Divorce in England 1950–2000: A Moral Tale?

Carol Smart

in Cross Currents

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780198268208
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191683442 | DOI:
Divorce in England 1950–2000: A Moral Tale?

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Rates of divorce in England and Wales have increased considerably between 1950 and 2000, although the upward trend had started before 1950. Marriage rates also reached a peak in the 1960s but subsequently declined in the 1990s. Statistics also show that across this half-century there have been increases in the numbers of lone-parent families, in step-families, in second divorces, in teenage pregnancies, and in cohabitation. Indeed, it has become almost impossible to talk about family life in late modern societies without reference to a vast array of tables and charts which show trends and changes, all of which apparently attest to the ubiquitous notion that family life is in crisis and that things used to be much better fifty years ago. This chapter examines the moral aspect of divorce in England from 1950 to 2000. It looks at the creation of the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce, the enactment of the Divorce Reform Act 1969, the struggle over the Family Law Act 1996, and fault and the welfare of children.

Keywords: England; divorce; marriage; family life; child welfare; Divorce Reform Act 1969; Family Law Act 1996; teenage pregnancies

Chapter.  10448 words. 

Subjects: Family Law

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