On current trends a child born today has only a 50:50 chance of living with both birth parents by the time he or she is 15. Nearly all parents (93 per cent) who stay together until their children reach 15 are married.
Too many people and families – children, adults and society as a whole – experience the emotional and financial costs of shattered relationships
If we allow the myths to perpetuate . . . that marriage is ‘just a piece of paper’, that getting married ‘makes no difference’ and is just as likely as informal cohabitation to fail, or that, as a simple alternative, ‘common law marriage’ exists, then the result will be more breakdown, more costs, more hurt and pain, and more children whose chances in life are compromised.
Marriage makes a difference
All the steps that go to make up marriage make a real difference. Making a commitment, a clear intentional public decision and putting the whole on a legal footing in front of family and friends; preparing for and working at a life-long relationship; sticking at it and getting help when things get tough (“mend it, don’t end it”) – these all contribute to making a difference. That is why although unmarried parents make up only one-fifth of couples with dependent children they are responsible for almost half of all family breakdown.
The tide is turning
Marriage Foundation‘s regular research is widely reported and quoted and is changing perceptions. Many people want to partner with Marriage Foundation – in TV programmes, research and events. Commentators in the media now understand the research and so are now much more willing to talk positively about marriage, recognising that it is fundamentally different to cohabitation, and acknowledging that family breakdown is horribly and uniquely painful for all concerned.
As a nation, we spend a fortune picking up the pieces of broken relationships (estimated currently at £48bn a year). We should be helping people, young people especially, realise their legitimate and attainable dream of wanting a life-long stable relationship.
It is not necessary for So many children to experience the break-up of their parents’ relationships. Indeed it is perfectly avoidable. We don’t have to accept without complaint or comment the massive inequality of the wealthier families enjoying stable married relationships, whilst less financially well-off families are put through far higher levels of relationship distress.
Sir Paul Coleridge, the founder and chairman of Marriage Foundation, left the High Court because he was convinced that this national tragedy has to change and that real change is possible. Marriage Foundation has now been going for five years and has shown just what a powerful catalyst it can be, providing a powerful, independent voice championing marriage and championing the chance for children to realise their full potential by reaping the benefits of secure, long-lasting nurturing relationships.
What the Children on BBC TV’s ‘Mum and Dad are Splitting Up’ say
“Mum said, ‘Well, me and dad are splitting up’. I said ‘Why?’ and Mum and Dad both said ‘Well it’s the right time to do it’. And I thought, ‘Well I don’t think it is. I think things can be sorted out’. I burst out in tears and I went and got the rabbit and had a cuddle. It’s quite sad really to think that your parents splitting up came down to talking, do you know what I mean? That’s pathetic. Because this could have all been avoided.”
“The first thing I said was I don’t want you to move. I don’t want you to get a divorce. I was hoping that they would get back together. I always thought that they could probably work through it, but obviously not.”
“Daddy was leaving mummy. He didn’t love her anymore and it felt like he didn’t love us either. It seemed like one day he was there and the next he wasn’t.”