Lesson 4 of 7 - optimize your relationships

British Research Findings

Unmarried Families
 More Likely to Fall Apart

Reprinted from the smartmarriages.com
 e-newsletter,  2/5/2005


The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/relate/mates/news/unmarried.htm

Updated 02-25-2015

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      This research suggests that unmarried couples who elect to live together with resident or visiting children are more apt to break up than couples who marry. Though this research focused on British families, I suspect it applies equally to most families because human nature transcends nationalities and geography. - Peter Gerlach, MSW

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Harry Benson, author of the research and director of the Bristol Community Family Trust, an independent relationship education and research body, based his findings on Office for National Statistics data on divorce and jointly registered births, together with ONS research on the ratio between breakdown rates for married and unmarried families.

The findings show that it is no longer plausible to argue that all relationship types were equal, he said. "The evidence is irrefutable. Unmarried parents are five times more likely to break up than married parents. Divorce is not the major problem any more."

Mr. Benson's research is the first in a series of reports on unmarried parents expected to be published this year. One Plus One, the leading independent relationship organization, will shortly publish its key study into the increasing number of children affected by unmarried parents splitting up.

Penny Mansfield, director of One Plus One, said that Britain appeared to have reached a watershed in the way families were forming. Whereas couples in previous generations did their courting, got married and had children in that order, nowadays growing numbers were having children first and only then deciding whether to remain in a couple relationship.

"The problem with this approach is that having children generally destabilizes a relationship. If you are trying to figure out whether to form a partnership in the early years after having a child, it's a bit like pedaling uphill," she said.

"What we have lost is the idea that at the heart of marriage there is a link between parents which is of value of itself. That link would then cradle the upbringing of children. Maybe we need to rediscover this link in this new world of equality," Ms. Mansfield said.

Kathleen Kiernan, Professor of Social Policy and Demography at York University, accepted that children of cohabiting parents could be disadvantaged. They were more likely to live in different de facto stepfamily arrangements because their parents were more likely to split up than married parents. "We know that the more transitions, or experiences like this, that children have, the more detrimental it is to their wellbeing," she said.

Ms. Kiernan rejected policies promoting marriage, arguing that the Government's focus on the child, rather than the nature of the parental relationship, was the best approach. "There is no strong evidence that encouraging cohabitants to marry will enhance the durability of their union," she said.

Mr. Benson, a married father of six, believes otherwise. His own marriage was saved 11 years ago by a relationship education course. Government support for relationship education could make a huge difference. "The vast majority of family breakdown is avoidable," Mr. Benson said.

Another way of stemming the number of unmarried family breakdowns, he suggested, would be the reintroduction of tax advantages for marriage, such as transferable tax allowances between husband and wife.

Mr. Benson believes that his findings are significant because of the growing body of evidence suggesting that children born to unmarried parents and those raised in one-parent households lead less advantaged lives than their contemporaries who are born to and raised by a married couple.

"Children born to unmarried parents are already likely to have more problems at school, work or with their well-being. If their parents then split up, the outcomes can be worse still because family breakdown itself is associated with all sorts of problems such as crime, truancy, poverty and relationship difficulties."

Mr. Benson will present his research next week at a national conference held to mark National Marriage Week.

#  The research coincides with the publication of new government figures showing a 4.7 per cent increase in marriages in England and Wales in 2003 to reach 267,700.

      Harry Benson's paper is available at https://www.bcft.co.uk/ under Research


      This is one of many research reports concluding that typical kids from low-nurturance (dysfunctional) homes have more personal, social, school., and health problems than kids from stable, high-nurturance families. The research doesn't explore the possibility that the parents themselves survived significant abandonment, neglect, and abuse, and inherited little education and modeling on effective parenting from their ancestors.

      Restated: lack of adult marital commitment is a symptom of an underlying menace to minor kids - inheriting [psychological wounds + unawareness]. This nonprofit Web site exists to alert you to this toxic bequest and to help break it.

      This free online course provides a practical framework for people interested in improving their personal wholistic health and evolving stable, high-nurturance family relationships.

        Also see these related Lesson-4 research summaries.

- Peter Gerlach, MSW

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