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

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Introduction

Examine the reasons for changes in the patterns of marriage, cohabitation and divorce in the last 30 years. In the last 30 years, the marriage rate has generally decreased while both the amounts of divorce and cohabitation have risen. Robert Chester noticed the decline in marriage in the under 30s during the 1980s, but said that instead of this being a decrease in the amount of people getting married, it was just that people were putting it off for longer; choosing a period of cohabitation or concentrating on a career before settling down to marriage. However it is also argued that marriage is becoming less popular in the UK and that an increasing number people are choosing not to marry. The New Right believe that women in particular are less committed to marrying and starting a family because of the sexual freedom given to them by the legalisation of abortion and the contraceptive pill. There are now many alternatives to conventional marriage open to people. Cohabitation is becoming increasingly popular, where a couple live together without being legally married. ...read more.

Middle

These are often formed as a result of the break-up of marriage or partnership, or death of a partner, but they are occurring increasingly through the choice to live alone. John Bernades (1997) believes that there are strong social pressures against people living alone, because the media portrays marriage as the ideal state, but this is disputed by government statistics, which show that in 1996/7 12% of people under pensionable age lived alone, compared to just 4% in 1961. This shows that single person households are becoming more socially accepted as an alternative to marriage. Britain has one of the highest divorce rates in Europe today, with almost half of marriages ending in divorce, a rate ten times higher than in 1970. The New Right sees this as a serious problem, believing the cause to be how cheap and easy divorce is to obtain. There are many contributors to marital breakdown and divorce in the UK today including this; The Divorce Reform Act, introduced in 1969, has made divorce easier to obtain. It meant divorce could be granted on the grounds of an irretrievable breakdown in marriage, adultery or unreasonable behaviour. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is hard to measure however, as there are other aspects to the breakdown of marriage apart from divorce. Many people, who split from their partners simply separate, live in different houses without suffering the stress or financial expense of a divorce. Some of these people may never divorce, but live separate lives with other partners despite this. This makes separation almost impossible to measure, as no one need be informed that it has happened. It is believed that many couples are currently living in "empty shell marriages", where they remain married and living together, but are together in name only. This can be done for the sake of children, or for religious or financial reasons. It is believed (though not proved) that these have always existed, but are more likely to end in separation or divorce now than in the past. Other reasons for not marrying may include people not valuing marriage so highly as in the past and living in an increasingly secular society where there is not such a religious pull towards marriage. In conclusion there is no evidence to suggest that the current trends in the rates of marriage, cohabitation and divorce are about to change, as marriage is increasingly devalued and alternatives become more widely accepted in society. ...read more.

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