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Sociology And The Family: Marriage, Divorce And Defacto Partnering

1065 words - 5 pages

The family is a remarkably significant social unit. It is defined a group of individuals, related by blood, marriage, adoption or cohabitation (AIFS, 2001). In all known societies the family has the function of regulating sexual behaviour and reproduction, of socialization, of protecting children and the elderly, and of providing its members with emotional support, health and well being (Edgar et al., 1993).Over the last few decades, family formation patterns have changed considerably. Contemporary family sociology has identified that family practices, too, are also changing rapidly. Massive demographic change has signaled significant changes in family-form with family-households now being ...view middle of the document...

De facto couples are those who live together but are not registered as married and who identify themselves as de facto in a relationship question (ABS, 1995). These couples have always existed, but remained largely unrecognised in family policy until recently. Legal and government systems are increasingly recognising, and taking into account, such living arrangements.The number of incidences of de facto relationships, or cohabitation, prior to marriage has increased distinctly in recent years. As can be seen in the Family Trends table, in the early 1970s, a mere 15% of couples lived together before marriage, however in the late 1990s, over half, 60%, of couples had lived together before being married.This dramatic change has come about for a number of reasons. Traditionally, registered marriage has been the path chosen by couples wishing to form a recognised partnership. However, with the ever-growing acceptance of de facto partnering has allowed it to arise as a precursor or alternative to first marriage; individuals may choose to live together before, or instead of, registering a marriage and may to have children outside a registered marriage.The introduction of the Family Law Act in 1975 allowed divorce of marriages, and since its enactment, divorce rate has increased (Edgar et al., 1992). Over the last 20 years the divorce rate has fluctuated, generally showing a slight upwards trend. A recent study tracking relationships over time recorded a higher divorce rate among those who had cohabited, or lived as a de facto partnership, prior to marriage. However, a number of factors, including, cultural differences, self-selection and the total duration of relationship, complicate the relationship between prior cohabitation and divorce. Cultural differences become a difficulty, as those who do not cohabit are more likely to come from particular religious or ethnic backgrounds, resulting in conflicting attitudes (AIFS, 2001). Those who cohabit are possibly less committed to marriage, and the increased likelihood of divorce with the total duration of the relationship,...

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