Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

The Change in Marriage and Divorce Figures Over a 20 Year Period

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I will look mainly at the area of divorce and how this may have affected the relationships within marriage, within my chosen time scale, to explore how a changing society may have resulted in the breakdown (or choice to not undertake) marriage. I have looked at data from 1978 and then at 1998 from the official statistics for these two areas. I will look at data from two separate years, only twenty years apart to show what changes if any can be seen in such a small time scale.

The data I will use is taken from the 'Office of Population Censuses Surveys'. Marriage and divorce Statistics (1980 &1998). I have converted them to percentages, to make them easer to understand and rounded them to the nearest 0. 01%. I have not included the widowed figures in this essay! As this is not a choice like divorce or marriage. Looking back over the divorce rates and how they have changed, showed that from as far back as 1901 to the late 1960's with only a small increase from the 60's to the late 1970's.

Divorce rates were quite consistent from 1. 4% to 2%. Then between the late 1970's to today a huge leap. Between 1978 and 1980, there was a vast amount of movement in the rights of women in respect of work and benefits rights. As well as social changes in respect of how divorce and signal mothers were viewed. Was there a shift from a patriarchy society? Women became able to function in society without a man or marriage. So what do the stats show? In 1978 Looking across all (adult) age groups, 50. 5% were marred, 40. % were single. With those divorced showing only 2. 1%, the figures for 1998 show that 43. 7% were single, with only 42. 8% marred.

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This shows one area of change, less people getting marred, although the figures do not indicate those living together unmarried (which raises the question of value placed on the position or marriage in today's society). When we look at the figures for divorce in 1978 then at 1998, the change is easy to see. In 1978 only 2. 1% of adults were divorced, only 20 years later it was 6. % an increase of 4. 7% more. The years after the war up to 1978 showed only a small difference form the 1945 to 1978, only 0. 5%. Yet in this 20 year section there is a rapid increase, the figures also shows an increase of remarriages. If we take away those remarried, the divorce rate is 10%. The age people marry today has also changed, 26. 8 % in 1978 were marred by 25 years old. By 1998 this had dropped to only 10. 3%. And later in life, age 65 to 70 years of age. Over 51% marred in 1998 as apposed to 29. 3% in 1978.

The figures show in 1978 marriage lasted longer with less ending in divorce, by 1998 marriage was 'later in life', with more chance of divorce, and this also raised the amount of 2nd marriages.

NOTE:[Divorce rates did jump between 1972 and 1972 but this is could be argued was a result of the Divorce Reform Act of 1969] The way we record 'what is' a family unit has been forced to change with less people marrying; a family in the 70's was; "a social unit consisting of a wife, husband and dependent children" (Huges & Fergusson 2000, P49)

Whereas today; "a family is defined as a marred or cohabiting couple, with or with out their never married children (who have no children of their own), or a loan parent with such children. People living alone are not considered to form a family" (social trends, 1999, P43) In 1997 there were only 310,000 marriages altogether, this was the lowest recorded figures of the 20th century, and more divorces were brought by women on the grounds of 'unreasonable behavior' some 70% (ONS, 2000, p. 9)

This is could be argued marks a change with women now making sociality move away from a patriarchal ideology, some commentators in the 70's talked of marriage moving towards one of symmetry; Michael Young and peter Willmott argued that women no longer needed the 'male bread winner', and with more legal support and better rights in/access to employment, the relationships within marriage hade to change, Young and Willmott said; this symmetry could be seen in division of labor in the home, with the old distinction between men's and women's jobs becoming increasingly blurred, a shift to joint decision making, and increasing sheared social life" Young and Willmott 1973 p. 343) So not only the way the family unit is seen in society has changed, it could be argued, but the relationships within marriage undergone change.

In this small gap of 20 years, women it could be argued have more control, no longer has the man got more power then the woman in the home relationship. Of course this is not true of the 'older generation', although with social change each generation brings its own values to the front. We can see today with marriage declining, more ending in divorce, modern society places less value on marriage than there parents did. Old moral values are been eroded away, for a faster consumer orientated society.

Things are for today and out of fashion next week. It would seam that if current trends continue as they have from 1978 to 1998; will anybody both to get married in 30 years time. Will relationships become more of a casual affair? Will women gain more control than men with in relationships. Women with the emergence of things such as 'the pill', sperm banks for single [potential mothers] women. The position of men within society us under more pressure and question the more we move into the 'new' modern equal society.

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