Examine some of the reasons for the changing patterns in marriage and divorce in the last 40 years (24 marks)
In the last 40 years, there have been some major changes in family and household patterns. Changes in partnerships include fewer first marriages, a higher divorce rate than before, more re-marriages and cohabitation. We first look at divorce because it is one of the most major causes of changes in family patterns and greater diversity. Since the 1960s, there has been a greater increase in divorces in the United Kingdom. Between 1961 and 1969, the divorce rate doubled. Then again, it doubled in 1972. This rise in divorces continued till 1993 which was when it was at its highest at 180,000. Since then, numbers have fallen but are still high when compared to divorce rates 100 years ago. This is because over the years, there have been changes in law, declining stigma and changing attitudes, secularisation, rising expectations of marriage and also the changes in the position of women. In the 19th century, divorce was very hard to obtain especially for women. This was due to the fact that it was virtually non-existent and that it could only be obtained by a special and costly Act of Parliament. So only the royal and very rich people could obtain a divorce in 1857. Men could divorce their unfaithful wives but for women to divorce their unfaithful husbands, they had to prove that he was cheating, or that he broke his matrimonial vows. Then a major change in divorce law occurred in 1921. The law was changed so that the grounds for divorce were equalised for both men and women. After this law change, there was a sharp rise in the number of divorce petition particularly from women. In 1949, legal aid was made available for everyone who allowed more people to be eligible to divorce because now they could afford it. This law allowed many of the poorer people in unhappy marriages to divorce. A major change in law was the Divorce Law Reform Act. This made...
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