Be Careful Who You Marry

February 16, 2015 Leave a comment



By Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D

First published November 11th  2007


Marriage is a foundation of civilized life. No advanced civilization has ever existed without the married, two-parent family. Those who argue that our civilization needs healthy marriages to survive are not exaggerating.

And yet I cannot, in good conscience, urge young men to marry today. For many men (and some women), marriage has become nothing less than a one-way ticket to jail. Even the New York Times has reported on how easily “the divorce court leads to a jail cell,” mostly for men. In fact, if I have one urgent piece of practical advice for young men today it is this: Do not marry and do not have children.

Spreading this message may also, in the long run, be the most effective method of saving marriage as an institution. For until we understand that the principal threat to marriage today is not cultural but political, and that it comes not from homosexuals but from heterosexuals, we will never reverse the decline of marriage. The main destroyer of marriage, it should be obvious, is divorce. Michael McManus of Marriage Savers points out that “divorce is a far more grievous blow to marriage than today’s challenge by gays.” The central problem is the divorce laws. Read my new book: “Taken Into Custady

It is well known that half of all marriages end in divorce. But widespread misconceptions lead many to believe it cannot happen to them. Many conscientious people think they will never be divorced because they do not believe in it. In fact, it is likely to happen to you whether you wish it or not.

First, you do not have to agree to the divorce or commit any legal transgression. Under “no-fault” divorce laws, your spouse can divorce you unilaterally without giving any reasons. The judge will then grant the divorce automatically without any questions.

But further, not only does your spouse incur no penalty for breaking faith; she can actually profit enormously. Simply by filing for divorce, your spouse can take everything you have, also without giving any reasons. First, she will almost certainly get automatic and sole custody of your children and exclude you from them, without having to show that you have done anything wrong. Then any unauthorized contact with your children is a crime. Yes, for seeing your own children you will be subject to arrest.

There is no burden of proof on the court to justify why they are seizing control of your children and allowing your spouse to forcibly keep you from them. The burden of proof (and the financial burden) is on you to show why you should be allowed to see your children.

The divorce industry thus makes it very attractive for your spouse to divorce you and take your children. (All this earns money for lawyers whose bar associations control the careers of judges.) While property divisions and spousal support certainly favor women, the largest windfall comes through the children. With custody, she can then demand “child support” that may amount to half, two-thirds, or more of your income. (The amount is set by committees consisting of feminists, lawyers, and enforcement agents – all of whom have a vested interest in setting the payments as high as possible.) She may spend it however she wishes. You pay the taxes on it, but she gets the tax deduction.

You could easily be left with monthly income of a few hundreds dollars and be forced to move in with relatives or sleep in your car. Once you have sold everything you own, borrowed from relatives, and maximized your credit cards, they then call you a “deadbeat dad” and take you away in handcuffs. You are told you have “abandoned” your children and incarcerated without trial.

Evidence indicates that, as men discover all this, they have already begun an impromptu marriage “strike”: refusing to marry or start families, knowing they can be criminalized if their wife files for divorce. “Have anti-father family court policies led to a men’s marriage strike?” ask Glenn Sacks and Dianna Thompson in the Philadelphia Enquirer. In Britain, fathers tour university campuses warning young men not to start families. In his book, From Courtship to Courtroom, Attorney Jed Abraham concludes that the only protection for men to avoid losing their children and everything else is not to start families in the first place.

Is it wise to disseminate such advice? If people stop marrying, what will become of the family and our civilization?

Marriage is already all but dead, legally speaking, and divorce is the principal reason. The fall in the Western birth rate is directly connected with divorce law.

It is also likely that same-sex marriage is being demanded only because of how heterosexuals have already debased marriage through divorce law. “The world of no-strings heterosexual hookups and 50% divorce rates preceded gay marriage,” advocate Andrew Sullivan points out.

  • “All homosexuals are saying…is that, under the current definition, there’s no reason to exclude us. If you want to return straight marriage to the 1950s, go ahead. But until you do, the exclusion of gays is simply an anomaly – and a denial of basic civil equality.”

We will not restore marriage by burying our heads in the sand; nor simply by preaching to young people to marry, as the Bush administration’s government therapy programs now do. The way to restore marriage as an institution in which young people can place their trust, their children, and their lives is to make it an enforceable contract. We urgently need a national debate about divorce, child custody, and the terms under which the government can forcibly sunder the bonds between parents and their children. We owe it to future generations, if there are to be any.

Stephen Baskerville holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and is president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. His book,”Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family”, will be published in the summer of 2007 by Cumberland House Publishing. Web Site:
He has published in; USAtoday; Washington Times; Salisbury Review; and The American Conservative, among others.


Categories: Uncategorized

Cohabitation in Spain – a rocket of a trend

February 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Cohabitation in Spain: No Longer a Marginal Path
to Family Formation

by MARTA DOMINGUEZ-FOLGUERAS  – Universitat Pompeu Fabra
TERESA CASTRO-MARTIN  – Center for Human and Social Sciences

 Journal of Marriage and Family 75 (April 2013): 422 – 437

Background comment: For many generations Spain was the epitome of Catholic Europe with all the trappings such a status implies. It was the model of ‘family stability’ with divorce impossible and its marriages rates (along with Italy’s) leading all of Europe. Cohabitation was almost unknown and certainly not encouraged – as was illegitimacy. However, since the death of Franco, Spain has been gripped with a radicalism that must have been ‘pent-up’ during his reign. All the once stable indicators that marked out Spain from the rest of Europe have evaporated. Whenever there is a vacuum an alternative gas is always ready to rush in, and low fertility within the EU is now that vacuum all governments face. The following paper by Dominguez-Folgueras and Castro-Martin traces the developments within Spain since the 1980’s. During this epoch ‘radical feminism’ has increased at a time when active catholisim has been falling while underlying these events have been large scale surges in unemployment. Are these linked ? – RW


  • Although many indicators reflect the marked retreat from marriage occurring in Spain since the 1980s, the diffusion of cohabitation has been slow. The confluence of very low and late fertility, latest-late marriage, and low cohabitation has been largely regarded as defying the predictions of the second demographic transition and has fueled a debate over the distinctiveness of the Mediterranean model of family formation. Comparative analyses based on the Family and Fertility Survey documented the marginal role of cohabitation in Spain and in the rest of southern European countries by the mid-1990s. In this research, the authors used more recent data from the 2006 Spanish Fertility, Family and Values Survey (N=5,750) to reveal that cohabitation has spread significantly among younger cohorts and hence can no longer be considered as playing a marginal role in the family formation process.

The process of family formation has undergone profound changes in all Western societies in recent decades (Billari, 2005). One of the key transformations has been the declining significance of marriage in family life and the spread of non-marital cohabitation, a process that is still unfolding (Bumpass & Lu, 2000; Smock, 2000).

Marriage, which was once part of the natural progression into adulthood, has lost much of its centrality in structuring young adult lives and has been gradually replaced by cohabitation, at
least as the initial stage of family formation (Seltzer, 2000; Smock & Manning, 2004). Yet the pace of incorporation of cohabitation into the family life course has not been uniform across
countries (Heuveline & Timberlake, 2004; Kiernan, 2001). Although the second demographic transition (SDT) theory initially expected Western countries to converge in their patterns of family formation (Lesthaeghe, 1995; van de Kaa, 1987), cohabitation has defied the predictions of rapid convergence. Several decades after its emergence as a social phenomenon, the role and meaning of cohabitation in the family system continue to diverge greatly across socioeconomic, institutional, and cultural settings.

Southern European countries have been frequently portrayed as a paradox (Dalla Zuanna
& Micheli, 2004) or as being at odds with the predictions of the SDT (Coleman, 2004) because
of their position as forerunners in lowest-low fertility in the early 1990s but laggards in cohabitation. Southern European countries were latecomers to the global process of family
change depicted by the SDT (Domınguez, Castro-Martın, & Mencarini, 2007), but once the
process was set in motion, the pace of change was generally faster, and its intensity greater,
than in other European societies (Lesthaeghe, 2010). Spain and Italy were the first countries to reach lowest-low fertility levels (total fertility rate [TFR] of 1.3 in 1991), and postponement of marriage and childbearing has been more pronounced than in western and northern Europe (Frejka & Sobotka, 2008). Nevertheless, the diffusion of cohabitation remained slow, at least until the mid-1990s.
The broad cross-national variation in the prevalence and nature of cohabiting unions was the basis for Heuveline and Timberlake’s (2004) classification of countries according to the role of cohabitation in the family formation process. In this classification, the role of cohabitation in Spain was labeled ‘‘marginal,’’ implying that institutional and cultural sanctions confined unmarried cohabitation to a relatively small minority of couples. Nevertheless, this description was based on the 1995 Fertility and Family Survey (FFS), which has become dated as a portrayal of current family patterns. As an illustration of this point, the percentage of non-marital births in Spain – as a share of total births – has more than tripled from 1995 to 2010, from 11% to 35.5%.
Our objective in this article is to reexamine the level of diffusion of cohabitation in Spain, taking advantage of a recent national survey, the 2006 Fertility, Family and Values Survey. The case of Spain presents a valuable opportunity to assess whether the diffusion of cohabitation is a universal feature of family change associated with the SDT or whether local contexts shape the pace and nature of family transformations.

The Spanish case could also provide important insights into the generality of patterns and correlates of cohabitation observed in low-fertility societies where this type of union emerged earlier. The structure of the  article is as follows: First, we review prior studies, in particular those referring to the Mediterranean pattern of family formation, and discuss secularization and attitudinal change in Spain. We then present a number of indicators that reflect recent changes over time in the characteristics of cohabiting unions, including changes in duration and dissolution patterns.
Next, we measure cohort changes in type of first union entry with life table estimates, and use event history models to examine its main correlates. Previous research based on the 1995 FFS showed that forerunners of cohabitation in Spain were a selective group of the population characterized by high educational attainment, high employment rates, and low religiosity (Dom´ınguez-Folgueras & Castro-Mart´ın, 2008; Meil Landwerlin, 2003).
Because there are multiple signs that the diffusion of cohabitation has accelerated in the past decade, we assess whether women opting for cohabitation comprise nowadays a less self-selective group (Manting, 1996). Finally, we discuss the findings and the foreseeable
evolution of cohabiting unions in Spain.


The decline and postponement of marriage and childbearing did not become apparent in Spain until the 1980s, a decade later than in northern Europe (Trost, 1978), but these processes became particularly intense in the 1990s (Munoz-Perez & Recano-Valverde, 2011). Hence, at the end of the 20th century Spain ranked lowest in fertility level and highest in age at marriage and age at first birth within the European context. Yet the decline in marriage was not  compensated by a parallel increase in cohabitation, as had been the norm in most European countries. Consequently, the percentage of Spanish women age 20 to 34 who had not yet entered their first union was among the highest in Europe in the 2000s census round: 62.2% (Castro-Mart´ın, Domınguez-Folgueras, &Martın-Garcıa, 2008).
Several family scholars have hypothesized that Western societies are going through a transition
in the way couples are formed (Kiernan, 2002; Prinz, 1995; Sobotka & Toulemon, 2008).

This partnership transition, encompassed in the SDT (second demographic transition), would have several stages. First, cohabitation emerges as a statistically rare behavior with a highly selective socio-demographic profile. Later on in the diffusion process, cohabitation is adopted by people from the various social strata, and it functions mainly as a prelude to marriage or a trial period to test the quality of the relationship, but childbearing remains confined to marriage. Gradually, cohabitation starts to supplant marriage: It lasts longer and becomes an acceptable context for parenthood. Finally, cohabitation and marriage become indistinguishable, which concludes the transition process.
All prior comparative studies on cohabitation concurred in positioning Spain in the lowest prevalence category – from a cross-sectional approach (Heuveline & Timberlake 2004)—or at the initial stage of the partnership transition—from a developmental perspective (Tob´ıo, 2001). Nevertheless, it must be noted that assigning one particular category or diffusion stage to a country is always problematic, because cohabitation may have more than one meaning at the same time in a given society.

In the United States, for example, it has been shown that cohabitation may play different
roles according to social class and racial and ethnic background (Choi & Seltzer, 2009;
Manning & Landale, 1996). Also, even in countries where the social meaning of cohabitation is
relatively homogeneous, this may change quite rapidly over time (Manting, 1996). In order to
avoid static interpretations of dynamic phenomena, it is essential to count on updated data
on union formation. A large amount of the literature on cohabitation in Europe was based
on analyses of the FFSs, which were carried out in the mid-1990s, but more recent data
sources, such as the Gender and Generations Surveys or the European Social Survey, have
shown that the meaning and patterns of cohabitation have changed considerably since then
(Hiekel, Liefbroer, & Poortman, 2012; Kasearu & Kutsar, 2011; Perelli-Harris et al., 2012).
Moreover, recent studies have revealed remarkable increases in cohabitation in societies long
regarded as having low prospects for diffusion of unmarried partnerships, such as Italy
(Castiglioni & Dalla Zuanna, 2009; Gabrielli & Hoem, 2010; Rosina & Fraboni, 2004), Poland
(Matysiak, 2009), or Japan (Raymo, Iwasawa, & Bumpass, 2009).
The ‘‘Mediterranean’’ Pattern of Family Formation and Attitudinal Change The Mediterranean, or southern European, pattern of family formation has been typically characterized by prolonged co-residence with parents; late transition to a conjugal union; predominance of marriage among first unions; and high synchronization among leaving the parental home, union formation, and first birth (Baizan,Aassve, & Billari, 2003; Billari, Castiglioni, Castro-Martın, Michielin & Ongaro, 2002).

The Mediterranean pattern is also highly responsible for the shift in the macro-level relationships between union dynamics and total fertility: Contrary to what was happening about 20 years ago, fertility is currently higher in countries with a larger share of cohabitation, non- marital births, and union disruption (Billari & Kohler, 2004).

Because early views of the SDT assumed that the decline in fertility would go hand in hand with the pluralization of family forms (van de Kaa, 1987), the co-existence of lowest-low fertility, latest-late-marriage, and relatively low incidence of cohabitation has been typically regarded as a challenge to the SDT premise of a common transition process encompassing both reproductive and partnership behavior.

Several explanations have been offered to account for the relative stability in partnership dynamics in southern Europe in the midst of rapid reproductive change. Economic factors, such as high youth unemployment (Ahn & Mira, 2001), increasing uncertainty linked to unstable job positions (Simo, Castro-Martın, & Soro, 2005), and tight housing markets (Holdsworth & Irazoqui Solda, 2002), have often been emphasized as barriers to union formation, regardless of union type. The lack of policies directed at youth, which reinforce their dependency on the family (Ferrera, 1996), and inconsistent gender relations in the public and private spheres (Esping-Andersen, 2009) have also been claimed to deter union formation. Another key element in the  Mediterranean family system is the strength of inter-generational ties (Dalla Zuanna, 2000; Reher, 1998), which lies behind the prolonged permanence of young adults in the parental home (Moreno Mınguez, 2003).
There is also the widespread idea that the lack of diffusion of cohabitation in southern Europe can be attributed to cultural values rooted in its Catholic inheritance. The Catholic Church certainly had a strong influence on Spanish society in the past, particularly during the Franco dictatorship (1936 – 1975), when it largely shaped politics, legislation, and the education system, endorsing a traditional conception of the family, asymmetric gender relations, and a strict sexual code for women (Nash, 1991). But as the process of democratization and socio-economic modernization unfolded, Spanish society experienced an intense secularization process (Requena, 2005).

A recent survey focusing on religiosity revealed that only 28% of the population over age 18 identified themselves as practicing Catholics, and this percentage dropped to 10% among those below age 40 (Centro de Investigaciones Sociologicas [CIS], 2008). Although the Catholic Church retains an important presence in the education system and in the provision of certain social services, its political, social, and cultural influence on society has clearly waned. The fact that   nowadays Spain is among the countries with more liberal legislation on abortion, assisted  reproduction, same-sex marriage, and adoption by same-sex couples confirms that the Catholic Church has lost its traditional power in shaping family-related legislation. The reduction in the percentage of newborns baptized (from 85% in 1990 to 64% in 2009) and the sharp decline in religious marriages (from 76% in 2000 to 42% in 2010) in favor of exclusively civil marriages are further manifestations of the Catholic Church’s declining role in legitimizing family transitions.

Despite broad social transformations and profound changes in values and lifestyles in Spanish society, the Catholic Church has maintained, unchanged, its traditional doctrine on marriage and the family, standing against premarital sex, contraceptive use, divorce, and abortion. As a consequence of its perceived detachment from the current reality of family life, it has lost its once-prominent role as provider of moral guidelines for sex and family matters. The process described by Laplante (2006) to explain the high cohabitation rates in Catholic Quebec is likely to hold also for Spain. According to Laplante, once a large number of Catholics reach the conclusion that Catholic morality has become obsolete and impracticable, they treat it as irrelevant.

Data from various opinion surveys attest to the declining significance of religious precepts in people’s lives: About 80% of individuals over age 18 declare that they ‘‘never’’ or ‘‘hardly ever’’ follow the Catholic Church’s recommendations regarding sexuality,marriage, and partnerships (CIS, 2004), and about 70% explicitly disapprove of the Church’s position on divorce and contraception (CIS, 2008). Hence, the Catholic view of cohabitation as ‘‘living in sin’’ probably has a negligible impact on young adults’ attitudes toward cohabitation and on their choice of living arrangements.

A loosening of social norms against family formation outside marriage is evident from responses to various surveys. For instance, in the 2003 International Social Survey Programme’s Survey on Family and Changing Gender Roles, 74% of Spanish respondents agreed with the statement ‘‘It is right for a couple to live together without intending to get married,’’ and 54% disagreed with the statement ‘‘People who want children ought to get married.’’ The corresponding figures for those younger than 35 were 89% and 75% respectively, and there were no significant gender differentials (authors’ calculations).

Acceptance of non-marital cohabitation—with and without children—is therefore nearly universal among Spanish male and female young adults, although this does not entail a devaluation of marriage, which continues to be a highly valued institution. From a comparative perspective, recent data from the 2008 European Values Survey confirm that the value profile of Spaniards concerning partnership and family issues is quite similar to that found in northern European countries.

For instance, the percentage of individuals agreeing with the statement ‘‘It is all right to live together without getting married’’ was 84% in Spain and 88% in Norway. The level of agreement with this attitudinal item was also high in Portugal (83%), but less so in Greece (70%) and Italy (54%). Yet the widespread social acceptance of cohabitation as a legitimate path to family formation had not translated into behavior in Spain; at least, it had not by themid-1990s.

This implies that ideational factors are a necessary but not sufficient condition to bring about a drastic transformation in partnership dynamics (Surkyn & Lesthaeghe, 2004). Nonetheless, the pervasive social tolerance toward nontraditional family forms signaled the readiness of Spanish society for an eventual rise in cohabitation (Liefbroer & Fokkema, 2008).

Some Indications That Cohabitation Might Be Taking Off

The significance and centrality of marriage for family formation have continued to erode during the first decade of the 21st century. The total first marriage rate – the sum of age-specific first marriage rates – dropped from 1 in 2000 to 0.63 in 2010, reflecting a marked trend toward marriage postponement and, possibly, a decline in the proportion of persons ever marrying during their lifetime. Concurrently, in the period 2000 to 2010, the mean age at first marriage increased from 28.1 to 31.1 among women and from 30.1 to 33.2 among men (Spanish Institute of Statistics;

Recent studies have also shown that the probability of marital dissolution, traditionally low, has increased substantially among recent marriage cohorts (Bernardi & Mart´ınez-Pastor, 2011). Rising marital disruption is likely to have an impact on the prevalence of cohabitation because many divorced persons who repartner choose to cohabit rather than remarry (de Graaf & Kalmijn, 2003; Wu & Schimmele, 2005). Nevertheless, the weight of postmarital cohabitation on overall cohabitation has decreased over time in Spain.

According to census data, the proportion of cohabiting women who had been previously married declined from 48% in 1981 to 26% in 2001 (Garcıa Pereiro, Carella, & Pace, 2012).

Nuptiality studies based on the 1995 Spanish FFS underscored the low prevalence of cohabitation: Only 3.4% of women between ages 18 and 49 were living in a consensual union at the time of the survey, and 7.8% indicated that they had ever lived in a consensual union. Nonetheless, there were significant birth cohort differentials that suggested that cohabitation could be taking off among young cohorts (Domınguez-Folgueras & Castro-Martın, 2008).

Prior studies based on the 1995 FFS also found that the choice of cohabitation as first partnership was more common among urban, highly educated, and working young women (Meil Landwerlin, 2003). In general, individuals with greater material, social, and cultural resources at their disposal to make nontraditional choices regarding lifestyles acted as forerunners in the adoption of cohabitation.

The 2001 census, conducted 6 years after the FFS, revealed some changes in the spread of cohabitation. The percentage of unmarried women age 15 to 49 who were cohabiting with a partner at the time of the census was merely 4.3%. When the analysis was restricted to women currently in a union, however, important differences emerged across age groups: Nearly one third—32.8%—of women age 15 to 24 and 11.6% of those age 25 to 34 were in a cohabiting partnership compared to 4.6% of those age 35 to 49 (Castro-Martın & Domınguez-Folgueras, 2008). Although the transitional nature of most cohabitations and their limited duration makes it difficult to interpret these cross-sectional differences or to infer underlying trends, these data suggest that, despite low diffusion, cohabitation was losing its traditionally marginal position among the younger segments of the population. Furthermore, the 2001 census revealed an unexpected feature of cohabiting unions: Almost half – 46.3% – of all cohabiting couple households included minor co-resident children, and 39.3% of cohabiting couples had their own children.

Although this level is well below that for married couples, 80% of whom had children, it brings into question the prevailing assumption that cohabitation is predominantly a childless stage leading to marriage. The most persuasive indication that cohabitation can no longer be  considered a marginal path to family formation in Spain comes from the recent evolution of non-marital fertility. The percentage of births to unwed mothers rose significantly, from 3.9% in 1980 to 11.1% in 1995, but the increase afterward has been particularly sharp: from 11.1% in 1995 to 35.5% in 2010 (Spanish Institute of Statistics;

This dramatic rise in non-marital fertility was largely driven by the growing number of births to cohabiting adults, a pattern also observed in many other countries (Raley, 2001). Spanish vital statistics bureaus started collecting data on cohabiting status for unmarried mothers in 2007,  and these register data confirm the strong connection between non-marital childbearing and cohabitation. In 2009, nearly two thirds of all non-marital births (62.8%) were born to a cohabiting couple, implying that childbearing in cohabiting families currently accounts for 21.7% of all births and 24.1% of all first births in Spain (Castro-Martın, 2010).

This  level is similar to that documented by Manlove, Ryan, Wildsmith, and Franzetta (2010) for the United States and suggests that cohabitation does not play a negligible role in current family dynamics.


The Fertility, Family and Values Survey was carried out in 2006 by the CIS. The questionnaire replicated most of the earlier FFS questionnaire and included women’s partnership,  reproductive, and employment retrospective histories on a monthly time scale.

The sample was designed to be representative at the national and regional level, and it consisted of 9,737 women age 15 and over, who participated in a face-to-face interview. Because of  potential recall errors among older cohorts, we confine the analysis to women between ages 15 and 56 (i.e., birth cohorts from 1950 to 1991). After we had ‘‘cleaned’’ the data for inconsistencies in partnership biographies and applied the age selection, the analytical sample consisted of 5,750 women. Although the total number of women who experienced a transition to a first union  through cohabitation in the analytical sample (n = 1,140) is larger than in the FFS Cohabitation in Spain 427 (n = 319), it remains relatively small to perform separate analyses by birth cohort.

We first present some descriptive indicators of the characteristics of all cohabiting unions  – regardless of whether they are pre-marital or post-marital – in Spain. Then, to assess trends, we present life table estimates of the cumulative proportion of women in successive birth cohorts who opted for cohabitation or marriage as their first conjugal union.

The analysis is limited to the transition to first union because of the relatively small number of cases for second and higher order unions and because pre- and post-marital cohabitations often differ substantively from one another (Brown, 2000). Last, we apply discrete-time event history analysis to examine the socio-demographic correlates of distinct paths of first union formation. Cohabitation, marriage, and remaining single are modeled as competing outcomes, and  multi-nomial logit regression is used to estimate simultaneously the odds of these outcomes. This competing-risk approach allows us to identify factors whose effects work in similar or opposite directions in the transition to marriage and cohabitation.

Women are considered to enter the risk of forming a first union at the age of 14, and observations are included up to the month when they entered their first union or up to the month of the  interview, if no transition was made.

The multi-nomial logit models are based on person-months of exposure to the competing risks of marriage or cohabitation, a discrete time approach that facilitates the incorporation of  time-varying co-variates and that is analogous to continuous-time hazard regression (Allison, 1984). Robust standard errors were estimated to account for the non-independence of observations, and duration is controlled using dummy variables for each month.

The model takes the following functional form: Sigma_T3


  • Where Pijt is the conditional probability of experiencing either marriage or cohabitation (j = 1 for marriage, j = 2 for cohabitation, and j= 0 for no event occurring), for a single woman i at month t since her 14th birthday. The model includes m time-constant predictors and n time-varying covariates, described below.

Table 3 (below) presents the odds ratios derived from multinomial logit regression models predicting the conditional probability of entering a first union (regardless of union type) versus remaining single (column 1), entering marriage versus remaining single (column 2), entering cohabitation versus remaining single (column 3), and entering cohabitation as opposed to marriage (column 4). An odds ratio above 1 represents a positive effect, and a value below 1 indicates a negative effect on the transitions under study.

To assess trends in cohabitation and examine change over time in a multivariate framework, 10-year birth cohorts were included in the models.

Drawing on the marriage and cohabitation literature (Thornton, Axinn, & Xie, 2007), we also included a number of covariates, such as education, employment, and religiosity, documented to be particularly influential on the choice of union type. Educational attainment – a proxy for earnings potential, modern values, and higher demands for gender equality within  partnerships – is categorized into four levels: (a) primary, (b) lower secondary (which has been compulsory since 1990), (c) upper secondary, and (d) university. Although educational attainment can change over the life course, the survey analyzed does not contain educational biographies, so we use the highest educational level reported at the time of interview. Nevertheless, Spain has a pattern of very late union formation, and the vast majority of people have completed their studies by the time they enter a conjugal union (Coppola, 2004).

Religiosity is measured by religious adscription and practice as declared by the respondent and is grouped into four categories: (a) practicing Catholic, (b) nonpracticing Catholic, (c) other religious  ascription, and (d) not religious (if no religious ascription is acknowledged).

As an indirect measure of progressive attitudes, we include in the model information on  self-declared political ideology, measured using a 10-point scale, on which 1 – 4 is labeled as right, 5 – 6 as center, and 7 – 10 as left. Although this variable has not been commonly used in cohabitation research, prior research suggests that politically left-oriented individuals have less traditional attitudes toward family (Lye & Waldron, 1997). Both religiosity and political identification are measured only at the time of interview and, given that values and ideology are  responsive to life course experiences and family transitions, we cannot discard reverse causation.

Past research has shown that gender values and political beliefs tend to move toward  ‘‘traditionalization’’ along the life course (Davis, 2007); hence, our modelsmight underestimate the effect of secular and progressive attitudes on the choice of cohabitation.

Given the documented links between childhood living arrangements and subsequent union formation behavior (Teachman, 2003), having been raised in a nonconventional family is also controlled for in the analysis. We measured it with a dummy variable that denotes whether the respondent experienced parental separation before age 16. We also take into account whether the respondent had lived independently from the family of origin, either alone or with unrelated adults, during at least one year before coresiding with a partner. This is a relatively infrequent behavior in the Spanish context and has been shown to have a significant positive impact on the probability of choosing cohabitation over marriage as a first union (Dom´ınguez-Folgueras & Castro-Mart´ın, 2008).

Because of diverging union formation patterns by Spanish and immigrant women (Cortina, Bueno, & Castro-Mart´ın, 2010), nationality is also included in the models. In addition to this, we control for two specific time periods when Spain experienced very high rates of unemployment (over 20%), which may influence the timing or type of partnership formation: (a) the 1984 – 1986 crisis and (b) the 1993 – 1994 crisis, when unemployment reached 24%. Table A1, in the Appendix, presents the sample distribution for these variables.

We also include several time-varying co-variates in the analysis. Employment status, which has been shown to be positively associated with union formation in Spain (De la Rica & Iza, 2005), is  entered in the models as a dummy time-varying covariate coded 1 if the respondent was working in that particular month and 0 otherwise. The variable is not lagged in the models because we tried several specifications (1-, 3-, and 6- month lags) and results remained unaffected. Because of the strong interlinkages between union and childbearing behavior, data on whether a pregnancy or a birth occurred before union formation are also incorporated in the analysis as time-varying covariates.

The value of the pregnancy variable changes from childless (0) to pregnant (1) 8 months before the reported date of birth and then it changes back to 0. The birth variable takes the value of 1 one month after the first child is born. Because of common underreporting of terminated  pregnancies, we only identify conceptions that resulted in a live birth. The effect of these  variables should be interpreted with caution, because only 359 women (5.8%) were mothers before entering their first union and only 12.9% of first conceptions occurred before the formation of a co-residential partnership.


Several characteristics of cohabiting unions in Spain are described in Table 1. These indicators are calculated for 10-year birth cohorts, providing useful information on the changes that have occurred across generations. One can observe that cohabitation has gone from being rare to being a relatively common experience among recent cohorts. The percentage of women ever in a cohabiting union increased from 13.9% among those born in the 1950s to 37.1% among those born in the 1970s. The percentage was lower for the youngest cohort of women, who were 15 to 26 years old at the time of the survey, largely because of the late pattern of union formation in Spain. Cohort patterns are analogous when we consider current cohabitations, although the percentages are naturally lower from a cross-sectional perspective. Among current cohabiting unions, postmarital cohabitations outnumbered premarital cohabitations in the 1950 – 1959 birth cohort but represented a decreasing share of non-marital unions for successive cohorts. Although based on a small number of cases, the high proportion of postmarital cohabitations in  older cohorts points to the formerly married as pioneers in cohabitation in Spain.

The mean duration of cohabiting unions was around 5 years for women born in the 1950s and 1960s. This relatively long duration seems at odds with the low prevalence and marginal role of cohabitation in these cohorts, and it could be attributed to several factors.

On the one hand, women who cohabited in these cohorts were probably a highly selective group in terms of ideology and values, given the strong social norms favoring marriage that prevailed back then. On the other hand, more than half of cohabitations in those cohorts were preceded by a disrupted marriage, and postmarital cohabitation may be a long-term arrangement for women who had a negative experience with marriage, or even the only alternative if their marriages broke before 1981, when divorce became legal in Spain.

Sigma_T4 Table 1. Selected Characteristics of All Cohabiting Unions for Successive Birth Cohorts


The length of cohabitation declined for the following birth cohorts, although for the youngest one  this was partly due to limited exposure. Nevertheless, even for the 1970 – 1979 cohort, for which he observed prevalence of cohabitation was highest and the proportion of postmarital  cohabitation spells was low, the mean duration of cohabitating unions (nearly 4 years) was above what would be expected when cohabitation serves primarily as a prelude to marriage or a stage in the marriage process. In fact, the next column in Table 1 shows that the estimated proportion of cohabiting unions resulting in marriage within a period of 5 years for this cohort was only 38.4%.

The trends observed in the routes of exit from cohabitation suggest a decline in the likelihood of transition to marriage and a modest increase in the likelihood of separation across cohorts.

Life table estimates of the cumulative proportion of women who entered their first union through cohabitation or marriage for the birth cohorts under study are provided in Table 2. These estimates confirm the upward trend in cohabitation and the downward trend in direct marriage. By age 35, 38.8% of women born in the 1970s had entered their first conjugal union through  cohabitation, compared with 16.7% of women born in the 1960s and 6.4% of women born in the 1950s. Hence, the increase in cohabitation was particularly evident among women born in the 1970s, the majority of whom entered their first union after the turn of the 21st century. For this cohort, although marriage continued to be the main path to union formation, cohabitation was no longer a marginal living arrangement. The partnership trajectory of the youngest cohort we examined, that born in the 1980s, although incomplete, points toward a reinforcement of the upward trend in cohabitation. By age 25, nearly one third of women had already entered a cohabitating union. The bottom part of Table 2 also shows that there has been a general delay in partnership formation: By their 30th birthday, 86.9% of women born in the 1950s had entered their first union (whether marital or nonmarital), whereas only 77.5% of women born in the 1970s had doneNevertheless, by age 35, all cohorts show similar percentages of women having formed a conjugal union.

Table 3 presents the relative risks associated with selected covariates on the rate of transition to first union (regardless of union type), to first marriage, to first cohabitation and also the contrast of entering cohabitation versus entering marriage. Birth cohort effects suggest substantial changes in the patterns of union formation over time and confirm a clear upward trend in cohabitation. Whereas the likelihood of entering directly into marriage has declined markedly across cohorts, the likelihood of entering cohabitation has increased considerably. Compared with women born in the 1960s, those born in the 1970s were three times more likely to choose  cohabitation over marriage as their first union. The youngest women, those born in the 1980s, displayed very high odds of cohabiting instead of marrying (odds ratio = 17.2), but this strong effect may be partly due to selection, because the members of this cohort who had entered their first union by the survey date did so well before the average age of first partnership formation in Spain, so they may be a differentiated group.

Sigma_T5Table 2. Life Table Estimates of the Cumulative Proportion of Women Entering Their First Union Through Cohabitation and Marriage for Successive Birth Cohorts

Despite the large increase in cohabitation, this was not large enough to compensate for the decline in marriage; hence, the overall rate of transition to first partnership, regardless of union type, was considerably lower among younger cohorts than older ones.

Women’s high educational attainment (a university degree) had a strong negative effect on the likelihood of entering a union and on the likelihood of entering marriage directly. This effect is consistent with Oppenheimer’s (1997) idea that marriage is losing centrality for women who can be economically independent. Educational attainment, however, had no significant effect on the likelihood of entering cohabitation instead of marriage. Although college-educated women were more prone to choose cohabitation over marriage in bivariate analyses (results not shown),  differentials among educational  groups were not statistically significant once other co-variates were introduced in the model.

This result differs from that obtained in previous studies based on the FFS, which documented that college education increased substantially the odds of entering cohabitation versus marriage (Domınguez-Folgueras & Castro-Martın, 2008). The change in the impact of education on entry into cohabitation suggests that, although highly educated women acted as forerunners in the adoption of cohabitation, this path to family formation has now spread to all educational strata.

Separate models of transition to first partnership for each of the birth cohorts under study (results not shown) confirmed that higher education increased the likelihood of cohabiting as opposed to marrying among women born before 1960, but not afterward; nevertheless, the interaction between cohort and educational attainment did not reach statistical significance (p = .09).

The effects of the rest of the co-variates on the choice of cohabitation versus marriage were  consistent with former evidence based on the FFS for Spain and other European countries. Those variables related to women’s ability to live independently were negatively associated with direct transition into marriage and positively associated with cohabitation.

Compared with women who were not employed, working women had a lower rate of direct marriage and increased likelihood of choosing cohabitation over marriage. The experience of living independently from the family of origin for at least one year was also strongly related to the choice of cohabitation over marriage as one’s first union.


Table 3. Odds Ratios From Multi-nomial Logistic Regression Models of Transition to First Marriage or First Cohabitation

Note: Ref. = reference category; NA= no answer. a Time-varying co-variate. ∗p<.05. ∗∗p<.01. ∗∗∗p<.001.

Given the prevailing late pattern of departure from the parental home, fueled by job instability, low salaries, and high housing costs (Jurado, 2001; MorenoMınguez, 2012), women who have lived independently from their family of origin can be considered a selected group with high aspirations of autonomy.

Consistent with the abundant literature showing that being brought up in a nontraditional family setting influences the type of first union chosen (Kiernan, 2001; Teachman, 2003), our results show that this is also the case in Spain.

Divorce became legal in Spain only in 1981, but ‘de facto’ separations were taking place before the divorce law. According to the results in Table 3, women who had experienced their parents’ separation were 2.6 more likely to choose cohabitation over marriage than women raised in a two-parent family.

With regard to the impact of pregnancy and motherhood on union formation, results are also consistent with former evidence from the FFS. Even though public opinion polls show very  tolerant attitudes toward families formed outside marriage in Spain, concerns about birth legitimation still influence decisions on union formation. Pregnancy increased considerably the risk of entering a co-residential union, in particular, marriage. The odds of pregnant women entering cohabitation instead of marriage were 64% lower than those of non-pregnant women.

Conversely, women who were already mothers had lower rates of marriage than childless women, a pattern also documented in other societies (Upchurch, Lillard, & Panis, 2001), and they were more likely to enter their first union through cohabitation rather than marriage.

The data do not allow us to establish paternal relationships, so we cannot ascertain whether mothers formed a coresidential union with the father of the child or with a different partner.

The results also pointed out important differentials in first union formation patterns by nationality. Immigrant women with no Spanish nationality were about twice more likely to enter cohabitation than Spanish women. This pattern is consistent with previous findings (Cortina, Esteve, & Domingo, 2008), but because the data do not contain migration histories, we do not know whether union formation took place in Spain or in the country of origin. Sample size limitations did not allow us to explore differentials among foreign women by region of origin, but the pattern observed could be possibly linked to the large share of immigrant women coming from Latin America and the high prevalence and widespread social recognition of consensual unions in that region (Castro-Martın, 2002; Cortina et al., 2010).

Although marriage to a Spanish citizen provides rapid access to Spanish nationality, there was no evidence in the data suggesting that women born abroad but with Spanish nationality at the time of the survey were more likely to have entered their first union through marriage.

Ideological factors were also found to be relevant for union formation. Women who declared themselves nonpracticing Catholics and those who did not identify themselves with any religious faith displayed higher probabilities of entering their first union through cohabitation, compared with practicing Catholics. The coefficient was not significant for women who had a religious faith other than Catholic. Regarding political orientation, the results suggest that women who situate themselves on the left of the political spectrum are more likely to choose cohabitation over marriage as their first union compared with women who position themselves in the center of the political scale. Nonetheless, differentials between politically right-oriented and center-oriented women regarding patterns of entry into cohabitation were not statistically significant.

As noted earlier, associations between the choice of union type and religious and political orientations must be interpreted with care, because the latter were measured at the time of the interview and may have changed over time.

Congruent with studies showing that economic recessions affect the dynamics of family formation (Sobotka, Skirbekk, & Philipov, 2011), our results confirm the importance of period conditions in affecting entry into union.

During the economic recession that took place in Spain in the early 1990s, which was  characterized by very high levels of unemployment (above 20%), the odds of entering both  marriage and cohabitation declined significantly. A previous recession in the mid-1980s showed a similar pattern but no statistically significant effects.


Family demographers have extensively documented that the significance and role of unmarried cohabitation within the family system is subject to rapid change over time (Seltzer, 2003). Provided that cohabitation represents a moving target in terms of social approval and societal diffusion, it is important to keep track of changing attitudes and behaviors through regularly updated indicators.

Spain, like other Mediterranean countries, has long been regarded as a country with a low  prevalence of unmarried cohabitation and low prospects of changing this feature. The confluence  of very low fertility, intense postponement of marriage and childbearing, and low diffusion of cohabitation also posed a challenge to the narrative of the SDT (second demographic transition), which underlined parallel and highly interconnected changes in the reproductive and partnership spheres. Being a country with a strong Catholic tradition, the low prevalence of cohabitation in spite of the increasing retreat from marriage was initially attributed to moral sanctions and social norms against cohabitation.

However, the rapid process of secularization and the marked shift in values concerning family  issues, documented through numerous attitudinal surveys, soon refuted the existence of religious or cultural barriers to the increase in cohabitation. In fact, the cultural and social preconditions for the diffusion of cohabitation were in place in the 1990s: low perceived legitimacy of religious institutions, recognition of individual autonomy in family decisions, sexual tolerance, high contraceptive use, and increasingly egalitarian attitudes about gender roles (Domınguez-Folgueras & Castro-Martın, 2008). Nonetheless, widespread social acceptance of nontraditional family forms had not translated into behavioral changes, and in 1995, when the FFS was fielded, cohabitation played only a marginal role in the family formation process.

Patterns of family formation outside the framework of marriage, which were in an emerging  stage in the mid-1990s, seem to have intensified since then. The dramatic rise in the non-marital fertility ratio (from 11.1% in 1995 to 35.5% in 2010), for instance, has been largely driven by the growing share of births to cohabiting couples. In this article, we have provided evidence that cohabitation has turned into an increasingly frequent partnership choice among young adults. Whereas the vast majority of women born in the 1950s followed the traditional pathway  prescribing a marital union followed  by motherhood, over one third of women born in the 1970s chose cohabitation as their first partnership. Multivariate results confirmed the marked increase in cohabitation among the younger cohorts, even after controlling for socio-demographic composition. Hence, although Spain has been a latecomer to the diffusion of cohabitation and unmarried partnerships emerged with a substantial time lag compared to other hallmarks of the SDT, cohabitation can no longer be considered a marginal path in the family formation process.

Furthermore, the fact that births to cohabiting couples currently account for one-fifth of all births suggests that cohabitation might be becoming an increasingly accepted context for childbearing and possibly child-rearing.

Concerning the socio-demographic factors that favor cohabitation over marriage, the results of our analysis suggest that education no longer plays a major differentiating role. Compared with prior studies based on the FFS, which portrayed college-educated women as forerunners of cohabitation, we found no statistically significant differentials by educational attainment. The waning effect of education may be interpreted  as an indicator of the diffusion of cohabitation across all social strata. Nevertheless, cohabitation is still selective of women with certain characteristics, namely, employed, secular, and politically left-oriented women. Additional selection traits are more related to personal experiences than to socioeconomic or ideological profiles: having experienced parental divorce, having lived independently for at least one year,  and having a pre-union child were found to be strongly associated with the likelihood of choosing cohabitation over marriage as first union.

Although the European ‘North – South’ divide in partnership dynamics has started to narrow, significant differences still remain, and it is too soon to anticipate whether cohabitation will eventually become the norm for first union formation and direct marriage the exception, as is already the case in many societies. There are several reasons to expect a further increase in the prevalence of cohabitation in Spain. The favorable attitudinal context, the powerful role of social networks and diffusion processes, and the natural generational replacement in the prime ages of union formation are likely to promote the spread of cohabitation.

On the other hand, the current economic crisis has put many plans for family formation on hold and has aggravated the difficulties faced by young adults to form a union. Unemployment  reached 24.4% in early 2012, twice the average for the European Union, and young people are among the groups hardest hit by the crisis—unemployment rates for the 16- to 24-year-old age group reached 52% in early 2012. In the present context of economic uncertainty, medium-term trends in cohabitation will be heavily conditioned by employment trends in the next years. One could argue that, because marriage is still associated in the social imaginarium with solid financial bases or prospects and cohabitation has less demanding prerequisites – in terms of home  ownership, savings and job stability—the latter might be better suited to youths’ circumstances,  at least as a temporary arrangement, and hence likely to increase in the future (Kalmijn, 2011;  Mills, Blossfeld, & Klijzing, 2005; Oppenheimer, 2003). Of course, it all depends on whether young adults respond to income uncertainty by remaining even longer in the parental home or venturing to emancipate and form a partnership even if this entails a decline in their standard of living with respect to the parental home.

Changes in the institutional and legal framework of cohabitation may also play a role in future developments (Perelli-Harris & Sanchez Gassen, 2012; Waaldijk, 2005). Recently, some steps have been made toward providing certain legal recognition to unmarried partnerships.

By the year 2000, most autonomous regions in Spain had established public registers for unmarried couples and had enacted legislation that extended some rights previously restricted to married couples to registered cohabitants, such as transfers of rental home tenancy or joint adoption. However, there is no national legislation regulating the rights and obligations of unmarried partnerships. Several laws have been enacted ad hoc, but they do not adopt a  consistent approach to the treatment of cohabiting couples. At present, cohabitants are treated  as married in some domains, such as health coverage or pension rights, although the  requirements to qualify for a pension are more demanding for cohabitants. In other domains, however, such as income tax or inheritance, cohabiting couples continue to be treated as unrelated persons rather than a family. In general, cohabitating couples remain more vulnerable, legally and financially, than their married counterparts in the case of a breakup or the death of one of the partners, but it is foreseeable that legislation will keep on adjusting to the demands of new family forms and that the gap in the legal protection of married and unmarried couples will continue to narrow. Increased institutional security for cohabitants may well contribute to further blur the boundaries between cohabitation and marriage.


This research has been funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, Projects  CSO2009-11883 and CSO2010-17811.


Appendix  A1



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. . . / . . .

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Death as a destiny of choice – lone motherhood (SMH)

January 8, 2015 Leave a comment


Throughout the 1980s and 1990 the message was drummed into society that SMH (single mother households), were every bit as good as the traditional 2 parent family. The inference being, ‘So why bother with the latter ?’ Legislation was lobbying for and even granted to make this option possible.

These market leaders in shaping and warping public opinion (invariably women of a particular persuasion), drilled it into their audience, through their individual newspaper columns and as a group the media coverage afforded them, all the supposed benefits but none the disadvantages such a life style incurred. The plain fact that SMH are, by definition, not economically viable never phased or deterred these advocates.

Even in the 1980s and 1990 it was pointed out to them that children suffered as a consequence of separation or the choice of being an un-wed mother but these were shrugged off as being of little consequence either empirically or politically. Blithely they are still, even to this day, allowing their less tutored sisters to walk into a minefield.

Having earned their pieces of silver these poor wretches are finally entering into retirement, obscurity and hopefully ignominy as their predictions and policies fall to pieces before their eyes.

‘Politically’ they may have been fashionable at the time to hold such views but they have scared a generation if not even the generation to come. Do they ever ask themselves “Was the price worth it ?” One suspects they do not as they remain un-reconstructed and un-re-educated.

‘Empirically’ their legacy is nothing but as series of disasters in every direction. Even the most innocuous, the Equal Pay Act, has come back to bit them on the bum with the modern family unit being unable to survive on just one family income and having to resort to “food banks.”

What could not be reasonably predicted with any accuracy was the impact upon female suicide rates, mental illness, female mortality rates generally and morbidity among SMH

‘Well done’ the sisterhood for screwing up even the most basic necessities of life. Like today’s ‘bank-sters’ you have looked after your own class rather well at the expense of less well-placed women.


Mortality among lone mothers in Sweden: a population study


by Gunilla Ringbäck Weitoft, Bengt Haglund, Måns Rosén


Centre for Epidemiology, National Board of Health and Welfare, 106 30 Stockholm, Sweden (G Ringbäck Weitoft BA, B Haglund DMSc, M Rosén DMSc); and Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden (G Ringbäck Weitoft, M Rosén)

Correspondence to: Gunilla Ringbäck Weitoft (e-mail: <> )




An increasing number of lone mothers are experiencing financial and health disadvantages. Our aim was to assess mortality among lone mothers compared with mothers with partners.


In this population-based study, overall and cause-specific mortality, between 1991 and 1995, was estimated for 90,111 lone mothers and 622,368 mothers with partners from data collected in the Swedish Population and Housing Census 1990. We estimated relative risks by Poisson regression, adjusted for socio-economic status, and, to handle health-selection effects, we adjusted for previous in-patient history from 1987 to 1990.


Lone mothers showed an almost 70% higher premature risk of death than mothers with partners. The excess risk remained significantly increased (relative risk 1·2 [95% CI 1·1­1·4]) after adjustments for socio-economic status and previous severe somatic and psychiatric inpatient history.
Increased mortality was especially pronounced for suicides (2·2 [1·5­3·1]), violence (3·0 [0·9­10·6]), and alcohol-related mortality (2·4 [1·4­4·1]) among mothers who were without a partner in 1985 and in 1990.


The increase of lone mothers in society shows financial, social, and health disadvantages. Nevertheless, the increased mortality risk of lone mothers seems to be partly independent of socio-economic status and health selection into lone motherhood. For long-term lone mothers the risks may be underestimated when adjusting for selection bias by taking hospital discharge history into account, since these events may be part of the consequences of the stress of lone motherhood.

  • ref. Lancet 2000; 355: 1215­19


During the past few decades the proportion of lone-parent families has increased substantially in Western countries. In Sweden, lone parents now constitute about 20% of all families with children. 1 Most lone parents are women. Although studies show that Swedish lone mothers have an economically more favourable situation than their counterparts in other countries, many findings show that their situation is disadvantageous.1­4

Relying on only one income, lone-parent families are to a larger extent dependent on public subsidy. Social welfare and housing allowance are far more common for lone-parent families than for other families.1

The proportion of lone mothers who had difficulties in paying their household expenses increased from about 30% in 1979, to more than 50% in 1995. For couples, proportions were 12% in 1979, and 20% in 1995.3

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A crisis of trust: why marriage numbers are declining ?

December 15, 2014 Leave a comment

As the House of Lords tries for a second time (Dec 2014), in just a few years to get spousal rights conferred onto non-married women in both long and short-term relationships with men, e need to realsie that those female rights are purely male and monetary burdens. The need to understand why young adults are choosing not to form stable families needs a fresh examination. The reason why there is this relentless pressure to bastardise / adulterate marriage by giving cohabitation equal status is not here discussed.


What’s Stopping Young Adults from Forming Stable Families ?


By David Lapp, Nov 2014


In interviews we conducted with working-class young adults, my wife and I were surprised by the strength of their desires to have a long-lasting marriage and stable family life. But many of them were far from realizing those aspirations. Why?  The wide-ranging challenges that frustrate their aspirations, which we must understand in order to find effective solutions, fall into four rough categories: family-of-origin, philosophical, psychological, and financial.

Family-of-origin challenges

Family turmoil. Almost 60 percent of the 75 working-class young adults we interviewed experienced the fragmentation of their family before the age of 18. Many of them said the event caused some lasting difficulty in their lives. But it wasn’t just children from divorced or single-parent families that suffered. Children from intact families in which the parents seriously fought, or one parent cheated, also experienced suffering. For instance, Kayla describes the time her father told her that he was cheating on her mother and that he planned to divorce her. He changed his mind and stayed in the marriage, but for her, that’s when life took a turn for the rough. She describes how it was after that experience that she just “rebelled harder.” “I mean, I was doing things I shouldn’t have been doing,” she says. “I was drinking, doing drugs, and I got tattoos illegally.”

Crisis of trust. For many, an enduring legacy of a fragmented or unstable family is a crisis of trust. For example, Christopher told us that because he didn’t experience love in his own family of origin, he didn’t trust that his wife would always love him.

  • “I didn’t believe in love,” he said. “I can remember possibly even having conversations with [my wife] like that, like what is love? You love me today, but you’re not gonna love me tomorrow, you know. You love me now, but when you get mad and, you know, in a hour, are you gonna love me still?”
  • “I’ll always love you,” his wife would tell him. But he struggled to believe it, and he struggled to let his wife love him. “There was love there,” he now realizes. “I just always denied it, because of fear.” He describes “not knowing how to love and not even knowing if I really wanted to, because I was afraid when I loved something it would hurt me.”

For many, an enduring legacy of a fragmented or unstable family is a crisis of trust.

The fear of loving and then losing, of trusting and then being betrayed—this is perhaps the most tragic legacy of family fragmentation, as Judith Wallerstein pointed out in her longitudinal study of children of divorce.

Conflicted about marriage. This crisis of trust, in turn, informs young adults’ conflicted thinking about marriage. As Amber and I described in a previous post, their experiences of family fragmentation sharpen their desire to get and stay married, on the one hand, but on the other hand it also shakes their confidence in the durability of marriage. As a result, many young adults find themselves in tenuous cohabiting relationships, wanting to say “I do” eventually but too uncertain to do so now.

Philosophical challenges

The libertarian sexual ethic. Opinion leaders talk a lot about the pernicious social consequences of the project, starting around 1980, to deregulate the economy. Regardless of what you think about that analysis, it’s striking that our cultural elders had already been furiously deregulating sexual norms, leaving us today with a libertarian sexual ethic. The libertarian sexual ethic is supposed to mean greater sexual freedom, meaning you can do what you want with your sex life. But just as some analysts blame deregulation for creating Wall Street banks “too big to fail,” so the deregulated sexual economy has made many young people feel as if sex is “too powerful to restrain.”

Sexual restraint is seen as almost impossible. When we asked one young man when it’s appropriate to begin having sex in a relationship, he replied that “appropriate would be waiting until you’re ready to both rip each other’s clothes off and can’t resist it—that’s appropriate.”

But this philosophy of sex leaves little room for discernment about character—about what makes for a good man or woman to build a family with. Since sex happens very early on in a relationship, or before a relationship even starts, young adults frequently find themselves, as family researcher Scott Stanley describes, sliding “through important transitions in relationships”—such as having sex and starting to live together—“rather than deciding what they are doing and what it means.” That’s exactly what happened to one couple we met, who hooked up at a party, hung out with each other for a few weeks, and then found out they were having a child. They reasoned that if they were to have a child together, they should make their relationship work. But instead of making that decision based upon their personal readiness and mutual compatibility, their immediate sexual activity forced a decision.

The fixed love mindset. As Amber discussed here, the philosophy of love that young adults inherit from cultural scripts, like Hollywood chick flicks, works against their own aspirations for committed, permanent love. Instead of a “growth mindset” about love that focuses on working through possible differences, these stories about love transmit a “fixed mindset” that focuses on immediate and perpetual compatibility—the absence of which probably indicates that a couple is no longer meant for each other. Young adults with a fixed mindset about love tend to say things like “love is effortless,” or, as one separated spouse put it, “I love him, but I’m not in love with him. I love him as a friend, as the father, but I don’t feel that connection as I used to.”

‘Not too many people care about other people’s lives.’

Extreme individualism. Despite the common challenges that confront working-class young adults, the idea that “my relationship is no one else’s business” prevents them from thinking about marriage and family life as a public issue that demands our common efforts.

For instance, Anthony knows first-hand the painful effects of divorce—his parents divorced when he was ten—and he speaks eloquently about how divorce imposed burdens on him and his other friends from divorced families. So what does he believe we can do about the rising number of children raised in fragmented families?

“I don’t think there’s a thing we can do about it,” Anthony told us. “And that’s kind of the American way—this is a free country, and free this and free that. But it’s your life, and not too many people care about other people’s lives. As long as it’s not theirs, they don’t care.” The result of that attitude, however, is loneliness and helplessness in the face of an urgent social problem.

I’ll say more in my next post about how psychological and financial challenges undermine working-class young adults’ aspirations for lifelong marriage.

This essay is adapted from a talk that David Lapp gave at the World Youth Alliance.


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Desperate times, desperate measures ?

June 28, 2014 Leave a comment


Social Services, adoptions and child abuse – some of the intertwined causes and consequences


There’s a lot wrong with our Family Court system – and some of us would be the last people to support it – but what are we expecting of social workers and what can they do if not to seek, on occasion,  action through the courts ?

What do we want courts to do – or not do – when faced with safeguarding a child’s life and future happiness ? Do we want them to leave well alone so another child might meet a grisly fate ? Or do we want Social Services and the courts to intervene on our behalf to save other children from an abusive environment ?

Certainly the track record is littered with notorious failures – but is that because we don’t hear of the successes, and is it a truism personified that only bad news is good enough to make ‘the news’ ?

For those unfamiliar with the numbers, in recent days (23rd June 2014) the BBC published a story concerning ‘thousands of mothers’ who had multiple babies removed from them. It added that court records showed that 7,143 mothers were involved in repeat care cases, and said to be “affecting 22,790 children.” [1]

However, those “thousands of mothers” were measured over a 10 year period, so an annual average would be in the region of 714 mothers. Of course, even if one (or ten),  mothers had been forcibly deprived of their children it would be too many but firstly, there has to be a reason why; and secondly such a deprivation happens on an industrial scale to fathers whose partners decides to leave them.

Over 60%

The public is slowly coming around to the belief that it’s not just fathers who are violent to children. More children meet abuse and even untimely deaths at the hands of their mother than their father, and this fact is no longer seen as incredulous.

LorraineOnly this month, the life story and successful TV career of  chef Lorraine Pascale epitomised that it is often mothers that pose the gravest risk to children.

Right: chef Lorraine Pascale

Mothers are the parents that were more likely to call Social Services saying they can no longer cope; most often didn’t care or want to care; didn’t want ‘the bother’ of having their kids around;  couldn’t cope because of their addiction; and who vented all their inner frustrations on the kids. Such abuse and or neglect accounts for 62% of all children taken into care. The question is never posed nor answered as to exactly where these 62% of children materialise from but it is fairly safe to assume they are from mothers rather than fathers. That Lorraine Pascale – probably in common with far too many children growing up in one of the above scenarios – survived and even flourished is a testament to inner strength, the human spirit, good foster parents and probably ‘luck.’

Drugs, alcohol and violence have all been synonymous with men of a certain type– or at least that’s how it used to be seen. Now that women are more equal than they have ever been before (apparently), they are adopting the ‘laddette’ culture and the same lack of social morality once associated with the ‘cavalier’ attitude of some, but not all, men.  Is it any surprise that such low standards are  crossing the threshold into motherhood ?

Similarly, it is not all women but just ‘some’ women who are responsible for a doubling in serous female violence, physical assaults, for the surge in female prisoner numbers and a host of other ‘socially’ based pathologies.

Currently there are more than 15,000 children in “care”, in one form or another in England & Wales. Some are in foster care while  others are in local authority residential care, and some are awaiting adoption (ref. Channel 4, April 2014).  On average, one child is taken into care every 20 minutes in Britain (ref. Channel 4, April 2014). This probably is the result of  a series of major child abuse scandals involving neglect, starvation and/or torture headlined over the recent years which has forced Social Services to act more frequently in what might have been seen as marginal cases.

According to the Department of Education, one in every 166 children in the UK is in ”care’, and their overall figure is much higher than Channel 4’s focused examination,  showing 68,110 children to be ‘in care.’ (There are 4,310 who are under one year old. The gender divide is 37,510 boys and 30,600  girls and of these, 50,900 children are in foster care. This represents 75% of all children in care and is a constantly, if slow, rising figure  (  Sept 2013).

Foster care is by far the cheaper of the options but even this costs the tax-payer around £21,000 per child, per year,  i.e.  £390 p/w x 52  is the payment made to foster parents for each child (and that is excluding all the child and mother state benefits).  However,  even this cheaper option annually costs the taxpayer over £1 bn (£1,050,000,000).  From the same Dept of Education statistics we learned that 6,000 “looked after children” are allocated care in 1/. secure units, 2/. children’s homes and 3/. hostels.

Somewhere in the region of 9,000 children are  waiting at any one time to be adopted in the five years up to 2013, a number which  is twice what it was five years earlier, but only around 3,000 are actually adopted annually.

Destructive mothers

Social Services, by reputation, are associated with snatching children away from well-intentioned but unlucky parents (i.e. mothers). The assumption is usually that the intervention is being done for the wrong reasons, but we cannot simply assume that the parent(s) concerned is either well-intentioned or unlucky. Some mothers, no matter how few, do represent a danger to their children because they are deemed incompetent, inept or for a variety of reason pathologically unsuitable (see also psychiatric dimension, In such circumstances Social Services can’t stand idly by.

But equally, nor can we be misled with statements such as this:

  • “Researchers found children were taken away from their parents by local authorities in more than 90% of cases.”

The “90% of cases” sounds a deliciously devised tit-bit for newspapers – but 90% of what ? The total female population, or just of questionable mothers ? Sadly, in the BBC article quoting the researchers of the two universities, Manchester and Brunel, who carried out the study, it does not say. [2]

But what is highly relevant is the information that it backs up what judges have noticed in their own courts for some years, namely that “many mothers are stuck in a destructive cycle of pregnancies and care proceedings” to remove the child from its mother.

This, of course, does not come as a total surprise to some of us. It’s not just judges who believe many mothers are trapped in a ‘destructive cycle’ (of pregnancies and care proceedings); many of us who have spent years scrutinising the numbers believe it extends into other areas such as false allegations (see below for the age grouping). Some of us have felt this to be the case for many years but, because the information was from gleaned from tangential sources and not direct data, it could only be a supposition. Now for the first time exact data has been produced to underscore our deduced misgivings.

The report says that Family Court judges find that owing to abuse or neglect they have felt they have no alternative but to “remove” a young child or baby from a mother, i.e. putting the baby into foster care or residential care. But in this 90% subset, judges are finding themselves “removing” a new baby (and still found unable to care for the infant), a year or two later.

Nicholas Crichton, a retired family court judge and one of the more fair-minded ones, said recently:

  • “The work of the family courts for years has been removing the second, the third, the fourth child from the same mother. Not infrequently the sixth, the seventh, or the eighth.”
  • “In one case I’ve removed the 14th and I know two judges that have removed the 15th children from the same mother.”

NicholasMost of these mothers misuse drink or drugs – or both. And according to the research, half the women involved are 24, or below, at the time of the first care application, i.e. “the removal”, with the youngest mother being aged only 14. in such instances their babies are often removed quickly, at birth or soon afterwards.

Right: retired family court judge Nicholas Crichton

Assuming that the first birth was at the age of 14, then by the time the 15th child had been delivered it can be estimated that the woman must be aged no younger than 30, and more likely 35.

The age category or the subset of single women aged ‘under-25’ figures prominently in reports of domestic violence, child abuse, claims of sexual assaults and false rape allegation trials (i.e. “Perverting the course of justice).

Our own research into the available data long ago indicated that the most common constants (defence pleas), in care proceedings, e.g. child abuse by adults and false rape allegations, appeared to be a misuse of drink or drugs (or both), and/or mental health problems, e.g. bi-polar conditions etc. Terrie Moffitt has done a great deal of mainstream research in the area of ‘Comorbidity’ – but much of it is overlooked by the mainstream media (and is completely unknown in some legal circles). So it is gratifying to see suppositions confirmed.

70% of some mothers ?

Dr Karen Broadhurst, of the University of Manchester, and lead author of the research, told the BBC that:

  • ” . . . . in approximately 42% of cases, infants were subject to care proceedings within a month of their birth, which is an important finding”.
  • “We know that in 70% of cases infants were subject to proceedings within the first year of their life, which obviously leaves the mother with very little time to turn her life around.”

What a curious phrase to use,  “. . .  leaves the mother with very little time to turn her life around.” The unvarnished truth is that the mother should not have put herself, or let herself fall,  into such a position in the lead-up to her becoming pregnant, and having become pregnant she has 9 months in which to make changes. if asked we would probably be told these women lacked self-esteem and had poor levels of confidence. But what they most probably lacked was self-control, inner-strength, resolve and/or were poorly educated or ‘challenged’ in the same general direction  (one has to be so careful these days not to use expressions like,  “Not the sharpest tool in the box”).

Concrete numbers are not so misleading as quoting percentages; so is the 70% referring to the total sample or to just the 42% mentioned in the line above ?

Dr Karen Broadhurst also said the time intervals between care proceedings were short for these mothers.

  • “We think there is an average of 17 months between the first time a young mother appears in court with an infant and the second time she appears in court with another infant.”
  • “It suggests to us there’s a very short interval between pregnancies, which gives mums very little time to engage in their own rehab.”

Or it could indicate she is a hopeless case, or has no intention of turning her life around.

Women who transgress society’s ‘norms’ are immediately flagged up as in need of our help – this never happens to men. They are just banged-up in jail – no one ‘cares’ why they did what they did. No where is this dichotomy in societal treatment more visible than in Dr Broadhurst subsequent remarks. She believes the research demonstrates the need for family courts to change their approach, to help these women change their behaviour.

  • “We also need to get better at ensuring those young parents can access the treatment that’s recommended within the family court.”

Both Social Services and child abuse have been high on the political Agenda for some time past. Combine the two elements and there’s suddenly a heady mixture irresistible to Tabloid newspapers and, to a growing extent, TV documentaries that are really no more than glorified theatre.

By contrast, the programme about Lorraine Pascale’s childhood was stirring;  it opened the lid (for her and for us, her public) on an all too often closed box.

The fact that like many other children, she survived her ordeal and even flourished should not be taken as a signal to do nothing in extreme cases. But it does beg the question, what defines extreme cases ? That is the conundrum.



 ‘Immense’ cost of family breakdown


Retired judge Nicholas Crichton set up, in 2008, the pioneering Family Drug & Alcohol Court (FDAC) in central London.

The Nuffield funded research found the FDAC had helped 35% of mothers become reunited with their children, compared with 19% in the ordinary family courts.

The FDAC has its own team of experts, doctors, therapists and expert social workers from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and the children’s charity Coram.

Most parents in care cases have problems with drugs or alcohol. The FDAC’s team helps them kick their addictions and teaches them how to be better parents.

It is funded by London local authorities who recognised the benefits outweighed the cost of keeping children in care, even though the cost of the FDAC court is higher than that of the ordinary family court.

This spring the president of the family court, Sir James Munby, praised the court and said: “FDAC is – it must be – a vital component in the new family court.” He has said there should be a FDAC in every family court in England.

Nicholas Crichton believes the new research underlines the need for the expansion of projects which help parents break the destructive cycle.

  • “The emotional cost to those families, and to their children, is immense but the financial cost to the taxpayer is immense as well and we really have to find a different way of dealing with these cases.”





[1] See “Thousands of mothers have multiple babies removed”

[2] Funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

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Single-parent families – psychiatric illnesses

April 5, 2012 Leave a comment

When people write that marriage is ‘dead’ they should recall these figures from a Swedish survey (circa 2004).

  • “About 60,000 were living with their mother and about 5,500 with their father. There were 921,257 living with both parents”

Dear RW,  for years experts and researchers have debated whether children from broken homes are permanently damaged, or bounce back and make up lost ground, or whether they are more likely than kids whose parents stay together to develop serious emotional problems.

‘Study Says Broken Homes Harm Kids More’


from the ASSOCIATED PRESS, London

Jan 24th 2003

Children growing up in single-parent families are twice as likely as their counterparts to develop serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions later in life, according to an important new study.

Researchers have for years debated whether children from broken homes bounce back or whether they are more likely than kids whose parents stay together to develop serious emotional problems.

Experts say the latest study, published this week in The Lancet medical journal, is important mainly because of its unprecedented scale and follow-up – it tracked about 1 million children for a decade, into their mid-20s.

The question of why and how those children end up with such problems remains unanswered. The study suggests that financial hardship may play a role, but other experts say the research also supports the view that quality of parenting could be a factor.

The study used the Swedish national registries, which cover almost the entire population and contain extensive socio-economic and health information. Children were considered to be living in a single-parent household if they were living with the same single adult in both the 1985 and 1990 housing census. That could have been the result of divorce, separation, death of a parent, out of wedlock birth, guardianship or other reasons.

About 60,000 were living with their mother and about 5,500 with their father. There were 921,257 living with both parents. The children were aged between 6 and 18 at the start of the study, with half already in their teens.

The scientists found that children with single parents were twice as likely as the others to develop a psychiatric illness such as severe depression or schizophrenia, to kill themselves or attempt suicide, and to develop an alcohol-related disease.

Girls were three times more likely to become drug addicts if they lived with a sole parent, and boys were four times more likely.

The researchers concluded that financial hardship, which they defined as renting rather than owning a home and as being on welfare, made a big difference.

However, other experts questioned the financial influence, saying Swedish single mothers are not poor when compared with those in other countries, and suggested that quality of parenting could also be a factor.

  • “It makes you think that what you’re seeing is just the most dysfunctional families having these problems, rather than the low income. The money is really an indicator of something else.”

So said Sara McLanahan, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, who was not involved in the study, adding:

  • “If you really thought that it was the income that makes the difference, you would think that Swedish lone mothers would do a lot better than the British or those in the U.S., but they look very similar.”


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Why get married ?

December 2, 2011 Leave a comment

When the average cost of a marriage in Britain (in 2011) is £20,000 it is surprising that anyone gets married at all.

And when the cost of divorce – which is highly likely these days for half of couples – can see all the money and property built-up confiscated by the court in the divorce settlement, one has to ask how much dumber can men become ?

Long gone are the days when the bride’s family paid for the wedding and reception. For a significant minority (circa 40%) the modern bride has no family – only a single mother. As the first flush of easy no-fault divorce catches up with the next generation it exacts a price from the children of the liberated women.

Today it is more likely to be a mixture of the groom’s family – usually his father – and the couple themselves financing the cost of a wedding. The father of the bride will have either re-married and his commitment to his new family will have generated a new priority. Alternatively, the bride will have lost touch with her real father as her mother’s PAS (parental alienation syndrome) was allowed to fester and drove him away.

So for many couples the only economic solution is cohabiting. A Registry Office wedding, once so fashionable in the 1960s is today just as much the opposite, very unfashionable. Rich or poor, girls want the white wedding and a Registry Office wedding, is seen as a cheap skate option. They feel cheated out of their day in the limelight.

When every discussion in all our media regardless of topic during this ‘recession’ boils down to money – and whether we can afford Plan A rather then Plan B – shouldn’t marriage be part of the discussion ?

From history we know that single motherhood is economically not viable in any circumstances and never has been. Parish records of the 16th and 17th century show that it was a burden every Warden dreaded.

Working 16 hours a week and yet still claiming benefits yields no net revenue to the Exchequer and even working 30 hours a week, single mothers are a gross drain, i.e. the value they pay into society never comes close to the value they take out of society.

The obvious solution is to cohabit but this has its own dangers that are slowly emerging.

Government departments – never the sharpest tool in the box – can’t understand why so many couples are choosing not to marry. The brightest among them don’t want to contemplate thatpeople actually do thing for money. Yes, they understand people go out to work for wages but marriage is different they rationalise – surely they don’t alter their social habits for money ?

Sadly they do. The living apart together fraternity proves this reality. By 2005 this category was officially recognised (see the work of John Haskey, Population Trends, ONS). LAT (living apart together) are made up of mothers who claim additional state benefits for being lone mothers whom they would lose if they admitted that they were actually living with a man. The other negative aspect is that they occupy two addresses when one would suffice.

In “Conflation of marriage and cohabitation” (Sept 2006, p 12), Benson asks whether women who now self-describe themselves as “closely involved” with a male partner aren’t actually being influenced by the language of welfare policy ?

The male partner in the LAT couple might be unemployed or he might be in employment but either way his income is hidden from assessment by the state benefit authorities and effectively the Treasury is being defrauded.

This is a variation on the unintended consequences of AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children, launched in 1935) in the US where the programme’s ‘aid’ was paid only to families with no father was living in the house, prompting poor families to separate in order to qualify. Inadvertently it dispossessed many low income fathers, mostly Black Americans. This left children to grow up without a father present and resulted in poorer ‘outcomes’ at school, behaviourally, and at work. After many decades it was replaced in 1996 by TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families).

The ‘social costs’ of correcting unruly and criminal behaviour in later life and investing in yet more prisons also runs into billions of pounds. The cost of insurance for everyday items of the ordinary tax-payer, his house his car, has increased by billions.

When spending on state benefits runs into billions of pounds a year something in the region of one billion might be saved if some of these situations were modulated or did not exist.

The cost of divorce, over and above what each party has to pay, costs the tax-payer over a billion pounds every year. This one billion pounds finances courts, judges, land title transfers, expert witnesses, police time, social services, children homes, welfare reports, etc, etc.  One way of reducing government expenditure currently under discussion is to slash spending on the legal aid scheme. Two high-profile areas which will be affected are divorces and custody awards.

Under the present Coalition government expenditure on this scale is legitimately in the cross-hairs for eradication. The subsequent social unrest, hardship and general disquiet of slashing such services, while economically justified, can only be imagined.

The potential for saving that could easily double the money now spent on trying to curb unruly behaviour or fund the lifestyles of those defrauding the tax payer might be to look again, but in a professional and adult way, marriage.

Government subsidies used to exist for those prepared to invest in one another by marrying. Since the 1970s those subsidies have been slowly erased in a string of Budgets to fund other more fashionable programmes.

Overseas, Commonwealth countries since 1945, and perhaps earlier, prioritised newly arrived couples and provided subsidies for them to buy their new home. These governments were investing in their own future and wealth by investing in newly married couples. This official endorsement was good for the economy, stimulating house building, car buying and a plethora of support industries.

In fact, very much along the same lines that the Coalition announced in Nov 2011 the return of the 95% mortgage for house building: [1]

“First-time buyers trying to raise a deposit to get a foot on the housing ladder are to receive a helping hand from taxpayers.  

The Coalition today launched a scheme to underwrite mortgages worth hundreds of millions of pounds for new homes.  

The Prime Minister promised tough action to help young people own their own home. Many are finding it impossible to get a loan because banks demand deposits of 20 per cent from first-time buyers.”

In the US when the West was opened up, promises of land brought forth a flood of people.
If it is perfectly reasonable and sensible to promote and even subsidise house building for young couples it must be equally reasonable to provide subsidies for marriage, especially when the known ‘outcomes’ are so much better, in terms of wealth creation, psychologically, socially and econionically (for the both the Treasury and the couple).

To do nothing and allow cohabiting to become the de fault position is to plunge helter-skelter into uncharted waters. Some of the reasons why cohabiting is dangerous are shown below but above these 2006 considerations are the changes  mooted in 2010 to allow cohabiting women – but not men – the same rights of property adjustment, ie confiscation, as married women when they separated

Extract from Benson’s paper:

“Conflation of marriage and cohabitation” 2006  

There are a variety of factors that are not shared by married and cohabiting couples.

The basis used in Benson’s paper was the Millennium Cohort Study which is a large scale longitudinal birth cohort study conducted within the four countries of theUnited Kingdom.

The survey contains a wide range of information about 18,819 babies and their parents in 18,553 families. Parents of babies born between September 2000 and January 2002 were interviewed for the first sweep when their babies were 9 months old and for the second sweep when their babies were 3 years old.

Wald numbers (a statistical technique) suggest marital status and age are more important than income, education, race or welfare. Table 4 shows how marital status, age, income education, ethnic group and welfare each independently and significantly influence the risk of family breakdown.

  • Marital status. The odds of a cohabiting couple with a young child splitting up are more than twice that of a married couple of equivalent age, income, education, ethnic group and benefits.
  • Age. The odds of a couple in their teens and 20s splitting up are twice that of a couple in their 30s, independent of other factors.
  • Education. The odds of couples with less education splitting are higher that for those with more education, although therelationship between risk and education level is not entirely linear.
  • Income. The odds of a couple with the lowest family income – less than £15,600 – splitting up are 44% more than that of couples. However rising income does not appear to be a protective factor above this level.
  • Ethnic group. The odds of black mothers splitting up are twice those of white mothers, independent of other factors.  Asian mothers are most likely to stay together.
  • Welfare. The odds of splitting up are 33% higher for those on benefits.
  • Birth order. Whether the child is the first or subsequent birth is not a factor.

[1] “Deposits ‘to be slashed’ as Cameron unveils £400m plan to help first-time buyers” 21st Nov 2011

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