Explain The Reasons Behind The Increase In Divorce Rates.
Since the 1960s there has been an increase in divorces. 40% of marriages end in divorce. There were 157000 divorces in 2001 which is six times the amount than in 1961. In 1946, only 40% of divorce petitions came from women whereas today, 7/10 divorce petitions come from women. This is because women now have equal rights and the grounds for divorce have been widened.
In 1971, the Divorce Law Reform Act came into place. It made the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of marriage the sole ground for divorce. It also made divorce available after 2 years of agreed separation or 5 years if only one spouse wants the divorce. In the 19th century it was difficult to obtain a divorce, especially for women. Changes in the law have now made getting a divorce easier. There were three kinds of changes; equalising the grounds, widening the grounds, and making it cheaper. Widening the grounds of divorce caused the divorce rate to double almost overnight. The introduction of legal aid in 1949 lowered the costs of divorce and with each change in the law, divorce rates have risen. Although changes in the law have given people freedom to divorce easily, this does not itself explain why more people choose to take advantage of this freedom. To explain the rise in divorce rates, other changes need to be looked at. E.g. changes in public attitudes towards divorce.
Mitchell and Goody note that an important change since the 1960s has been the rapid decline in the stigma attached to divorce. As the stigma declines and divorce becomes more socially acceptable, couples become more willing to resort to divorce as a means of solving their marital problems. The fact that divorce is now more common begins to ‘normalise’ it and further reduces the stigma attached to it. Rather than divorce being seen as shameful, it is more likely to regarded today simply as a misfortune. Despite these changing attitudes, family patterns tend to be fairly...