Topic 5- Changing Family Patterns

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  • Created by: jocastle
  • Created on: 11-05-16 12:01

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Family structure has changed over the past 40-50 years:

  • Marriages are taking place later in life
  • There are fewer first marriages and more remarriages
  • More couples are choosing cohabitation as a temporary or permanent alternative to marriage
  • Same-sex couples are now legally able to marry or get a civil partnership
  • There are more 'reconstituted families'- families that become blended together through divorce/separation and remarriage
  • More lone-parent families exist
  • Similarly, more single-person households exist
  • More extramarital births- births that take place outside of marriage
  • Women, on average, are having fewer children, and having them later in life
  • The divorce rate has increased
  • The number of traditional nuclear families (married couples with dependent children) has decreased

Divorce and Marriage Rates - Factors

Overall, the divorce rate has increased from 1932 to 2012, and marriage rates have decreased

In 1972 roughly 120,000 divorces took place and then in 2012 there were about 250,000.

In 1972 there were approximately 490,000 marriages, and in 2012 there were about 280,000.

Possible factors for these changes include women's independence, the Divorce Reform Act of 1969, changing social attitudes, and secularisation (the move from religious norms to secular and non-religious norms). 

Feminist Arguments

Women's increased financial independence has led to more divorces because now women are no longer financially dependent on their husband's income; women now possess the power to leave a troublesome marriage without the impending threat of poverty, and neither is there a necessity for a woman to be married.  The introduction of welfare benefits has supported this, as there is more support available for single mothers. 

Feminists argue that working women take on a 'dual burden' of paid work and domestic work in households, which is a new source of conflict within marriage, leading to more divorces.  This argument devalues female financial independence as an empowering thing, as it can be a source of conflict.

There is also the argument that recent times have given rise to the 'new man', who also takes on traditionally 'female' domestic responsibilities- arguably the family is symmetrical on both


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