It has been argued that marriage is becoming less popular in society, as fewer people are actually getting married. This is also evidenced by an increase in the number of marital breakdowns, which is reflected in the rising divorce rate. In Britain in 1971, one in eleven teenage women got married. By 1981, this figure had fallen to one in twenty-four. Between 1981 and 1990, the marriage rate for all age groups fell from 7.1 per year per thousand of the eligible population to 6.8 (General Household Survey, Social Trends).
   An alternative to marriage is co-habitation by couples who are not legally married. Data from the General Household Survey indicates the percentage of non-married women who were co-habiting more than doubled between 1979 and 1991, increasing from 11 percent to 23 percent. Another alternative to marriage is the increase in single-parent families. According to government statistics (Office of Population and Census Statistics), 2.5 percent of the population in 1961 lived in households with a lone parent and dependent children. By 1992 this figure had risen to 10.1 percent. Data from the General Household Survey indicates that between 1972 and 1991, the percentage of children living in singleparent families had increased from 8 percent to 18 percent. The General Household Survey also found that the majority of single parents were women. Ninety percent of single-parent families were headed by women.
   Between 1971 and 1991, the proportion of single lone mothers who were divorced increased from 21 percent to 43 percent. The number of mothers who were single also increased from 16 percent to 34 percent. There has also been a significant increase in the divorce rate. In 1971 there were 6.0 persons divorcing per thousand married people; in 1991 this figure had more than doubled to 12.9. In 1991 there were 350,000 marriages, but 171,000 divorces, indicating there were nearly half as many divorces as marriages (Social Trends 1993). The decline in the rate of marriage, an increase in co-habitation, an increase in single-parent families and an increase in marital breakdown all suggest that the institution of marriage is in decline in Britain.
   Further reading
    General Household Survey (1971, 1993). Social Trends 23 (1993).

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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