The social goods of marriage

The Social Justice Policy Group, one of the groups charged by David Cameron for new thinking, is arguing for the importance of marriage. Its research claims unmarried parents are five times more likely to split up. Author of the research, Harry Benson, argues that “marriages work better than the alternatives.” Chairman of the Policy Group, Iain Duncan Smith, said:

“…the government’s assumption that children’s outcomes are solely dictated by socio-economic factors is wrong. The structure within which they grow up and are nurtured is vital to their well-being.”

  • AodhRuadh

    It’s no wonder that parents who are not legally married split up more often.

    Society does not support them, even actively pressures them that what they are doing is wrong.

    What defines marriage has always changed – we need to accept that people who love each other and share their lives ARE married.

    Let’s support them instead of ridiculing them and calling their children bastards – you’ll see the split up rate fall drastically.

  • Pete Baker

    To paraphrase..

    “Conservatives argue that marriage is good”

    In other news..

    “Man bites dog” ;o)

  • Rory

    Its research claims unmarried parents are five times more likely to split up.

    Unmarried couples however, if and when they do split up, do not suffer the trauma of the divorce proceedings. They will also have been mercifully spared the horrors of a wedding day.

    I often think that the best wedding portrait I have ever seen is that one in Hedley (Hedley not Hedy) Lamarr’s office in Mel Brooks’s movie Blazing Saddles where the painting is a rear view of the bride and groom (blink and you miss it – it’s just before the man and his horse are hanged).

    Whatever of statistics no law can change the human heart. Remember always that man and woman marry to each other and therein lies the marriage – a free choice of the desire of man and woman to be together. A priest does not marry a couple, he merely blesses the marriage, a registrar does not marry a couple, he merely registers the fact of their marrying each to the other.

    Better that we all bless each free choice of man and woman to marry each to the other and also to bless each and wish them well upon separation if that were to happen.

  • DK

    “Its research claims unmarried parents are five times more likely to split up.”

    This is hardly surprising. Marriage is a commitment and if you are unwilling/unable to make that commitment then the relationship is shaky to begin with. If, on the other hand, you are not getting married for idealistic reasons then you are probably very commited to each other and even less likely to split up than married couples. So, all in all, too glib to just say unmarried parents are more likely to split up, there are more forces at work.

  • pith

    DK,

    Exactly

  • Harry Flashman

    I’m bewildered as to where this “ridiculing” of unmarried couples is to be found. It is in fact the concept of registered, stable, committed, heterosexual unions commonly known as marriages that has been undermined over the past four decades. It is government policy which encourages single-parenthood as opposed to marriage through its tax and welfare provisions and it is the academic and social policy wonks who have been to the forefront in espousing the idea that being shacked up is just the same as being married and the liberal media has of course slavishly lapped this up.

    Anyone who points out the blindingly obvious that such lax partnerships are NOT the same as marriages and that marriage is the absolute bedrock of a stable society is immediately howled down as a judgmental b i g o t and a Daily Mail reading moron by the pointy heads and their cheerleading squads.

    It merely beggars belief that the Conservative Party needed to carry out research to find out that marriage provides the best basis for social stability when all they had to do was look around them. I mean who are you going to believe the social science department of North London Polytechnic and the Guardian editorial writers or your own lying eyes?

  • Harry
    ‘It merely beggars belief that the Conservative Party needed to carry out research to find out that marriage provides the best basis for social stability when all they had to do was look around them’
    I rather suspect it is the case that most Conservatives believe in marriage and believe it is the best basis for a stable society but to counter the prevailing attitudes of the liberal media you need to have research to argue the case

  • Animus

    I married because my immigration status depended on it. I have little doubt we would have been as happy unmarried. Marriage is less and less a commitment these days – look at the steadily rising divorce figures (a recent Slugger post in fact looked at this).

    Where ridicule (if ridicule is the right word, I suspect it isn’t) comes into play is when children are born. An unmarried father may not register the birth of his child unless the mother is present.

    Rory, if the unmarried partners bought a house together, they are spared the horror of divorce in name only. The splitting of financial assets and custody of children is tantamount to divorce, whether there is a ring on a finger or not.

    Harry, marriage doesn’t mean that a partnership isn’t lax, it only means it’s legally recognised. The high rate of infidelity in marriage is testimony to that fact. Also, how many parents split up but choose not to divorce legally?

  • Aodh Ruadh

    Animus

    “Where ridicule (if ridicule is the right word, I suspect it isn’t) comes into play is when children are born. An unmarried father may not register the birth of his child unless the mother is present. ”

    Ridicule means to humiliate – if a person doesn’t feel humiliated because they can’t register the birth of their own child then I don’t know what word would suffice!

  • micktvd

    “Its research claims unmarried parents are five times more likely to split up.”

    Does this statistic refer to couples who are both parents of the child(ren), or have they included other combinations?

    I would like to see statistics on ‘de facto’ parents who have chosen to make a life together, in the same sense that other couples make that choice when they decide to marry. If you isolate committed de facto couples with children, is this group any more likely to break up than married couples with children? If, to the committed de factos, you add all those young couples who get banged up, give it a go out of necessity, have a child unintentionally, but who are not and never will become a ‘couple’ in any real sense? then you’re going to get inflated and perhaps misleading stats.

    Is it possible that marriage is not the cause of committment but the effect of a certain level of committment. By isolating marrieds, you’ve already filtered out many of the most unstable parental relationships. Can you argue that introducing marriage into inherently unstable relationships would make them any more stable?

    I could be talking out of my arse, but I have a personal stake in this 🙂

  • micktvd

    I see that DK (1:07pm) makes similar points to me but more succinctly.

    Harry you argue that ‘….marriage provides the best basis for social stability…’ I would argue committed loving and permanent relationships make for better families. You don’t need the heterosexual bit and you don’t need the particular form of ceremony, IMHO.

  • Rory

    An unmarried father may not register the birth of his child unless the mother is present” complains Animus.

    That actually makes sense to me. How else, barring DNA evidence, could any man establish his claim to be a child’s father?

    There is no doubt that divorce and single status resulting in two, three households rather than one have been pushed avidly since the late sixties. Not only does the breakup of family units create a much greater market for all sorts of essential products from foodstuffs, household cleaning and maintenance to financial roguery (or “services” as they prefer to be called) but they also create a greater atomisation of society into singular units of selfishly motivated individuals unmindful of the greater society and thus prey to even greater political chicanery.

    And so long as this atomisation continues to allow for squeezing even more profit and reducing any political resistance then none of the mainstream parties will seriously challenge it whatever mealy-mouthed addresses to morality and stability they may from time-to-time make.

  • Aodh Ruadh

    “That actually makes sense to me. How else, barring DNA evidence, could any man establish his claim to be a child’s father? ”

    The registering of the birth of a child by a man does not guarantee that he is the father either! whether married or not!

  • Animus

    Indeed, and a married father can register a birth without the mother present. And what proof is there, except a wedding ring and married daddy’s say so?

  • Harry Flashman

    Your points basically amount to the plea “why can’t an unmarried couple have the same rights as married couples?” to which the obvious solution is fine, abolish marriage. If you believe that there is no difference between co-habiting couples and married couples then follow through the logic and abolish marriage as a state recognised union.

    You remind me of a situation a few years ago when the girlfriend of a dead serviceman complained that she did not qualify as a war widow despite being the mother of the man’s child. The media, loving a good sob story, immediately condemned the rather sitting target of heartless, stuffed shirt MoD beurocrats who implemented this policy, ignoring the obvious point that if another girl came forward and said she too was the mother of this man’s child who should get his pension? The MOD twisted themselves in knots outlining a policy whereby a serviceman could sign a declaration stating who should be the recipient of his pension should he be killed in action.

    You know, like, going to the local Registry Office and signing a government form declaring yourself and your girlfriend to be a married couple for all further government business, that would be like so judgmental I suppose.

    It’s not complicated folks, if you want the government and state bodies to recognise your relationship with your bird and her offspring then pop along to your local Registry Office and sign on the dotted line, any time Monday to Fridays 9am to 4.30pm excluding public holidays. If you can’t be arsed to do something as simple as that then stop your whingeing.

    Oooops am I being a howwid judgmentalist again?

  • DavidD

    So, after months of investigation, yet another think tank has come up with a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. All those progressive, liberal-minded politicians – step forward in premier place Mr Roy Jenkins – in their search for a ‘civilised society’ have managed to inflict more suffering and degradation on human beings than those following the old-fashioned Christian (or as they would put it, Victorian) values could ever have done. The suffering has not been inflicted on those most capable of coping with it, but on the weak, the poor, the disadvantaged and the vulnerable.

  • esmereldavillalobos

    So conservatives are pro-marriage – hardly earth-shattering news – it’s like saying that Labour are social democrats who believe in the nationalisation of key industries and justice for the working classes. Oh…er wait a minute, something wrong there…

  • Rory

    The registering of the birth of a child by a man does not guarantee that he is the father either! whether married or not

    No Aodh Ruadh it does not independently verify parentage, that is why the mother is required to attest to that unless by already having registered a union the presumption can be made. That presumption is of course open to challenge, but seems reasonable to be going along with and reasonable getting along based on good presumption is a pretty civilised way of conducting society it seems to me.

  • fair_deal

    Pete / esmer

    “Man bites dog”
    “hardly earth-shattering news”

    Cameron has been keen to move the Conservatives away from a number of socially conservative positions. Hence a party policy group advocating the retention of one form of it is interesting as it may show a limits to how much Cameron will push the change.

  • DK

    Good point Fair Deal – we should soon expect Cameron to support Homosexuals adopting children – only as long as they are married.

  • Pete Baker

    “Hence a party policy group advocating the retention of one form of it is interesting as it may show a limits to how much Cameron will push the change.”

    Well, it might have been a good point.. and a topic of discussion.. if it had been raised in the original post..

  • DK

    Pete – both marriage and Cameron are mentioned in the above post.

    “The government had tried to “airbrush out references to marriage”, group chairman Iain Duncan Smith”.

    I have a feeling I am missing what you are trying to point out.

  • Pete Baker

    DK

    Check “original post”.

  • DK

    OK – but it is still a good point. Cameron has been moving Conservatives to more liberal ground with his cycling to work and visiting a shrinking glacier. So is this report a backlash of sorts, or at least a message to the faithful? Are the tories intent on devouring another leader, just when Labour are opening up so spectacularly?

  • Pete Baker

    It is a good point, DK.. but not the original one.. By all means let’s discuss how Cameron is being constrained by traditional conservative values.. although I’m not at all convinced this is such an issue..

  • aquifer

    The state is jealous of the autonomy of marriage and wishes to downgrade it by supporting the alternatives including divorce and single parenthood. e.g. Divorces are automatically deemed to be nobody’s fault to spare exposure and embarrassment. No fault is usually a lie, and implies that marriages do not really matter very much. The state are also crap at looking after childen and should ideally get out of the business.

  • Occasional Commentator

    The BBC article linked in the post contains no mention of evidence that marriage causes stability. Can someone explain the basis of Cameron’s argument?

    There is a statistic in it which shows that stability causes marriage, but that is an obvious and useless fact.

    Somebody needs to explain the scientific method to these people – we need to randomly assign people to a “not allowed to get married” group and watch how their lifes progress – it would be a controversial experiment but anything else is pure speculation.