Changing patterns of divorce - since the 1960s, there has been a great increase in divorce rates. The number of divorces has doubled between 1961 and 1969, and doubled again by 1972.

Reasons for the increase in divorce...

1) changes in the law: Divorce was very difficult to obtain in the 19th-century in Britain, esspecially for women. gradually, changes in the law have made divorce easier. There have been three kinds of change in the law:

  • equaliing the grounds (legal reasons) of divorce between the sexes
  • widening the grounds for divorce
  • making divorce cheaper

When the grounds were equalised for men and women in 1923, this was followed by a sharp rise in the number of divorce petitions from women. Similarly, the widening of the grounds in 1971 to 'irretreivable breakdown' made divorce easier to obtain and produced a doubling of the divorce rate instantlly. The introduction of legal aid for divorce cases in 1949 lowered the cost of divorcing.

Although divorce is the legal termination of marriage, couples can go and do find other solutions o the problem of unhappy marriage such as:

  • desertion - where one partner leaves the other but the couple remain legally married
  • legal seperation - where a court separates the financial and legal affairs of the couple but where they remain maried and are not free to re-marry
  • 'empty shell' marriage - where the couple continue to live under the same roof but remain married in name only

2) Declining stigma and changing attitudes: stigma refers to the negative label,social dissapproval or shame attatched to a person action or relationship. In the past, divorce and divorcees have been stigmatised. For example, churches tended to condem divorce and often refused to conduct marriage services involving divorcees. As stigma declines and divorce becomes more socialy acceptable, couples become more willing to oresort to divorce as a means of solving their marital problems.

3) Secularisation: secularisation refers to


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