Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

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Marriage still best way to bring up children

BY ALEXANDRA FREAN, SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
The London Times

MORE than half of all cohabiting couples who have children will split up by the time their first child is five years old, compared with just 8 per cent of married parents.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that although it is now increasingly socially acceptable to have children outside wedlock, marriage still provides overwhelmingly the most secure environment for children.

A separate study meanwhile showed that fewer couples were divorcing. The divorce rate fell to 13 per thousand married people in 1998 from 14 a year earlier, taking the total in England and Wales down to 145,200. That was 15,000 fewer than the previous year, which was in turn 10,000 down on 1996.

The analysis of women's relationships five years after the birth of their first child shows that only 48 per cent of cohabiting mothers were still living with the child's father, compared with 92 per cent of married mothers, and 75 per cent of those who were initially cohabiting but later married their partner.

The study also showed that having children can have a powerful cementing effect on relationships, persuading many cohabiting couples to marry.

Nearly four in ten children are now born outside wedlock, compared with one just one in five in 1985. But nearly 20 per cent of parents who simply lived together before the birth had married a year later, rising to 40 per cent five years after the birth.

Kathleen Kiernan, of the London School of Economics, author of the report, said:"It is not necessarily the fact of marriage that makes people stay together. It may be that the people who decide to marry and very different from the ones who cohabit. Those who marry are likely to be more committed, while the cohabitees are less committed."

She added: "Cohabitation is still a relatively new phenomenon and in Britain it is still more common amongst young people and those living in poverty. Once it is more widespread among all social groups, it is possible that we may go the way of Sweden, where there is little difference in the rates of separation between married and cohabiting parents."

Whether Britain follows Sweden's example will depend, in part on social attitudes, Ms Kiernan said, and in part on the success of government policies to support parenthood.

One indication that Britain may not be following Sweden and other European countries, however, is in the number of "solo mothers", or women who have their first child outside a stable partnership.

While the solo mother rate in Sweden is just 6 per cent of all first-time mothers and just 10 per cent for Europe as a whole, in Britain it is 15 per cent, having risen from 6 per cent in 1982.

And while it is too early to know for sure why fewer marriages are breaking down, the explanation appears to lie in the growing trend for couples to cohabit and the rise in the average age of marriage.

Juliet Mountford, of the Family Policy Studies Centre, said: "If people are getting married later, then perhaps by the time they do it, they have become better judges of people. Unfortunately, it does not mean that fewer families are breaking up because you have to factor in all the cohabiting couples."

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