Changing Patterns & Family Diversity



Reasons for increase in the divorce rate (40% of marriages end in divorce)

  • Legal changes e.g. Divorce Act 1969
  • Less stigma
  • Secularisation
  • Higher expectations of marriage (functionalists)
  • Women's financial independence
  • Modernity & individualism
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Reasons for fewer first marriages

  • Changing attitudes
  • Alternatives e.g. cohabitation
  • Women's economic independence
  • The impact of feminism
  • Rising divorce rates

Other trends

  • More re-marriages
  • Later marriages
  • Fewer church weddings


  • Trial marriage
  • An alternative to marriage
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Patterns in childbearing

  • 50% of children are born outside of marriage
  • Women are having children later; more are remaining childless or having fewer children

Lone-parent families

  • Account for 25% of families
  • Increased divorce & decline in stigma
  • 90% of LP families are headed by a female
  • Increase in reconstituted / stepfamilies

Ethnic differences

  • More black LP families
  • Larger Asian households
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The Extended Family Today

  • Functionalists: The dispersed extended family
  • The beanpole family: Extended vertically, but not horizontally
  • People still feel obligation to their wider extended kin, but this is expected to be reciprocal
  • More is expected of daughters than of sons, but this varies depending on other commitments
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