Harry Benson, Research Director, The Marriage Foundation

The first presenter, Mr. Harry Benson, Research Director of the Marriage Foundation-UK asked, “Has government made the problem worse”? What does the data tell us about marriage?” There are very interesting statistics about marriages over 10 years old. Long term stable relationships outside marriage are the rare exception. It is the trend away from marriage that is causing family breakdown. Marriage is all about commitment, a couple with a future. The overwhelming majority of families that stay intact are „married‟ families, compared to „cohabiting‟. (Data: 69% to 15 %). Marriage is an ultimate act of dedication and commitment for the future, building a history and memories.

Families break down when couples move in together too quickly, adding constraints before establishing dedication. Through inertia, they may choose to have a baby when not ready for the responsibility, adding more constraint- until overwhelmed. Is it government policy that weakens dedication and makes couples less likely to commit or is it by weakening constraints they make it easier for couples to escape? It is unlikely that governments can influence the breakdown of families through their laws, signals or money. But, the question remains, “can government help couples to stay together?”

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