispersed extended family where the members keep contact frequently.

The 'beanpole' family is extended vertically through three generations, but not horizontally (it does not include aunts, cousins, etc). It is caused by increased life expectancy and smaller family sizes.

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Obligations to relatives

Many people feel an obligation to their wider extended kin.

Pinch and Mason found that half their sample took care of a sick relative.

Reciprocity (balance) is important as people felt that help should be returned.

More expected of daughters than sons,

The extended family continues to perform important functions (e.g financial and domestic help) however it is very different from Parson's extended family. This is because those families lived together and were bonded by strong obligations. 

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Perspectives on family diversity

Changing family patterns = greater family diversity. There are different perspectives on this trend:

Functionalism and the New Right:

Functionalists -> The nuclear family is conventional, has a division of labour based on biological differences and is suited t the needs of modern society and of the family members.

TNR -> has a conservative view of the family and opposes diversity.They see the nuclear family as the only 'normal' and 'natural' type.

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Chester: the neo-conventional family

Chester argues that although there has been increased family diversity, the nuclear family is still the dominant type. 

The only difference has been that in a conventional nuclear family, the breadwinner is the male.

In a neo-conventional family, both partners earn money.

The nuclear family is still the norm people aspire to live in.

Most still marry, raise children and remain married.

cohabitation is on the rise but is a temporary phase. Most divorcees remarry. 

Those that are currently not in a nuclear family have been or will be.

Stats show snapshots of a person's life, they do not show every family type they will be in. 

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The Rapoports: five types of diversity

Rapoport and Rapoport disagree with Chester. 

They see diversity as a central part of families today.

Unlike the NR, they believe diversity meets the people's needs as they identify five types of diversity:

- Organisational - e.g joint/ segregated conjugal roles.

- Cultural - ethnic groups have different family structures.

- Class - differences in child-rearing practises.

- Life cycle differences - e.g pensioner couples/ parents with young children.

- Generational differences - e.g attitudes to cohabitation. 

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Postmodernism and family diversity

Postmodern society = high level of family diversity = they see this as the result of great individualism and choice. The individualization thesis:

Influenced the ideas of Giddens and Beck who claims that individual self-interest now governs our actions:

Past -> people, we defined by trad. gender and family structures that prevented them from making choices. They had oppressive expectations yet the family provided stability by defining each person's role.

Today -> patriarchal family has been undermined by individualism. We have moved away from traditions and have more choices. Giddens argues that this is one cause of greater gender equality. Giddens argues that this has caused the pure relationship- it is not governed by law or tradition and exists solely to fulfil each partner's needs. 

Negotiated family -> Beck argues that equality has created this and it is not fixed but varies according to each member's wishes. Although there is more freedom, it is less stable as there is more emphasis on the needs of the individuals instead of the family. Individuals can leave in dissatisfied. 

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The connectedness thesis

Personal life perspective -> Snmart proposed it as an alternative to the individualization thesis:

- trad. patriarchal norms and structural inequalities still limited peoples choices e.g women are powerless compared to men and can be trapped in an abusive relationship.

- We are not disembedded individuals and we make our decisions about relationship with a social context (a web of correctness). This challenges the pure relationship, eg. divorcees remain linked to their children, often against their wishes. 

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