Marriage is more than a tax break

An absolutely brilliant piece by Anne Atkins in today’s Telegraph:

Consider some facts. Cohabiting couples are five times more likely to split up than the married; perhaps more shockingly, once they become parents, they are six-and-a-half times more likely to do so than their married counterparts. Within five years of the birth of a child, only eight per cent of married parents will have separated, compared with more than half of cohabitees (and a quarter of those who married since the birth).

Perhaps not surprisingly, children whose parents are married benefit in a myriad of ways: they do better at school, have better health (infant mortality is up to a third more likely in children of cohabitees), fewer behavioural problems, are less likely to have underage sex, take drugs, smoke or drink. All in all, the marital status of their parents is such a clear indicator of welfare for the children that it is their most pressing important need, after food, clothing and shelter. We (rightly) spend billions looking after children in care, but do nothing to support the most basic protection for children: the simple marriage certificate.

Whether we like it or not, marriage is one of the most effective forms of security for the vulnerable. Not only are women more likely to be abused by a partner than a husband, to be injured by him during pregnancy and be at risk of serious injury; one study has shown that children are 20 times more likely to be abused if their biological parents are not married to one another.

And just in case you thought that all those rabid fundamentalists were opposed to Civil Partnerships:

It’s not as though marriage isn’t freely available. While there was a real need for a Civil Partnership Act (which didn’t go nearly far enough: it is iniquitous that it is not available to those who are related), cohabiting heterosexual couples really had nothing to complain about.

But the best is the final paragraph. Well done Anne for telling us all what the truth actually is:

The Church is in the business of proclaiming the faith: not just the high moral standards that go with it, but also the protection of the most vulnerable. The creation of marriage is much, much more than a tax break or a source of benefits for the children. It is a glorious image of the love of a Trinitarian God – three in one, as marriage is two in one. If only our spiritual leaders had the courage to celebrate it.

I for one love marriage and can’t get enough of it. While we should not prevent society creating legal frameworks that support and encourage stable relationships that aren’t marriage, we should never lose sight of the fact that the life-long monogamous marriage of a man to a woman is not only the key social stabiliser of our civic order, but also the very basis for the continuation of the glorious human participation in God’s creative and procreative activity in our world, celebrating not just the bringing of life but also the very eternal and indissoluble union of Christ and his Church.

2 Comments on “Marriage is more than a tax break

  1. I’m possibly going to be offensive here, but bear with me: does marriage actually cause all the above positive things, or is it actually that the people who are more likely to get married are likely to have a better social status anyway, and thus marriage and positive effects on children are actually both symptoms of some other cause? My thinking here may have been influenced by reading freakonomics ;-) but I think it’s potentially a valid point.

    Not that I’m not a fan of marriage: personally I think it’s awesome. It’s just that, however much I agree with the conclusions, I’m not totally convinced by the data. Which possibly just means I’ve spent too much time in a research environment where no-one believes anyone else’s work ;-)

  2. Nice of you to drop by LizT. Do let me know where you came from to jump in on peter-ould.net today!!!!

    Putting my hard sums hat on, the answer to your question is “we simply don’t know”. We very clearly observe that couples who are married do far better (break-up rates etc.)than couples who aren’t, but I’m unaware of any research that’s been done to identify whether within that observation class is a factor. Anybody like to point me in the right direction?

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