Learning from divorce
All is not well in the state of marriage -- or, at least, that seems to be a widespread view. There is much discussion of our "high" divorce rate, the rise of cohabitation, and the number of children born outside marriage, which now approaches a third of all births. It is suggested that marriage is not providing the satisfaction and support it once did. Society seems to have lost its way -- that, at least, is the claim. The causes of these changes are usually perceived as a shift in marital behaviour and attitudes and not, for example, as the result of changing economic and social pressures on couples. So it is more likely that the so-called "sexual revolution" of the 1960 s will be cited as a cause rather than the present economic recession, with its accompanying housing crisis and high rates of unemployment.
In this chapter I want to stand aside a little from these current debates and draw on the work of social scientists, including historians, to see how far these perspectives may