40% of marriages now end in divorce - six times more than 50 years ago.
There are several reasons for this increase; legal changes; less stigma; secularisation; higher expections of marriage; changes in women's position.
1.1 Changes to the law
In the 19th century, divorce was almost impossible. In the 20th century, legal changes have made divorce easier: equalising the grounds for divorce (1923); widening the grounds for divorce to include factors such as 'irretrievable breakdown' (1969); and divorce was made more affordable (e.g. 1949 legal aid was introduced).
1.2 Declining stigma
Stigma is a negative label. In the past divorce was stigmatised. Since the 1960s, this stimgam has declined rapidly. This has made divorce more socially acceptable, so couples are more willing to divorce to solve their problems. Furthermore, as divorce is now more common, it has become 'normalised', further reducing stigma.
Secularisation is the decline in the influence of religion on society.
As a result of secularisation, the traditional church opposition to divorce carries less weight in society and people are less likely to be influenced by religious teachings when making decisions about their relationships.
1.4 Higher expectations of marriage
People have higher expectations of marriage today and couples less willing to tolerate an unhappy marriage than in previous generations.
The ideology of romantic love is the belief that marriage should be based on love, and that for each individual there is a Mr or Mrs Right. If couples fall out of love there is no longer any reason to stay married therefore couples can divorce and renew their search for their one true soulmate.
1.5 Changes in women's position in society
More women are now in paid work, and lone parent welfare benefits are available. This makes women less economically dependent on their husbands and are more able to afford divorce.
2 Decline in marriage
There are now fewer marriages. The declining marriage rate is the result of a number of reasons; changing attitudes; alternatives to marriage; women's economic independence; the impact of feminism; rising divorce rates.
2.1 Changing attitudes
There is less pressure to marry.
2.2 Alternatives to marriage
There are now more alternatives to marriage, such as cohabitation. Alternatives to marriage are no longer stigmatised.
2.3 Women's economic independence
Women now have better education and career opportunties leading to greater economic independence, as a result, women are freer to choose their relationships and have freedom not to marry.
2.4 The impact of feminism
The feminist challenge to marriage as oppressive patriarchal institution
may discourage women from marrying.
2.5 Rising divorce rates
Rising divorce rates may put some people of marrying.
2.6 Other trends in marriage
Fewer church weddings