Marriage, Divorce and Cohabitation Trends - 2013

2013-11-29 07:00

The divorce rate is on the increase, the marriage rate is declining, the cohabitation rate is rising, more people stay single and the age at first marriage has increased.

In the United States 27% of households have a single occupant, in Sweden over 2 million are solo dwellers in a country of 9.5 million and in Japan the figure is 30%. In the UK the number of lone parents also increased over the last 10 years, by 12%.

The number of cohabiting unmarried couples in the UK has risen by 22% in the last 10 years, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). There are now 3 million cohabiting couples in the UK – despite an ONS prediction in 2010 that the number would not reach 3.3 million until 2033. Together, cohabiting couples and lone parents make up 16% of families in the UK. The number of dependent children living in opposite sex cohabiting couple families has also increased from 1.4 million in 2003 to 1.9 million in 2013.

In South Africa, cohabitation rates have risen as marriage rates have declined, and a greater share of women currently cohabits with a partner.

Attitudes towards marriage have changed over the years, associated also with rising individualism and secularism, the sexual revolution and feminism. Developments such as these have reduced women's need to marry as well as men's ability to marry, and they have amplified the acceptance of cohabitation as a form of partnership.

Studies in South Africa had shown that marriage rates are significantly higher among Whites than among Africans, and the prevalence of marriage has dropped by far more among Africans than among Whites. African women are far less likely than White women in South Africa to be ever-married, and in the past decade, racial differences in marriage rates have widened. The large fall in marriage among African women has been partly offset by a rise in cohabitation. From 1995 to 2010, cohabitation rates among African women grew almost three-fold, although from low bases of 5% and 4% respectively. The studies also found that marriage remains an aspiration as much for Africans as for Whites in South Africa.

Reasons for divorce in 2013

According to the Justice Department's latest annual report, new divorce matters in the Regional Courts in South Africa alone have rocketed by 28% from 39 573 to more than 50 517.

Although society's attitudes to divorce have changed over the years, with less of a stigma attached to it, the reasons for divorce have remained enshrined in law for decades. The most common reasons for divorce:

Falling out of love

Extramarital affairs

Midlife crisis

Emotional/physical abuse

The largest number of the divorces is usually for marriages that last between five and nine years, whereas the number of divorces consistently decline as the duration of marriage increase.

A study in the UK compared the grounds for divorce in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s as well as the present day and found that while in the 70s, 29% of marriages ended because of adultery, the latest figures show only 15% of divorces were as a result of infidelity. In the 70s unreasonable behaviour (abuse, unsociable husband/wife, midlife crisis etc.) was cited in 28% of cases but it now accounts for almost half of all divorces (47%).

The study also highlighted the 1980s as yielding the most adulterous break-ups – with nearly one in three (29%) of all divorces granted due to cheating on a partner. In the same decade, almost one in five divorces was as a result of the husband's infidelity.

Of all the past decades, the 1990s had the highest number of divorces with more than 1.5 million while in the 1970s there were around 1.1 million. In comparison the 1950s had around 275,000 divorces and the "swinging 1960s" 360,000.

Compiled by:

Bertus Preller

Family Law Attorney


Twitter: @bertuspreller



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