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Weakening Marriage Rates Will Weaken Families

5 May 2014

Weakening Marriage Rates Will Weaken Families

Family First NZ says that the latest statistics on marriage are a warning bell that we ignore the benefits of marriage at our peril as a society.

“Marriage has been impacted by confusion over the function and purpose of marriage as evidenced during the ‘gay marriage’ debate last year. It has also been weakened and undermined by cohabiting, and unwed childbearing. NZ has one of the highest teenage birth rates in the OECD, and sole parents with dependent children make up 30 percent of families with children – again, one of the highest rates,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The question we must ask is whether the decreasing rate of marriage has been good for society. The evidence suggests that it has caused untold harm and cost.”

According to Why Marriage Matters - a report co-authored by 13 leading social science scholars, including Professor William Galston, a domestic policy adviser to the Clinton administration - parental divorce or non-marriage appears to increase children's risk of school failure, the risk of suicide, psychological distress and, most significantly, delinquent and criminal behaviour.

A report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research in 2008 estimated that the fiscal cost to the taxpayer of family breakdown and decreasing marriage rates is at least $1 billion a year and has cost about $8b over the previous decade.

“As we tackle the harms of family violence, it is also significant to look at rates of child abuse and domestic violence within different family structures - something that policy-makers and politicians seem unable or unwilling to do. Children being raised by their married biological parents are by far the safest from violence – and so too are the adults,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“Whenever marriage is promoted, it has often been labeled as an attack on solo or divorced parents, and that has kept us from recognising the qualitative benefits of marriage which have been discovered from decades of research. In virtually every category that social science has measured, children and adults do better when parents get married and stay married – provided there is no presence of high conflict or violence. This is not a criticism of solo parents. It simply acknowledges the benefits of the institution of marriage.”

Family First is calling on the government to develop policies to strengthen and support marriages, the removal of marriage tax penalties, and to introduce tax incentives for marriage.

“Marriage is an important social good with a smorgasbord of positive outcomes for children and adults alike. Governments should focus on, and encourage and support what works,” says Mr McCoskrie.


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