Trends within the family - marriage and cohabitation

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Family in crisis

  • High divorce rate, cohabitation, illegitimacy and single parent families.
  • New Right argue society is under threat - basis of our society is collapsing, time for a return to traditional family values.
  • Feminists and Post-mods see changes as result of greater individual choice in relationships and growing confidence of women in particular to reject traditional arrangements.
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What is happening to marriage/civil partnerships?

  • Significant decline in number of marriages.
  • First marriages have fallen.
  • Remarriages rose - 40% of all marriages.
  • Average age - 22-30 for women - class differences in age of marriage.
  • 65% of marriages were civil ceremonies.
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Reasons for decline in the popularity of marriage

  • Replacement of marriage with cohabitation.
  • Rise in people living alone and choosing not to marry.
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  • Living together as a couple without being married - risen rapidly over the past 50% years.
  • Those who have chosen to cohabit as a prelude to marriage - trial pre marriage, process of getting married, not a substitute for marriage.
  • Those who have chosen to cohabit as a permanent alternative to marriage.
  • Living together no longer seen as a sin.
  • Secularisation is closely linked to decline in stigma for cohabitation.
  • New Right claim cohabitation is less stable than marriage.
  • Fletcher 1988
    • cohabitation and births outside marriage often conceal what are in fact rather conventional nuclear families.
  • Chester -
    • cohabiting couples with children form a neo-conventional family.
  • Gillis 1985 -
    • historical study of british marriage - custom of couples beginning sexual relations and cohabiting once engaged was not uncommon in the past.
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Key Study - John Walliss

  • Church weddings in decline - 2002; 85,870 marriages only 33.8% involved a religious ceremony.
  • Bruce 2001
    • secularisation is at an advanced stage - evidence of decline of Christianity as a cultural and institutional force.
  • Method - attempt to find out why secular couples marry for the first time choose a religious wedding over non-religious options - personal dimension of the secularisation of weddings.
  • Key findings - religious beliefs play small role on wedding location.
    • traditional thing to do - idea that church is only place fit for a wedding.
    • influence of parents - or others especially when paying for the wedding.
    • aesthetic considerations - linked to idea of tradition and feeling that ceremony should take place in a traditional-looking setting.
  • Links to key debates - attraction of church weddings seems more related to idea of what is traditional and right rather than any religious content. Few weddings now seen in religious terms.
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