The Decline of Family in Modern Britain
Family- “a group of people who are related to each other such as a
mother, a father and their children “(Cambridge Dictionaries Online,
Cambridge University Press (2008)),
Is this the view of a family in 2008, clearly it could be said that
this definition is somewhat outdated but does it point to the family
being in decline?
In Britain today the family has certainly undergone a lot of changes
compared to the 1950s where the family was predominately a nuclear
family where the man of the household went out to work and the woman
stayed at home to cook, clean and look after the children.
Today there are a number of ‘new’ structures to a family such as
single parent families, reconstituted families and same sex families
all of which consider they to be what constitutes a family. But how
did these ‘new’ structures come about, to answer this we have to look
at the changes the family has undergone in recent years.
Divorce is a big influence on the structure of a family as it is
today. Divorce is easier to obtain than in previous years with the
introduction in 1971 of the Divorce Reform Act that established
irretrievable breakdown of marriage as grounds for divorce. Another
act was passed in 1984 that allowed married couples to divorce after
one year of marriage that ultimately increased the number of divorces.
Legal aid is now more accessible and ends in most cases the expense of
a divorce. Divorce is also far less stigmatised than previously where
the likelihood of knowing someone who is divorced as opposed to not
knowing anyone (as in previous years) is rare and on the whole
accepted as the ‘norm’ to most people. The New Right certainly
believes that divorce is a major factor to the decline of the family.
They believe the Divorce Reform Act was undermining to marriage and
that the 1960s and early 1970s were the beginning of an attack on
traditional family values particularly because of the introduction of
the Pill and the legalisation of abortion.
They considered this was lessening woman’s commitment to the family
because of their increased sexual freedom (Moore et al (2001:45)),
which could be viewed as the beginning of the change in how the family
is structured with women now having much more independence and freedom
However the reforms in the Divorce Act also brought about some
amendments in 1999 that included a minimum ‘cooling off’ period of
nine months and the introduction of compulsory mediation between
partners to try and reconcile them, which illustrates that divorce is
still hoped to be the very last resort and not just an easy way out.
The increase in divorce can also be looked at from the view that more
and more people are looking for the ‘perfect’ marriage and rather than
stay in an ‘empty...