AS SociologyCHANGING FAMILY SCLY1 PATTERNS Families and Households
GENERAL TRENDSMore… Less… Divorce Traditional nuclear Re-marriages family households Cohabitation First marriages Lone parent families Women having fewer People who live alone children Step families Couples without children Marrying later in life
AIMS Know the main changes in partnerships – with particular reference to divorce and partnerships Be able to analyse and evaluate the reason for these changes in families and households
WHY STUDY DIVORCE? Major cause for changing family patterns and greater family diversity For example: Lone parents Re-marriage One person households
WHAT IS THE EXTENT OF THE CHANGE? Divorce has doubled between 1961 to 1969 But…doubled again between 1969 and 1972 Divorce in 2001 was six times higher than in 1961 7/10 petitions for divorce come from women, but in 1946 only 37% came from women. So what has happened?
EXPLANATIONS FOR THE INCREASE Changes in the law Declining stigma and changing attitudes Secularisation Rising expectations in marriage Changes in the position of women Also other factors Higher risk of divorce if… Marry young Cohabit before marriage One or both partners married before
DIVORCE LAW Before 1857 – virtually non-existent, costly and only obtainable through an Act of Parliament 1857 – men could divorce unfaithful wives BUT women had to prove husbands’ cruelty or infidelity. Divorce still costly. 1923 – grounds for divorce equalised for men and women 1937 – grounds widened to include cruelty and desertion 1949 – legal aid available making divorce more af fordable 1969 – Divorce Law Reform Act (came into ef fect in 1971)This made irretrievable breakdown of marriage the sole groundfor divorce – established by proving unreasonable behaviour,adultery, desertion, separation. Divorce was available after 2years of agreed separation or 5 if one partner did not agree.
DIVORCE LAW 1984 – the minimum period when divorce could be sough was reduced from 3 years to 1 1996 – Family Law Act encourages couples to seek mediation but allows divorce after a period of reflection 2004 – Civil Partnership Act allows the dissolution for civil partnerships on the same grounds as for a marriage 2007 – appeal court ruling, in divorce the principle of equality applies – the starting point of the split is 50:50 of all assets including salaries and pension rights.
CHANGES IN THE LAW Making divorceEqual grounds Widening grounds cheaper
CHANGES IN THE LAW When the grounds were equalised in 1923 – sharp rise in the number of divorce petitions from women 1971 – irretrievable breakdown 1949 – introduction of legal aid Each change has resulted in a rise in the divorce rate
ALTERNATIVES? Divorce is the legal termination of the marriage. Couples can and do find alternatives… Desertion – where one partner leaves the other but the couple remain legally married Legal separation – when a court separates the financial and legal affairs of the couple but they remain married and are not free to re-marry Empty shell marriage – the couple continue to live under the same roof but remain married in name only Since divorce has become more available these solutions have become less popular.
DECLINING STIGMA AND CHANGING ATTITUDES Stigma is a negative label of social disapproval or shame attached to a person, action or relationship.The church tended to condemn divorce and oftenrefused to conduct marriage services involvingdivorcees.Mitchell and Goody (1997) note that an importantchange since the 1960s has been the rapid decline inthe stigma attached to divorceAs the stigma declines and divorce become moresocially acceptable couples are more likely to seedivorce as a means of solving marital problems. It hasbecome normalised.
SECULARISATION Secularisation refers to the decline in the influence in religion in society. Many sociologists argue that religious institutions are losing their influence on society. They point to evidence such as church attendance being in decline.The results are…The traditional opposition of the church to divorce carriesless weight in societyPeople are less likely to be influenced by religious teachings Many churches arewhen making decisions. also softening their views on divorce.2001 census – 47% of those with no religion werecohabiting compared to 34% of Christians, 17% of Muslimsand 11% of Hindus and 10% of Sikhs.
RISING EXPECTATIONS OF MARRIAGE The higher expectations people place on marriage today are a major cause of rising divorce rates. Higher expectations make couples less willing to tolerate an unhappy marriage.This is linked to the ideology of romantic love.Marriage should be based only on love and for eachindividual there is a Mr or Miss “right”.
RISING EXPECTATIONS OF MARRIAGE In the past individuals had little choice in whom they married. At the time when the family was a unit of production marriages were often out of duty to one’s family or for economic reasons.Under these circumstances people were less likely tohave high expectations and were less likely to bedissatisfied by the absence of romance and intimacy.
RISING EXPECTATIONS OF MARRIAGE“Love, personal commitment and intrinsic satisfaction are now seen as thecornerstones of marriage, the absence of these feelings is itself a justificationfor ending the relationship.” Takes an optimistic view of marriage. Marriage continues to be popular, most adults marry and the high number of re-marriages show that society has not rejected marriage as in institution.
CRITICS OF THIS VIEW… Too rosy!!!! feminists argue that the oppression of women within the marriage and family is the main cause of marital conflict and divorce and think that functionalists ignore this. Functionalists offer an explanation for the rise in divorce rate but do not explain why it is mainly women who petition for divorce.
CHANGES IN THE POSITION OF WOMEN One reason that women may seek divorce is due to improvements in their economic position. Women are more likely to be in paid work. 47% in 1959 to 70% in 2005 Anti-discrimination laws have helped to narrow the pay gap Girls’ greater success in education how help them to pursue different careers Welfare benefits mean that women no longer have to remain financially depended on their husbands
CHANGES IN THE POSITION OF WOMENMarriage less embedded in the economic systemFewer family firmsSpouses not so financially interdependentThis means that they do not have to tolerate each other in the absence of love –more willing to seek divorce.Feminists also argue that the women as wage earners has created a new sourceof conflict between husbands and wives and this is leading to more divorce.
FEMINIST VIEW Although there has been reform in the work place and education (the public sphere) change in the family and home (the private sphere) has been much slower. Marriage remains patriarchal with men benefitting from the “triple shift”For many women the home compares unfavourably to workAt work women feel valued and at home frustrated due to the pressures ofhousework and mens continuing resistance to helping in the homeAs more women work, this leaves less time and energy for the emotional workneeded to address the problems – this contributes to divorce.
FEMINIST VIEW Working mothers are more likely to petition for divorce than women in relationships with a traditional division of labour. Where the husband of a working wife is actively involved in housework the likelihood of divorce falls to the same levels of those in traditional roles.Many women feel a growing dissatisfaction with patriarchal marriage, she sees theevidence that most petitions come from women as evidence of their growingacceptance of feminist ideas and women becoming more informed of patriarchaloppression and more confident in rejecting it.
DO SOCIOLOGISTS AGREE? See high divorce rate as undesirable as it undermines the traditional nuclear family. It creates an underclass of welfare dependent female lone parents and leaves boys without the male adult role model they need.Disagree…they see the high divorce rate as desirable as it shows women breakingfree of the oppression of patriarchy.
DO SOCIOLOGISTS AGREE?View a high divorce rate as giving individuals the freedom top choose to end arelationship when it no longer meets their needs. They see it as a cause of greaterfamily diversity.A high divorce rate does not prove that marriage is under threat. It is simple aresult of high expectations of marriage. The high rate of re-marriage showspeoples’ commitment to the idea of marriage.
DO SOCIOLOGISTS AGREE?They aim to understand what divorce means to the individual.Morgan (1996) argues that we cannot generalise about the meaning of divorcebecause every individual’s interpretation is different.Mitchell and Goody provide an example of this. One of their interview wasdescribed the day her father left as one of the happiest in her life, where anothersaid she had never recovered from her father deserting the family.