Examine the reasons for changing patterns of marriage and divorce over the last 50 years or so. Marriage is the legal relationship between two people in eyes of law. Over the last 50 years or so, the patterns of marriage and divorce have changed significantly and are still changing in today’s society. This is due to many factors such as less stigma, changes in women’s positions, secularization ,cohabitation and many more. Nowadays, there is less pressure to marry and a lot more freedom for individuals to choose the type of relationship they want. It’s considered more important about the quality of a couples relationship, rather than the legal status. The main and most important reason for the decrease in marriage and increase in divorce was the change in attitudes towards them. People now believe that it is alright to get a divorce if they are not happy in their marriage and with that, the stigma towards divorces has decreased. People divorce now on a day to day basis.
We see in magazine articles about celebrities getting divorce and no one is against it anymore, unlike before when older members of the family would encourage the younger couples stay together through thick and thin. That’s the same for marriage, as more and more people want to cohabit with their partner rather than get married as women now have more opportunities to work, higher expectations and set own rules about their life’s that before wasn’t possible. Secularisation is also involved in why there are changing patterns of marriage and divorced. Churches are in favour of marriage, and do not encourage divorce but as their influence declines, people feel freer to choose not to marry. People do not let the influence of the church or god take over their decisions. Society today has became secular, no place for god.
Divorce has increased dramatically over the past 50 years. Now 1 in 2 marriages are likely to end in divorce. High divorce rates mean people are able to re-marry however, some churches do not accept remarriages. People are also now marrying later in life, as people stay longer in education and are likely to cohabit first. This is partly due to the legislation that was took into place in 1969 called The Divorce Reform Act. This Act made it easier for couples to get divorced and made it a lot cheaper for those who could not afford it in the past.
The Government have also introduced the welfare provision which made it easier for w/c women to get divorced as this law helped women financially with divorce and being a single parent. In addition, Alan and Crow agree with the idea that there have been changes in the position of women. Women are now better educated, which makes them less dependent on men financially, which therefore enables women have greater freedom not to marry, or to end a marriage. In support, feminists see divorce as desirable as it shows that women are breaking free from the oppression of the patriarchal nuclear family.
However Functionalist writer Parsons states that he believes people getting divorced is everything that is wrong with society. He believes that marriage essential as there is a clear division of labour, That both the man and women should play their role in the family and not break it apart as it is essential for the smooth running of society. However Wilmot and Young argue that the roles have changed and men are now taking on greater share of domestic tasks and women are now working in the labour market. Although feminist Oakley totally disagrees with Wilmot and Young. Oakley dismissed the idea of the symmetrical family.
She critics Wilmot and Young as they only asked one question in their research ‘do you help with housework’?. She believed this question was irrelevant to their research as it does not state how much the men actually do and the domestic division of labour had led to the increase in divorce as women do not want to carry out a dual burden role. In conclusion these reasons have all dramatically affected the increase in divorce and the decrease in marriage. However it must be acknowledged women are not rejecting marriage and that there has been an increase in remarriages so this means that women are now raising their expectations and not rejecting marriage.