Through interpreting the information in the table below, construct an argument that accounts for the trends in marriage and fertility rates. Give alternative explanations for changes in family structure. Support your argument with information from the table and other evidence form you course. Selected Family Trends in Australia Over Three Decades Early 1970sLate 1990sRate of cohabitation prior to marriage15%60%Median age at first marriage (women/men)21/23.426/28Total fertility rate2.41.75Percentage of children born outside marriage10%26%Median age of mother at first child24 years29 years (Source: ABS, Various Years) 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 in Australia. Contemporary family sociology has identified that family practices are also changing rapidly. Massive demographic change has signaled significant changes in family-form with family-households now considerably smaller. Moreover, there is evidence that the norms governing family life are also undergoing change, from being primarily obligational to negotiational.
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Changes in family networks and changes in the norms governing family life have considerable implications for the Australian family as a unit. The table entitled, Selected Family Trends in Australia Over Three Decades, taken from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in various tears, provides statistics relevant to these changes in the Australian family over the allocated period. In interpreting the table, it van be acknowledged that the figured have increased or decreased dramatically over the given thirty-year period. Fertility is one of the components of population growth, as changes in fertility impact on both the size of the population and its structure. Declining fertility leads ultimately to an ageing population, which has policy implications for income support and the provision of health and community support services. Today women are starting childbearing later in life and are having fewer children than ever before.
Throughout this century, the crude birth rate has been declining although there have been fluctuations. As can be seen in the table, the birthrate has dropped from 2.4 children per woman in the early 1970s to only 1.75 children in the late 1990s. This 65% decrease has been linked to the increasing participation of women in the labour force coupled with changing attitudes to family size, changing standards of living and life-style choices (Birrell, 1987), as well as being attributed to the effortless availability of the contraceptive pill. However, the pill merely made …desired family size a practical and assured reality (Browne, 1979).
In addition to the patent drop in fertility rates, there is also some evidence to suggest that they are concentrating their child bearing over a shorter span of years and that there is a shortened age range in which women are likely to bear children. This phenomenon, known as demographic compression, is obvious to in the Family Trends table; the median age of a mother at the both of her first child having risen from 24 years in the early 1970s, to 29 years in the late 1990s.
These changes in fertility rates and age degree reflect women’s greater control over their fertility, regardless of age or marital status, as well as a tendency to postpone childbearing related to a desire to increased education and employment opportunities. The terms nuptial and ex-nuptial births have become increasingly common in recent years. These terms refer to children born inside and outside of marriage, respectively. The statistics in the Family Trends table shows nuptial and ex-nuptial births having relative patterns of change in their numbers. According to table, in the early 1970s, only 10% of children were born outside of a married couple, however in the late 1990s, 26% percent of children have been born outside of matrimony. The 16% increase began to occur when the contraceptive pill was first made available in Australia. Patterns between nuptial and ex-nuptial births began to deviate.
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Initially, use of the pill was largely restricted to married women. Some doctors were reluctant to prescribe for unmarried women unless they could justify a medical indication… advice to prevent pregnancy was considered immoral (Siedlecky, et al., 1990).
As the pill became more available, the numbers of ex-nuptial births began to decline, however, it increased again as the number of de facto relationships and single-parent families rose. Due to the increasing number of births outside marriage and number of births in second or subsequent marriages, analysis of fertility patterns based on births in the current marriage only, no longer gives the complete picture of fertility in Australia. Over the last 20 years the marriage rate in Australia has begun to decline. The number of registered marriages or weddings per thousand population gauges this trend.
In 1998, the crude marriage rate was 5.9 marriages per thousand population (ABS, 2000).
The marriage rate decline can be attributed mainly to changes in attitudes to marriage and living arrangements. Two contributing factors are that young people are staying in education systems for longer periods of time and the increasing incidence of de facto relationships and social acceptance of these relationships. These aforementioned causes of prolonged education and increasing numbers of de facto relationships have also influenced the median age of first marriage. In the Family trends table a noticeable rise in age can be noted, from a calculated average of 22.2 years in the early 1970s to 27 in the late 1990s, attributed to societys change in attitude regarding these issues. 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).
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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, the relationship between prior cohabitation and divorce is complicated by a number of factors, including, cultural differences, self-selection and the total duration of relationship. 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).
People from broken families are less likely to have successful marriages. This is because of the psychological implications such families bring into their life. According to available psychological evidence, divorce is a major cause of emotional stress and depression (Clarke-Stewart, & Brentano, 2006). Depression as a psychological impairment has been evidently found to factor much in ...
Those who cohabit are possibly less committed to marriage, and the increased likelihood of divorce with the total duration of the relationship, including both the married and de facto phases.
For example, whether a couple married for 10 years is more or less likely to divorce than a couple who cohabited for three years and have been married for seven years. In line with the increase in the age at which men and women marry, the age at which men and women divorce also increased. This is almost definitely due to the fact that with an increase in marriage age, there must a parallel in divorce; divorce cannot occur at stages when the couple in question is not in a married state. Divorce rates have also influenced the number of blended families. The number of single-parent families, too, is rising considerably. These families may be permanent or temporary and may be formed as the result of: death of one partner; imprisonment of one partner; illness of one partner; single women choosing to have a child or children on their own; by the divorce of partners in a marriage; or by the break-down of a de facto relationship (Aspin, 1996).
9.7% of all families in Australia are single-parent families (Social Health Atlas, 2000), due to the aforementioned causes. The formation of single-parent families has occurred for several reasons. Social factors are the first and foremost. The attitudes towards divorce and having children outside of marriage have changed over the last two decades, and therefore there is a rater acceptance of single-parent families (Aspin, 1996).
In addition to this, the campaign of equal opportunity for women, and the emphasis on independence and personal fulfillment achieved through working outside the home, have allowed women to see themselves in a role other than that of wife and mother ( ….