In order to try and discover whether family life has lost its significance in contemporary Britain or not, there are certain types of questions that must be kept in mind and asked in order for an effective answer to be given to the title question. What are the arguments that support or rebut the notion as to whether ‘family life has lost its significance in contemporary Britain?’ Why is family life even being considered to be losing its significance in contemporary Britain? The overall aim of this essay is to discover whether family life has lost its significance in contemporary Britain and by engaging in subjects such as divorce and cohabitation, one hopes to form a naturally reasoned essay structure, with the chances of a plausible conclusion may be being achieved.
With the rise in love marriages and the decline in marriages for convenience, divorce in modern societies where the former type of marriage reaches a state of crisis seems inevitable. Wilson (1993) a Marxist sociologist, acknowledges the fact that changes in the law, notably the divorce act of 1969, was the most dramatic of all divorce reforms which preceded this date. ‘The full year to which the new law was applied was 1972, and in that year there were 119,000 divorces made absolute in England and Wales’ (Wilson 1993, p85).
On the other hand Diana Gittens (1993, p161) a feminist, notes ‘undoubtedly divorce is a source of upset and disruption for children, yet it can also be a great source of relief and release from a previously painful and intolerant situation’. This breakdown of the ideal family unit has resulted in the creation of three different types of family units. The first unit to be created is due to divorce, which refers to the legal termination of marriage. The result is two homes created for the child/children and two families with both usually competing for the affections of the children.
The second unit to be created is that due to separation, which refers to the physical splitting of the two partners and what is more of a temporary measure before a decision is reached as to whether they should get back together or divorce. This undoubtedly can go on for several years. Ultimately there is the ’empty shell marriage’ where the spouses remain legally married and live together but the love between them is close to non-existent, it is jus a marriage that exists in name and on paper only. The existence for this shell is only for the sake of the children involved, but the results are often less helpful and more damaging.
An article published in The Observer 05/05/2002 ‘Nuclear family goes into meltdown’ in which it discusses the fall in marriages and the rise in cohabitation, seems one of the obvious data’s, which supports the idea that family life is losing its significance in contemporary Britain. It is no wonder researchers have coined a name for the emerging British household – the Beanpoles. They ‘live together’ and have 1.8 children.