Marriage and Family

New Evidence Supports Family Role

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Divorce has a significant impact on family income, the British Marriage Foundation declared in a recent study.

A family that stays together can have the same positive effect on income as having a university degree, they found.

“The negative effect on income of paying for two households, additional transport and increased care costs following the breakup of a family all contribute to the substantial difference in income between intact and separated couple families,” the study found.

The report, titled, “Get Married Before You Have Children,” found that that the chances of  staying together are greatest among couples who marry before having children. This finding is independent of mothers’ age and education.

The Marriage Foundation based their study on data from the first wave of Understanding Society, a survey of 40,000 households recording their social and economic circumstances, attitudes, behaviours and health.

The data is from 2009-2010 and look at mothers with children aged 14 or 15. Harry Benson, Research Director of Marriage Foundation, commented: “This shows ever more starkly the financial consequence of family breakdown.

“We all know that having a degree gives a significant boost to income and so, many of us are willing to invest in that route to greater prosperity and higher quality of living. And yet we often fail to recognise the huge effect investing in our relationships can have on us financially.

“And of course these figures will also reflect upon the loss of productivity and mental well-being that accompanies family breakdown,” he added.

“93% of parents who are still together by the time their children reach their mid-teens are married. That figure is far too high for this purely to be a question of coincidence or a result of the type of people who get married,” Benson observed.

Cost to taxpayers

Family breakdown is very costly to taxpayers, yet the Marriage Foundation noted that: “ it is hard to discern any government policy whatsoever aimed at bringing this rising problem under control.”

According to the report 24% of mothers who started off married split up, compared to 56% of

those who started off unmarried and later married and 69% of those who never married.

The most stable group, the report concluded, were mothers who began parenthood both with a degree and married. Only 18% of these split up.

The odds of staying together were lowest for those who married after their child was born

or never married at all. “Unexpectedly, age made no difference. Having a degree made

only a marginal difference,” the report concluded.


The conclusions of this report were supported by a study just released by the American College of Pediatricians. In “Cohabitation: Effects of Cohabitation on the Men and Women Involved,” the college looked at cohabitation is not a good previous move before marriage.

Cohabiting unions are more likely to involve both infidelity and violence, the report said. When it comes to the children of such unions they have an increased risk for premature birth, school failure, lower education, more poverty during childhood and lower incomes as adults, along with behavior problems, single parenthood, and chronic health problems.

The report noted that the number of couples who cohabit has increased greatly in recent years. At the same time the percentage of cohabitating couples who subsequently marry has decreased.

“Cohabitation before marriage is associated with lower marital satisfaction, dedication, and confidence as well as increased negative communication with couples spending less time together and men spending more time on personal leisure; there is more violence and a higher rate of divorce,” the report said.

The report went on to consider the effects on children of cohabitation. “Compared to couples married at the birth of a child, those cohabiting at the child’s birth were more than four times as likely to separate in the following three years,” the report observed.

As well, children born within a cohabiting relationship are much more likely to experience the separation of their parents. Of children born to cohabiting couples, 48.7% experienced separation of their parents by their third birthday compared to 11.1% of those born to married couples.

“Mothers who married prior to conception were half as likely to have children by a different father as those who married during pregnancy, and three to four times less likely than those who married several years after that child’s birth or did not marry.” the report said.

“In summary, cohabitation puts at risk both those who cohabitate and their current and future children and grandchildren,” the report concluded.

With the coming Synod on the family coming up these reports provide good points for reflexion.

Marriage Foundation report –

American College of Pediatricians report, part 1 –

Part 2 –

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Fr. John Flynn

Australia Bachelor of Arts from the University of New South Wales. Licence in Philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Bachelor of Arts in Theology from the Queen of the Apostles.

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