Explaining the Rise in Divorce Rates in the Last 50 Years

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Assess sociological explanations for the rise of divorce rates in the last 50 years Changes in the law may have led to the rise in divorce rates, such as the removal of legal and financial barriers. Prior to 1857, divorce could only be obtained by an Act of Parliament, the grounds for divorce were based on matrimonial offences and this remained the basis of divorce until 1971. In 1971, The Divorce Reform Act of 1969 replaced blame with irretrievable breakdown. The 1985 Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act reduced the time limit on divorce from a minimum of three years of marriage to one. However, legislation cannot be seen as the sole cause of higher divorce rates, it has only made divorce easier to obtain if couples want it but has not directly made them get one. Some researchers, such as Fletcher, place the cause of increased divorce on higher expectations. Looking at the rates of remarriage, it becomes clear that it is not the institution of marriage that couples have a problem with, it is each other. Often this is because one party feels (or “realizes”) that their partner is not who they always pictured ending up with. The media can contribute to people’s ideas of what the “perfect woman” or “perfect man” is, but, as the media is an often completely false agent of propaganda, real life men and women cannot live up to expectations. Changes in the social position of women may have contributed to higher divorce rates as women have, in the past 100 years, achieved many new rights such as: the vote, employment and education. This shift in the position of women within society may have made them less willing to accept an unsatisfactory marriage that often includes traditional gender roles with no opportunity for them to work towards their own goals and lives outside of the home. There is now much less social stigma and blame attached to divorce, meaning that
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