Marriage still the best way to play happy, healthy families

Reading the article in the Guardian, the Office for National Statistics published ‘Focus on Family’s 2007’ an analysis indicating that marriage is associated with better health, particularly for men. Women who are or have been married and have children are the healthiest, unless they are lone parents, who are significantly more likely to suffer a long-term illness. Divorce and separation are also associated with poor health. Cohabiting couples are fastest growing family type and Children thrive if parents are married, the data suggests.

The figures show that a third of today’s teenagers are destined to cohabit rather than marry, compared with one in 10 of their grandparents. The number of cohabiting couples has increased by 65% in a decade, with a more gradual rise in the number of single-parent families. By 2014, married couples could account for less than half of British families.

Children are also more likely to develop long-term illnesses if they live in non-traditional family groups. Teenagers whose parents are married and those who live with just their mother are more likely to stay in education past the age of 17 than those of cohabiting parents.

Of children who live with their married parents, 69% of boys and 78% of girls were still in education at the age of 17, compared with 59% of boys and 69% of girls who live with their mother – both higher than the proportion for cohabiting parents.

Kathleen Kiernan, professor of social policy and demography at York University, said that the figures could also betray the characteristics of people who are more likely to marry. “People in cohabiting relationships are more likely to be socially disadvantaged in the first place, so you might just be showing the characteristics of people who chose not to marry.”

She added that it was difficult to generalise about cohabiting couples, who may include people who are about to marry, those who oppose marriage and those who are just “testing the strength of their relationship,” which has become more acceptable in the UK in the last 30 years.

If marriage has such a positive effect on society perhaps the government will reinstate the incentives for married couples such as tax breaks and increased family credits. I assume the statistics reflect the traditional Christian idea of marriage rather than the declaration of two people who make that commitment to each other. Current gay couples are limited to ‘civil partnerships’ as the term ‘marriage’ holds particular meaning to Church.

With 1 in 5 people in the UK not identifying themselves with a religion (2001 census), the idea of ‘marriage’ may seem out dated as we now have equality between the sexes or because the non religious would like to get married but without the religious mumbo jumbo. Humanist weddings can provide as much or as little ceremony and can be tailored to the couples wishes; it is after all their day. Since being legally recognised in Scotland in 2005, humanist weddings have increase five fold from 80 to 434 weddings in 2007.

YouTube Video on Humanist Weddings

Unfortunately in England and Wales the British Humanist Association is still fighting the Church of England and government for Humanist Weddings to be legally recognised.

Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK, according to Steve Smallwood, the head of family demography at the Office for National Statistics. “The biggest growth, both proportionately and in numbers, is cohabiting couples, which have grown by around 60%,” he said. Childless couples comprise the largest group – there are 1,335,208 couples living together without children, compared with 854,596 10 years before. But there was also a 73% increase in the number of families where the parents are not married, to 909,816 last year.

In 2006, couples in nearly 70% of families were married. In the 10 years previously the number of married families had fallen by 4% to just over 12 million, while the number of lone mothers had increased by 11% to 2.3 million. By 2031 the number of people aged 45 to 64 in England and Wales who are living together but not married will increase by nearly 250% compared with 2003, the report says. Nine out of 10 single-parent families are headed by a mother. Fathers who are bringing up their children alone are on average 10 years older than single mothers, a sign that they are more likely to be sole parents as a result of bereavement than divorce. Adults who are married are twice as likely to provide intensive support for an ill or disabled relative as those who are cohabiting. Increases in the numbers choosing cohabiting will coincide with soaring numbers of older people who will need caring for. According to the last census, nearly 10% of people who are single after the age of 75 are in a nursing home or communal establishment, compared with 1% of those who are married. Around 1.2 million of adult carers look after a spouse, parent or other close relative for at least 20 hours a week.

Linda Pickard, the LSE statistician who compiled some of the figures for the ONS, said: “Cohabitation is growing in the younger age groups; the care burden is mostly in the middle and older age groups. As that younger group gets older there could be a larger problem of care provision if the relationships don’t develop into marriage-like commitments.”

Not mentioned in the Guardian is that men and women in 2001 with no qualifications are likely to marry relatively early (by age 25) but unlikely to cohabit early. However, men and women aged 35 with no qualifications are less likely to have ever married than those with qualifications. At age 45, the individuals who are least likely to have ever married are men with no qualifications and women with high qualifications.

So if you’re not married then you’re either an man with no qualifications (low job prospects) OR a high flying business woman?
To increase marriages in the UK we have to educate our men to be real men and keep those women in the kitchen? What is the Office of National Statistics try to do; undermine years of social progress and take us all back to 1920s era?

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One response to “Marriage still the best way to play happy, healthy families

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