The social stigma of divorce was no longer as big an issue and financial independence is now increasing for women, making it easier on women to leave their husbands (www.theguardian.com). This devalued marriage, with many choosing not to legally marry. 36% of adults in Northern Ireland remain single (NI Census, 2011). Cohabitation is on the increase, with almost 6 in 10 babies being born to either unmarried parents or a single mother. The numbers are greatest in Belfast and Derry (The Belfast Telegraph, 23/9/15). Cohabitation during and after WW2 would have been seen as unforgivable with hardly any couple doing so. Lots of factors have changed to make couples living together out of wedlock more relaxed. There has been a decrease in social stigma and a decreasing church influence, with only 1 in 10 people now regularly attending church (www.bbcnews.co.uk). However, Northern Ireland has the highest level of churchgoers in the UKwww.faithsurvey.co.uk. Only 36% of marriages take place in church comparing to 1960 when all marriages took place in a church (www.stp.pembrokeshire.sch.uk).
The introduction and accessibility of contraception have had an influence on family structures. This has had a major effect on couples starting their families, especially if they are concentrating on building their career. According to BBC News (4/12/11) in Britain in the 1960s, the pill was available only to married women who felt their families were complete. By 1974 all women, including those who were single could have the pill prescribed. When contraception was more widely used it affected the UK by couples having smaller families. They were able to plan if and when to start and family and how many children to have. The NI Census shows a reduction in the average household size from 2.65 in 2001 to 2.54 in 2011. Many couples are now childless. The Sunday Times magazine (Christina Patterson, 20/10/13) backs up this information stating that It is estimated that, by 2018, 25% of British women of childbearing age will never have a baby, and this increases to a third of women with degrees. The dependence of women working in WW2 and the suffragette movement meant that the roles of women changed significantly and by the 1960s, 38% of women were employed (www.bbc.co.uk). The equal pay act was passed in 1970 giving women their rights, however, according to ONS statistics on average, women are paid over 19% less than men. Followed by the Sex Discrimination Act, then shortly after women finally won the right to 14 weeks maternity leave in 1993 and more in recent years. These acts allow women to work in within a working environment fairly and being paid the same as men which means that single parents have a better opportunity of coping on their own rather than being having the stress of finding a partner (www.bbc.co.uk). Statistics back this up by stating that there are now approximately 1.7million lone parent families in Britain this makes up about 25% of all families (Fisher et al 2012)
There has also been an increase in families based on same-sex civil partners as a result of legislation in 2004. The first same-sex civil partnership took place in Belfast in December 2005. The number of same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland from 2005 to 2015 have gone up and down throughout the years due to media portrayals. In 2005 there were 12 same-sex marriages increasing to the highest number is ever been in 2010 at 116. The numbers have decreased since then to 89 in 2015.