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Marriage helps raise children better

india Updated: Sep 11, 2006 15:16 IST

While more and more people now-a-days are opting for live-in relationships and have no inhibitions in raising a child single-handedly, an independent study commissioned by the Tories revealed that marriage is still the best environment to raise children, as it offers the greatest chance of a stable upbringing.

The survey carried out for the social justice policy review group headed by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, suggests that unmarried parents are up to five times more likely to experience family breakdown as compared to married ones.

The findings of the study, that was carried out by Harry Benson, who is director of the Bristol Community Family Trust, which carries out research into parenting and relationships, were based on a study of 15,000 mothers who gave birth during 2000-01 - the so-called Millennium Cohort Study.

It found that cohabiting couples were twice as likely to experience a family breakdown during the early years of parenthood than married couples of a similar income.

When the sample was expanded to include all unmarried couples - including those cohabiting and "closely involved" - family breakdown was five times more common than among married couples.

Analysis of the figures revealed that six per cent of married couples had experienced a family breakdown compared with 32 per cent among all unmarried couples. When the unmarried figures were further broken down, they showed that 20 per cent of cohabiting couples experienced breakdown, as compared to 74 per cent among "closely involved" couples.

The authors cited several factors including commitment, fathers playing a greater role in their children's upbringing and better communication, as the reason for the low breakdown rates among married couples.

Mr Duncan Smith said that the study offered compelling evidence that marriage must be the basis of Government policy to tackle family breakdown.

"This is a serious study and will help the policy group establish the causes of the UK's very high levels of family breakdown," the Telegraph quoted him, as saying.

"What is particularly interesting is the way the report shows that the Government's assumption that children's outcomes are solely dictated by socio-economic factors is wrong. The structure within which they grow up and are nurtured is vital to their well-being. The Government's corresponding attempt to airbrush out references to marriage from family research is a form of censorship," he added.

His message was supported underlined by Harry Benson, as he said: "Family breakdown leads adults and children into poverty and other social problems."

"Our study shows that it is not enough to say that families split up because of their circumstances. Any Government that wants to reduce poverty and inequality for both children and adults alike has to address the issue of marriage and what it is that makes marriages work better than the alternatives," he added.

Angela Sibson, the chief executive of Relate, the relationship counselling service, also welcomed the report.

"Good relationships are more likely to lead to marriage - or lifelong cohabitation - than bad ones," she said.

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