Examine the Reasons for Changes in the Patterns of Marriage, Cohabitation and Divorce.

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“Examine the reasons for changes in the patterns of marriage, divorce and cohabitation over the past 40 years.” The patterns of marriage, divorce and cohabitation over the past 40 years has varied considerably. In 1972, over 480,000 couples got married subsequently making this the highest amount of marriages within a year ever since the Second World War. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this was down to the baby boom generation of the 1950’s reaching the age of marriage. However, after this period, the number of marriages in England went into decline. Recently, marriages reached an all-time low in 2005 when only 244,701 couples got married. Less than half of what it was in 1972. Some people accuse society of rejecting marriage and are no longer bothered about it but, statistics prove otherwise. These statistics reveal that people are, in fact, delaying marriage. It is said that people most people will marry later in life, most likely after a period of cohabitation. Reasons for this may be that couples are being wary before making any serious commitments. Proof that supports the “marrying later in life” idea is that the average age of a bride in 2003 was 29 and all grooms 31 years old compared with 22 for women and 24 for men in 1971. Specifically, women may want to delay marriage for reasons such as advancing in their career prospects. Not only is there a drop in the total number of marriages but also a decline in marriage rates (the number of people marrying per 1000 of the population aged 16 and over). Marriage rates are at their lowest since the 1920’s and further plummeting. In 1994, the marriage rate was 11.4 but this had declined to 10.3 by 2004. The male rate declined from 36.3 in 1994 to 27.8 in 2004 whilst the female rate declined from 30.6 to 24.6. Once more, surveys emphasis that most people, whether single, divorced or cohabitating still see marriage as a desirable life-goal and therefore will get married eventually especially if they are having children as they see this as the basis of family life. Another change in the pattern of marriage is that two fifths of all marriages are remarriages. These people are clearly faithful to the institution of marriage in spite of their previous negative experience of it. The reason for this trend could possibly be due to their first marriages, which were empty-shell marriages. This is where there is no love or intimacy between them, but the marriage persists for the sake of the children until they are old enough. They might then decide to start a new life, including getting remarried. Such options are available to civilization for several reasons. Changes to the attitude of marriage has ensured that there is less pressure to marry and that there is more freedom to choose what type of relationship people want to live in. The norm that everyone ought to get married has greatly weakened. This is visible by the decline in stigma attached to marriage – cohabitation, remaining single and having children outside of marriage is now all regarded as acceptable. Giddens (1993) and Goode (1963) both argue that there is a trend towards adopting Westernised forms of marriage and family structure. They believe that we are slowly moving towards having the free choice of choosing our spouse, that there is a decline in arrange marriage and an increase towards egalitarian marriage and the notion of no sexual experience prior to marriage seems to be changing. Coleman and Salt (1992) also support this view as they believe that traditional views are being challenged by new idea, new economic roles for women, new laws and family planning. Dennis (19840 similarly suggests the same idea claiming that modern marriages are fragile and are only held together by emotional ties. He thinks that if these ties fail, then there is little reason for a couple to remain together. Regardless of the reduction in the overall number of people marrying, married couples are still the main type...
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