New divorce statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) make interesting reading. They show a modest but distinct decline in the number of marriages ending in 2011.
There were a total of 117,558 divorces in England during the year. That represents a drop of close to two per cent in just a year, according to the ONS: there were 119,589 divorces in 2010. Translated into percentages, an estimated 42 per cent of marriages ended in divorce during 2011 – that’s a drop of three per cent since 2005.
Looked at from another perspective, 10.8 people divorced for every 1,000 of their married counterparts in 2011. A decade earlier it was 12.9 divorcing people for every thousand people in continuing unions.
We can also clearly see a decline in divorce if we look at the rates for the whole of the UK. Last year there were a total of 129,763 splits, compared to 132,338 just a year earlier.
The number of divorces in Scotland and Northern Ireland also dropped.
So what’s going on here? The ONS looks to changing demographic patterns for part of the explanation, citing for example, the increasing number of couples cohabiting rather than tying the knot. It also believes the recessions has contributed but interestingly, the ONS cannot quite make up its mind about exactly how!
“One theory suggests that recession could contribute to a rise in partnership break-ups because of increased financial strain, changes in employment and related lifestyle changes. Social research in Britain has shown that unemployment and downturns in the housing market may be associated with family instability. In addition some individuals may believe they will get a more favourable divorce settlement if their income is currently low.
In contrast, an alternative theory suggests that partnerships would be less likely to dissolve in an unfavourable economic climate because of an increase in family solidarity during difficult times and the need to postpone marital break-ups until the economy, and the value of their home improves. Any impact of the recession on divorce is likely to vary across different sectors of society.”
These figures have certainly generated a lot of media interest. I have had a very busy day talking to the Mail, the Guardian, the Express, the Independent and the Standard! There have been calls from radio stations like Radio York and even the Voice of Russia! Online news sites like Yahoo! News have also taken an interest.
So what do I think is happening?
I think the greed has gone. The bubble has burst, the old ‘get rick quick’ instant gratification mentality has been replaced by couples who have had to face reality and work together worked to overcome the issues they face.
They’ve had to stop borrowing, live within their means, and most likely spend more time working together to pull through thanks to the downturn. It is entirely possible, in fact, that this recession has brought back a sprinkling of that much misunderstood concept, family values.