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AS Unit 1 - The Family

9) The rising divorce rates

The number of divorces in the UK is increases rapidly every year. The divorce rate has risen from 27,000 in 1961 to 167,000 by 2005. We now have one of the highest divorce rates in the European Union. About 40 per cent of new marriages today are likely to end in divorce.

Changes in the law as a reason for the rising divorce rate

Changes in the law around divorce have made them easier to get, cheaper and given men and women equal rights in filing for one – leading to a rise in divorce rates

Changes in society as a reason for rising divorce rates

The changing role of women – Around 3/4 of divorces are filed for by women. This suggests that women are more unhappy with their marriage than men. This change in role of women is vital in explaining the divorce rate rise because they now have the power to do something about a marriage they are not happy in; divorce.

Rising expectations of marriage – Functionalists say divorce rates have increased because of couples expecting more from their marriage, women in particular. This leads, for some, to discontent and the feeling that they want more, leading to divorce.

Growing secularization – secularization is the declining influence of religion on society. This has led to marriages becoming less sacred and important. This means that divorces are more widely accepted, explaining the rise in rates.

Change of social attitudes – Divorce has become much more socially acceptable, there is less stigma surrounding it. This makes divorces less of a “big deal”, for example whereas previously divorce might have hindered a career due to public outrage, that is no longer a problem

The growth of the privatized nuclear family – The increase in privatization of families has led to much less support and advice for a couple having issues. Also this isolation can lead to an increase in expectations within a marriage. Finally, being more private means the couple will be less worried about the social implications of getting a divorce. All of these reasons could explain the rise in the divorce rates.

Reduced functions of the family – Some functionalist writers argue that the family has lost its functions, this mean that there is less need to be married, resulting in higher divorce rates

Increased life expectancy – As people are living longer there is more time for something to “go wrong” in a marriage. Also people are going to have higher demands of a marriage as it will last longer if there isn’t a separation before death.

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