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Examine the reasons for the changes in the patterns of marriage, cohabitation and divorce in the last 30 years

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Examine the reasons for the changes in the patterns of marriage, cohabitation and divorce in the last 30 years For many people in Britain, and up until very recently, a large part of the population believed that marriage was the basis on which a family life should be constructed, nevertheless over the last two decades these beliefs have gradually changed. An ever increasing number of couples in modern day Britain no longer see that the actual act of marriage has an integral part of forming a long-term relationship and the same may be said for their decision for forming a family. Therefore it would be true to argue that the patterns in marriage are constantly evaluating and changing. For the better part of this century, marriage has been extremely popular, and reaching its peak in 1971, with a total of 459 000 marriages performed, but since then, there has been a dramatic decline, in 1991 only 350 000 marriages were performed (Taylor et al, 1997) and this decrease has continued gradually since, to the extent that in 2005 there were only 283 730 weddings in the United Kingdom (www.statistics.gov.uk - 1). Reasons for these transformations in patterns of marriage may reflect the fact that society as a whole is changing, consequently the norms and values on which society functions are also changing, it is no longer frowned upon to conceive a child outside of wedlock (Taylor et al, 1997). ...read more.


These are not the only reasons for explaining the raising rates in divorce, it is essential to examine the wider social and legal context of divorce. It is undeniable that the chances, both legally and socially over the last thirty years, have been a catalyst and contributed to the increase in divorces rates. The 'Divorce Reform Act 1969' played a major role in the increase of divorce petitions (request for divorce), as it changed the grounds on which a divorce could be obtained, there was no longer need for one of the partners to be seen as the guilty party, but simply, marriages could de terminated on the basis of an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. Within this 'Act', there was a provision for divorce after a certain period of time, therefore be proven by a two years separation period with a mutual agreement from both partners or after five years, if only one partner agrees (Marsh, 1996). Another amendment in the law, which had a possible effect on the rates of divorce, was the 'Matrimonial and Family Processing Act 1984'. This 'Act' introduced the possibility to file for divorce after just one year of marriage, rather than the previous three year wait before being eligible (Marsh, 1996). This 'clean break' concept was introduced and aimed to enable each of the partners to become self-sufficient as soon as possible. ...read more.


Giddens, 2006). It is the change in social expectations that has brought about a change in attitudes; cohabitation was until very recently seen as something quite outrageous, and was merely added to the General Household Survey questionnaire in 1979. Evidence produced by Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO) 2004 survey, demonstrated that 88% of 18 to 24 year old and 40% of individuals aged 64 or over considered " It was alright for a couple to live together without intending to get married" (Giddens, 2006). Perhaps an explanation for the increase in cohabiting couples could be linked to the increasing divorce rates, one in three cohabiting households, is composed of couples living with dependent children. Cohabitation is tremendously popular with couples, where one or perhaps both individuals are either divorced or separated and already have siblings. A study performed in 1989 provided evidence that 80% of cohabitants had children form former marriages (Utting, 1995). Through the evidence provided by this composition, it is undeniable that trends in marriage, divorce and cohabitation are closely intermingled, showing a continuous dynamic of changing family patterns. The transformation of these 'family patterns' only goes to strengthen the ideology that both social and cultural changes play a huge role in influencing and shaping an individuals comportment in a contemporary society (Marsh, 1996). ...read more.

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