In the recent years, divorce rates have risen due to various reasons. Firstly, there has been a major shift in society’s thinking and attitude towards marriage. This is due to this generation wanting a higher satisfaction from marriage than the previous generations in society.1 Giddens2 argues that in the 21st century a couple stay in a personal and intimate relationship only to achieve their anticipated goals of self-sufficiency and personal fulfilment. Moreover, Sclater claims that ‘we no longer look for Mr & Mrs Right, but rather we search for the perfect relationship, when one fails to satisfy the individual in late modernity increasingly feels free to move on to try another.’3 Consequently this lead to an increase of expectations within a marriage and in individualism which aids to explain such increase in divorce rates. An additional cause may be that women are less eager to accept a traditional acquiescent role within the marriage.
Another reason for an increase in divorce rates may be due to the intensification in life expectancy.4 During the twentieth century the probable length of marriages up surged about 15 years. In comparison, it is quite similar to the length in the Victorian era. However, nowadays marriages can be ended by divorce whereas in the Victorian era it was ended by the death of a spouse. Furthermore, the growth in equality means that divorce for a woman is more possible economically. For instance, the enlarged employment opportunities and the enhancements made in benefits for lone parents allows a wife to leave her husband through a divorce without deteriorating into absolute poverty which was impossible for everyone during the first half of the twentieth century. This is proved in the National Statistics5 which state that in 2008, 67% of those who were petitioning for a divorce were women. Moreover, Hochschild6 suggests that there is less time to spend with your loved ones and family as well as increased tensions within a marriage due to work pressure.
1 Gibson (1994:214)
2 Giddens 1992
3 Day Sclater S, Access to Sociology: Families (Hodder Education 2000) 68
4 Gibson (1994:127)
5 ‘Divorces In England And Wales – Office For National Statistics’ (Ons.gov.uk, 2017)
6 Hochschild (1996)