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Decline in the birth rate, fertility rate and average family sizeEdit

Over the last century the birth rate has been declining in Britain from 28 per 1000 in 1902 to about 11 per 1000 in 2007.

The fertility rate has also been declining, there were an average number of 2.77 children per woman in 1961 but this has reduced to 1.8 children per woman by 2006. This means that the average family have dropped from about 6 children per family in the 1870’s to 1.8 children per family in 2007.

The average household size in Britain has halved in the last hundred years from 4.6 people to 2.4 people.


Reasons for the decline in average family sizes:

  • Changing values
  • Compulsory education of children
  • Changing role of women
  • Welfare state
  • Declining death and infant mortality rate
  • Improved contraception with more availability and acceptance of its use
  • Increasing geographical mobility
  • More child centeredness



The main reasons for the decline in the birth rates and smaller families are:


Contraception- More effective, safer and cheaper methods of birth control have been developed over the last century and society’s attitudes towards using contraception have changed from disapproval to acceptance. This is because of secularization which is the declining influence of the church and religion on people’s behaviour along with the availability of safe and legal abortions since 1976; this has helped in terminating unwanted pregnancies.

The compulsory education of children- Since children were not allowed to work in the nineteenth century and education became compulsory in 1880 they have become less of an economic asset. Children now drain the resources of the parents instead of helping to add to them. Children also rely on their parents a lot longer, often even post 16 education, and parents often end up helping to support their children well into their 20’s. Because of this child centeredness and with children draining their parents resources family sizes are rapidly decreasing.

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