Recent Trends in Divorce In 2006 divorce rate fell for a second consecutive year and by 7 per cent compared with 2005 In past 20 years the average age at divorce has risen (39.8-43.4 for men) and (37.3-40.9 for women), partly reflecting the rise in age at marriage. www.statistics.gov.uk
Long-term Divorce Rates in the UK This graph shows the dramatic increase in divorce in the latter part of the last century. Note the dramatic growth in 1971 explained by the Divorce Reform Act discussed on a later slide.
Changing Social attitudes and values The 1960s marked a shift to more liberal attitudes to sex, marriage and divorce. There is less stigma attached to having a divorce and media report celebrity marriage breakdowns. Functionalist William Goode suggests: William Goode argues that marriage has become an occurrence for more emotional reasons. In the past, people married for practical reasons, and the fact that partners did not love each other wasn't a problem.
Changes in the law Legal changes have made divorce easier, quicker and cheaper. The Divorce Reform Act (1969) allowed an individual to petition for divorce on grounds of ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ as a result of separation, adultery and unreasonable behaviour. Further legislation in 1984 allowed couples to divorce after only a year and legal aid facilities became available.
Changes in the social position of women Women are no longer reliant upon husbands as there are employment opportunities and welfare benefits now. Three-quarters of divorce applications come from women. Women expect more out of a marriage than men and have less to gain from empty-shell marriages. Allan and Crow say that opportunities for women have improved in the past 50 years, e.g. they are economically more independent.
Secularization Secularization refers to the idea religion is loosing its influence and importance in society. Fewer people now see marriage as ‘till death us do part’ and fewer people have church wedding ceremonies.
Media Influences Popular media emphasize the importance of mutual attraction in relationships. Couples may have unrealistic expectations of marriage, resulting in breakdown.
Consequences? Postmodernists claims more family diversity has resulted from divorce: Anthony Giddens (1992) sees shift towards what he calls ‘confluent love’(close and emotion). This is in marked contrast to feelings of duty and obligation as reflected in traditional marriage vows ' "For better for worse, for richer for poorer,...as long as we both shall live".
Divorce and Children New Right see divorce as being detrimental to children and parents should stay together. Rodgers and Pryor (1998) argue children of divorced or separated parents experience more poverty, poor housing, behavioural problems, teenage pregnancy, and educational underachievement. If children have no contact with one parent, it is harder to cope and moving in with a step- family can cause problems.
Divorce and Society New Right see high divorce rates resulting in female-headed one parent families as a threat to society. Boys, in particular, grow up without disciplinary figure and a role model. Patricia Morgan (1999) sees a direct link between the divorce rates and an increase in the crime rates. Feminists challenge these ideas as a ‘backlash’ arguing it is the quality not quantity of parenting that matters.