There are many reasons for changes in family size over the past 100 years. Family size has been changing in all of the world’s industrial societies.
One of the main reasons of changes in family size is that divorce rates have increased dramatically. This can be seen by figures showing that in 1950, there were 40,000 divorces across England and Wales and in 2005 there 153,399 across the same area. The increase in divorce has led to more reconstituted families, singlehood and single parenthood, therefore the family size has generally decreased apart from in cases where reconstituted families have been formed. This increase in divorce is due to many factors, one of which is the changes in legislation over the past 100 years. Since 1912 (100 years ago) there has been 5 changes in legislation, these were in 1949, 1950, 1971, 1984 and 1996. The change that caused the greatest increase in divorce was the Divorce Reform Act in 1971. This emphasized the idea of a matrimonial offence, and avoided the need for a guilty party. It also defined divorce as the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. In 1971, William J. Goode said that ‘the family carries a heavier emotional burden so the unit is relatively fragile.’ I think that Goode was trying to say that the increase in divorce, and the change in family size, is due to that fact that the family accepts more different things than they did previously, therefore with the pressure on it, the family is more likely to breakdown and decreasing the size of the family.
However, the number of extended families has increased. This is because people are usually living longer as life expectancy has increased so there are more vertically extended families. The increase in extended families has led to an increase in family size. In 1988, Peter Willmott conducted a study on a North London suburb. He found that contacts with kin remained