Reading parts of the British Social Attitudes 24th Report, published today by the National Centre for Social Research, reminds me of those in the past who insisted the world was flat, despite any evidence to the contrary.
- Two-thirds of people (66%) think there is little difference socially between being married and living together.
- Only one in four people (28%) think married couples make better parents than unmarried ones.
People may like to think there is little difference socially between marriage and cohabitation or that unmarried couples provide parenting as good as married ones, but the facts do not support such misplaced impressions. As I have noted previously, children born to married parents have significantly better chances in life than those born to unmarried parents: just 8% of married couples split up within five years of the birth of a child compared to 25% of those who marry after birth and 52% of cohabitees. The evidence increasingly shows that children born to married parents tend to be physically and mentally healthier than other children, less accident-prone, and less likely to self-harm. They perform better in school, become sexually active at a later age, are less likely to have behavioural problems, suffer depression, or turn to drugs, smoking or heavy drinking, or to become involved in criminal activities. Furthermore, children from cohabiting households are 33 times more likely to suffer serious abuse than where the child lives with married parents and children under two have a 100 times greater risk of being killed by step-parents than by genetic parents.
Perhaps this is why other surveys indicate that 94% of teenage girls want to get married by the time they are 25, 89% want to get married before they have children, and half of sexually active teenage girls say they regret the experience.