Examine the Reasons for the Changing Patterns in Marriage and Cohabitation. (24 Marks)

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The term marriage refers to a legal contract between man and women binding them as husband and wife by legal or religious commitments. Cohabitation is quite similar to marriage. Cohabitation refers to a man and women living together in an intimate relationship. There is no legal or religious element binding the couple together. Childbearing refers to the act or process of giving birth. All three have changed drastically over the last forty years. Since 1970, marriage rates have changed significantly. There has been a decrease in marriage from 48000 in 1972 to only 306000 in 2000. Item A states that only half as many people are getting married today. There are many reasons why marriage rates have decreased over the years. Religious significance has dropped dramatically in many western countries including the U.K. Many people no longer feel that marriage is essential. As less people are religious, they are more likely to cohabit or divorce without fear of ‘living a sin’. The decline of religious significance is known as secularisation. Alternatively, changes in social attitudes mean that people art marrying at a later age rather than rejecting marriage altogether. Item B states that in 1971, only four per cent of women remained unmarried by the age of 50. By 1987, this figure had grown to seventeen per cent. Rise in female independence could be a contributing factor to this rise. Women may prefer to become economically independent before marrying. Rather than rejecting marriage, many couples may seek alternatives, such as cohabitation. Cohabitation has many benefits. Some people may not see the need to get married in order to express their love. Others may be put off by the financial aspect of weddings. Cohabitation is altogether a cheaper alternative to an expensive wedding and messy divorce. However, cohabitation is not seen as a permanent alternative
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