Welcome to this week’s UK Marriage News – a
double edition this week after our Internet problems last week – so a big cup of
coffee needed – it’s a long one!
Bleak prospects for teens who
never marry, finds The Marriage Foundation
For a Lasting Marriage, Try
Marrying Someone Your Own Age
next 35 years!
Bleak prospects for teens who
never marry, finds The Marriage Foundation
A report from the think tank dedicated to building stronger families,
Marriage Foundation, has found a stark division between teenagers predicted
to marry and those who will never tie the knot. Overall, two thirds of women who
get married and have children remain with the father for life. Among women who
never marry, just one in ten will avoid splitting from their
The huge variance in odds of family breakdown between married and
unmarried is even clearer with the younger generation. Far fewer 20 year olds
are predicted to marry than the previous generation. Only 52 per cent of 20 year
olds will marry compared to 68 per cent of 40 year olds.
This is despite the fact 75 per cent of teenagers want to get married
at some stage. Of the 52 per cent of 20 year old women predicted to at some
stage marry and have children, 34 per cent will have avoided the break-up of
their family by their child’s fifteenth birthday. This compares starkly to only
5 per cent of the 48 per cent of 20 year olds who will never marry staying with
their partners until their child hit their mid-teens.
Author of the Marriage
Foundation report, Harry Benson, commented: “This is bleak news for the next
generation. Despite the fact that the huge majority of teenagers want to get
married, only half will do so. They themselves will miss out of the greater
stability marriage provides, but the ramifications will be felt most by their
own children, who face high odds of growing up without a mother or father at
home. Single parents do an astonishing job, bringing up children
single-handedly, but I think few people would choose this situation for
themselves or suggest that it is easier for the children. Moreover the process
of family breakdown is very damaging for all concerned. Children from broken
families are more likely to be involved in truancy, juvenile delinquency,
joblessness and depression. Currently family breakdown costs the Exchequer
around £46 billion a year. That’s the equivalent to the entire defence budget. I
don’t see how the country will afford the steep rise of this bill that this
increase of broken families will bring over the next few years.”
The previous generation, now in their forties, were much more likely
to get married. They have remained in an intact couple throughout their
children’s adolescence in far greater numbers. Of the 68 per cent of 40 year
olds who have married or will marry at some stage, 45 per cent will still be
married to the father when their child completes their GCSE exams. For the 32
per cent of forty year old women who will never marry, only 3 per cent who have
children will remain with the father until their child reaches
Sir Paul Coleridge, Chairman of the Marriage Foundation commented: “I
am profoundly saddened looking at these forecast outcomes for the next
generation. “Forty years spent working in the family courts has shown me the
sheer pain and human suffering of family breakdown for everyone concerned – the
children and parents obviously, but also aunts, uncles, grandparents and
friends. I fear it will only get worse as fewer and fewer children will know
what it is to have stable, married parents at home as they grow up. We are
facing a crisis of confidence in the institution of marriage. We must do
something to stem the tide of family breakdown. A boost to the currently pitiful
married tax allowance in next month’s Autumn Statement would be a good
Marriage becoming 'preserve of the
Marriage is rapidly becoming the preserve of the wealthy, twice as
common among those safely in the top tax bracket as among the least well-off says
the Telegraph. Since 2001 those in the top social class, which includes
company directors, military officers and university lecturers, have gone from
being 24 per cent more likely to be married to 50 per cent more likely, figures
from the Office for National Statistics show. By the time they have children,
nine in 10 of the wealthiest Britons are married. However, for those on the
minimum wage or less, the figure is about half.
Last night Christian Guy, director of the Centre for Social Justice
said: “Marriage has become a preserve of the better off. That means we have much
less stability throughout the population. “We have had a benefits system which
says not just don’t get married, but don’t bother getting together. You are
better off financially if you live apart. The cost of getting married is also
putting people off having a wedding.”
He said parents are children are now more likely to be co-habiting
than married, which led to less stability and meant children in those
relationships were less able to flourish."
Fraser Nelson, the editor of The
Spectator, which obtained the latest figures, said that half of British
babies were now born to unmarried parents. “A marriage gap that barely existed a
generation or two ago has managed to double in the last decade with a minimum of
public debate. Somehow marriage, with all the advantages that it confers, is
becoming the preserve of the rich,” he writes.
ONS divides workers into seven social categories. At the bottom comes “routine
occupations” such as cleaners, builders and waiters. There is also an eighth
category for the long-term unemployed.
(See also this comment
piece from the Daily Mail which suggests root of problems lie in Welfare
Free relationship counselling for
parents to rescue marriages
New parents will be given relationship counselling by health visitors
under government plans to instil “basic concepts such as love, compassion and
trust” and prevent marriage breakdown, Iain Duncan Smith has said reports
the Telegraph. The Work and Pensions Secretary said ministers would next
year announce guidance for all health visitors on how to “recognise and respond
to the signs of relationship difficulties”. It is part of a drive by Mr Duncan
Smith to prevent marriage breakdown and divorce, and give children “the best
start in life” by ensuring they are in a “stable family”.
Mr Duncan Smith said that since the Coalition was formed, more than
48,000 couples had participated in relationship counselling and nearly 160,000
people had taken up preventative relationship support, which tries to help
couples understand what hurdles they may face together. The Department for Work
and Pensions (DWP) said health visitors were “well-placed to identify signs of
relationship distress and signpost to appropriate support”.
“Couples might be reluctant to seek formal support when they first
experience relationship difficulties but may approach trusted professionals they
are already working with such as health visitors,” a source said.
Mr Duncan Smith hailed the Government’s “social justice” reforms in a
speech on Tuesday. “For too long, family breakdown, debt, educational failure,
addiction and worklessness have been carried as intractable problems,” he said.
“Working together, social justice breaks this illusion, instilling basic
concepts such as love, compassion and trust. Above all, it is underpinned by the
belief that no one is beyond our reach and that no one should be written
In a report released on Tuesday, the DWP said the Coalition wanted to
ensure it was supporting “sustainable and healthy parental relationships”. “We
have re-established families as a vital priority for this Government and
signalled our commitment to strong and stable relationships. Through the breadth
of support available we will do all we can to support sustainable and healthy
parental relationships, and to help parents give their children the best start,”
As well as the health visitors giving counselling, all antenatal
services will include relationship advice on the potential stresses of having
children. “Achieving meaningful change in this area is no small task,” the DWP
report said. “The causes of relationship breakdown are complex, and the decline
in the stability of family relationships over the last four decades is the
result in part of changing demographics, and long-term economic and social
trends. “However, given the role that stable families play in giving children
the best start in life, government cannot ignore the implications of family
breakdown, and has an important role to play in supporting strong and stable
Key online safety vote likely in
the Lords this week
The current self-regulatory approach to protecting children on-line
is not working. Baroness Howe of
Idlicote has tabled an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill, based on her
Online Safety Bill, which addresses the current failings. The amendment is hugely important. The key issues addressed by this
amendment are outlined at safeonline.org.uk which
has been produced by Mediawatch-UK.
You may also be interested to read
a speech given this week by Baroness Howe in which she raised some of her
concerns about the protection of children online and urges the Government to
£19 million support fund set up
for adoptive families
The Department for Education has established a £19 million support
fund for adoptive families reports Family Law
Week. The new funding will be available to help adoptive families across the
country settle their children into their new home. The Adoption Support Fund –
to be rolled out nationwide from May 2015 after pilots across 10 councils – will
help pay for essential therapy services for adoptive families as and when they
The DfE says that many adopted children have experienced difficult
and traumatic experiences before being placed with their adoptive family, which
can prevent them from settling into their new home and can create difficulties
at particular stages such as adolescence. Services such as behavioural therapy,
play and music therapy, and family support sessions can help children come to
terms with their difficulties, giving them the confidence to build strong
relationships with their new family.
Minister for Children and Families Edward Timpson said: "I know as
much as anyone that children adopted from care have often lived through terrible
experiences which do not just simply disappear overnight once they have settled
with their new families. The new Adoption Support Fund will be a vital lifeline
for many adoptive families, helping them to access specialist support services
when their family needs them most. I also hope today's news reassures all
adoptive families, from those who have been adopting for years to those just at
the beginning of the journey, that if challenges do arise they will not be left
on their own to muddle through – support will be there every step of the
Support from the fund will be available after the adoption court
order and can be used to purchase services from the private and voluntary
sector, as well as councils and Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
The government will fully fund the Adoption Support Fund in the first year,
whilst committing in the long term to the pot being jointly funded by councils
Hugh Thornbery, CEO of Adoption UK and Chair of the Adoption Support
Fund Expert Advisory Group, said: “Adoption UK welcomes the minister's
announcement of the rollout of the Adoption Support Fund from 1 May 2015. We are
pleased that the government has risen to the challenge and we are now in a
position where we better understand and can meet the challenges faced by
adoptive families. Because of their early childhood experiences, many adopted
children may have additional needs. The role adoptive parents play in
re-parenting these vulnerable children is massively important."
and Public Opinion
For a Lasting Marriage, Try
Marrying Someone Your Own Age
There are many predictors of the success of a marriage, among them
the having of money, the having of children, and the length of time a couple
spends dating before they tie the knot says
the Atlantic. Another big predictor, though, is age: The closer a couple is
when it comes to their respective birth years, the greater their chances of
That's according to a study that compiled polling data from more than
3,000 recently married and divorced Americans. The study used a multivariate
model to calculate the factors that seemed to best predict the marriage's
chances of success. (Or, at any rate, its chances of not ending in divorce.) Its
results were visualized by the data scientist Randy Olson, who created a series
of charts to illustrate the study's findings. Today, Olson released another set
of visuals—the most intriguing of which focuses on the matter of the age gap. A
one-year discrepancy in a couple's ages, the study found, makes them 3 percent
more likely to divorce (when compared to their same-aged counterparts); a 5-year
difference, however, makes them 18 percent more likely to split up. And a
10-year difference makes them 39 percent more likely.
Once you enter large-gap territory—the 20-year difference, the
30-year difference—the odds of divorce are ... almost never in your
If your partner happens to
be 15 years older or younger than you are, that's not automatically a bad omen:
Statistics, of course, are not destiny. But, as predictors, the study's findings
stand to reason. Marriage is, above all, about 50-50 partnership; differences in
ages also mean differences in life experience and cultural reference points.
Generations may be an invention, but they are meaningful nonetheless. So, with
all the necessary caveats about love's vagaries and mysteries, if you want a
marriage that lasts, you should probably try to marry someone your own age.
Is your relationship moving toward
marriage? If it isn't, you probably can't admit it
Dating couples who have moved toward marriage over the course of
their relationship remember accurately what was going on at each stage of their
deepening commitment. But couples whose commitment to each other has stagnated
or regressed are far less accurate in their memories of their relationships,
says a new University of Illinois study reports
"People like to feel that they're making progress as a couple. If
they're not - if, in fact, the relationship is in trouble - they may have
distorted recollections that help them feel like they're moving forward because
they need a psychological justification to stay in the relationship," said Brian
G. Ogolsky, a U of I professor of human development and family
The researchers expected to find some distortion in romantic
partners' memories. "One theory was that recollections might be higher across
the board because people like to remember the best possible course of their
relationships. But, as we looked at couples' actual experiences and compared
relationships that were developing in a positive direction with those that were
not, we saw that the accuracy of their memories diverged rather sharply. It's
fascinating how memory works in couples," he noted.
Ogolsky said that both findings - that highly committed people
remember their relationship history accurately and that couples in trouble don't
- are important. "When a couple is considering making a lifelong commitment,
they have a lot at stake. It's important that they have accurate recollections
of how their relationship evolved," Ogolsky said. But, if a couple's
relationship is undergoing a slow and painful death, it no longer serves their
purpose to remember the course of the romance accurately. To avoid constant
disappointment, they misremember how things are going, he noted.
The nine-month study followed 232 never-married heterosexual couples
who had dated for just over two years on average. Each member of the couple
reported on their chances of marrying, being careful to take their partner's
views into consideration. Each month, participants rated their chances of
marriage from 0 to 100 percent, and researchers plotted a graph from the
results. At the end of the study, participants reflected on their entire
relationship to see how their recollections matched up with
The researchers looked at the actual and remembered trajectories of
three groups: advancers, who had gone on to a deeper state of involvement;
maintainers, who may have been casually dating at both the beginning and the end
of the study; and regressers, who had reverted from serious to casual dating or
had broken up and gotten back together again. "Couples who had deepened their
commitment remembered their relationship history almost perfectly. The graphs
for this group were really interesting because the plot of the end-of-study
recollection could be placed right on top of the one we had graphed from the
monthly check-ins," Ogolsky said.
Maintainers recalled their relationship as being lower at the
beginning than they had reported yet higher at the end. "They had given
themselves some room to grow and remembered the recent past as better than they
had reported it being. If they saw maintenance as stagnation, that's a way of
addressing that cognitive gap. It helps them feel that their relationship is
developing in some way -- that they're making progress," he
The most interesting group
was the regressers, Ogolsky said. "If we looked at their history as they
reported it to us over the nine-month period, we could see that their chances of
marriage were plummeting. Yet their recollection was that things had been going
okay. Of course, they hadn't seen the graph so they didn't know their trajectory
looks this dire, but it's fair to say they were in denial about the state of
A fifth of over-50s say they
married the wrong person... and one in ten put falling in love again on their
Almost a fifth of over-50s think they married the wrong person - more
than chose the wrong career or didn't spend enough time with their children reports
the Daily Mail. Picking the wrong spouse has been exposed as one of Britons'
biggest regrets in a new survey on the silent traumas of empty-nesters. It was
the third most common, beaten only by the number of people who wished they had
seen more of the world (23 per cent) or saved more for retirement (19 per cent).
But there is some hope - as almost half of those questioned (45 per cent) feel
more youthful than their parents' generation was, and 12 per cent have 'falling
in love again' on their bucket list.
The online survey, which quizzed 1,000 people over 50 about their top
ten regrets, did not reveal how many of the respondents were still with their
spouses. Some regrets were heavily laden with emotion - 17 per cent said they
never told their parents how much they meant to them, while 15 per cent did not
spend enough time with their children or worried too much about what others
thought. Others were more predictable. A sixth of the participants (16 per cent)
chose the wrong career and another 16 per cent spent too much of their lives at
work. Another sixth (15 per cent) wished they had learned to play a musical
instrument, or wanted to ask their grandparents more about life before they
The over-50s' bucket lists, meanwhile, read like a travel brochure of
one's dreams. The top ten responses included cruising the world, living abroad,
flying first class, swimming with dolphins and going on safari in Africa. There
are some more heartfelt ambitions too, however - a tenth of over-50s still want
to publish their first novel, and 14 per cent are yearning for grandchildren.
Martin Lock, chief executive of lifestyle website Silversurfers,
which commissioned the study, said the lack of saving for pensions was worrying.
'The over 50s have reached a point where they feel more confident about
themselves,' he said. 'However, our research shows they may not have the money
to really enjoy these years.'
High-fliers can afford more
babies, study says
Highly educated women are having more children than those who left
education earlier because they can afford child care and household help, a new
study suggests reports
the Telegraph. In previous generations women with university degrees tended
to have fewer children because they pursued careers and put off starting a
family for longer.
But a new study suggests that women at the top of the ladder are now
earning so much money that they can afford enough help to have more children,
even if they continue their careers.
Economists Moshe Hazan and Hosny Zoabi, of Tel Aviv University,
Israel, found that while fertility rates among American women with some form of
college education have largely stagnated over the last 30 years, among women
with advanced degrees they have risen by more than 50 per cent . American women
without any form of high-school diploma have a fertility rate of 2.24 children.
Among women with a high-school diploma the fertility rate falls to 2.09 and for
women with some form of college education it drops to 1.78.
However, among women with college degrees, the economists found the
fertility rate rises to 1.88 and among women with advanced degrees to 1.96. In
1980 women who had studied for 16 years or more had a fertility rate of just
Hazan said highly educated women were more likely to be able to
afford help that allowed them to raise larger-than-average families. "You have a
nanny, people to pick up your laundry and suits, buy you food from the local
store for you to cook for dinner, and you can leave all the mess to the
housekeeper in the morning," he said.
Although the research was carried out in the US, the team said it was
likely to apply to the UK where income inequality between the richest and
poorest is growing. Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of Netmums, the UK online
forum, said many women hope to have a third child but cannot afford it. "It's
the women who have good careers, who can afford a cleaner and a nanny who take
the stress out of their lives, who can have three children,” she
Ms Freegard said that the cost of childcare was so high in Britain
that large families were unachievable. The researchers also speculate that
highly educated women are increasingly benefiting from advances in fertility
treatment that enable them to spend more years at university without reducing
their chances of future parenthood. And there is already evidence that employers
are becoming aware that paying for such technology could help them attract
employees. Apple and Facebook are offering to freeze eggs for female employees
in an effort to attract more women on to their staff.
The research was published in the Economic Journal.
Bad marriage, broken
Older couples in a bad marriage - particularly female spouses - have
a higher risk for heart disease than those in a good marriage, finds the first
nationally representative study of its kind reports
Science Daily. The findings suggest the need for marriage counselling and
programs aimed at promoting marital quality and well-being for couples into
their 70s and 80s, said lead investigator Hui Liu, a Michigan State University
"Marriage counselling is focused largely on younger couples," said
Liu, associate professor of sociology. "But these results show that marital
quality is just as important at older ages, even when the couple has been
married 40 or 50 years."
The study, funded by the National Institute of Aging, an arm of the
National Institutes of Health, is published online in the Journal of Health and
Social Behaviour. Liu analyzed five years of data from about 1,200 married men
and women who participated the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project.
Respondents were aged 57-85 at the beginning of the study. The project included
survey questions about marital quality, and lab tests and self-reported measures
of cardiovascular health such as heart attacks, strokes, hypertension and high
levels of C-reactive protein in the blood.
Liu set out to learn how marital quality is related to risk of heart
disease over time, and whether this relationship varies by gender and/or age.
Among her findings:
Negative martial quality (e.g., spouse criticizes, spouse is
demanding) has a bigger effect on heart health than positive marital quality
(e.g., spousal support). In other words, a bad marriage is more harmful to your
heart health than a good marriage is beneficial.
The effect of marital quality on cardiovascular risk becomes much
stronger at older ages. Over time, the stress from a bad marriage may stimulate
more, and more intense, cardiovascular responses because of the declining immune
function and increasing frailty that typically develop in old age, Liu
Marital quality has a bigger effect on women's heart health than
it does on men's, possibly because women tend to internalize negative feelings
and thus are more likely to feel depressed and develop cardiovascular problems,
Heart disease leads to a decline in marital quality for women, but
not for men. This is consistent with the longstanding observation that wives are
more likely to provide support and care to sick husbands, while husbands are
less likely to take care of sick wives. "In this way, a wife's poor health may
affect how she assesses her marital quality, but a husband's poor health doesn't
hurt his view of marriage," Liu said.
Children of divorce 'more likely
to drink, fail exams, develop eating disorders and do
Children of divorced parents are more likely to get bad exam results,
drink, take drugs and develop eating disorders, a survey has shown reports
the Daily Mail. Nearly two thirds of children who saw the break-up of their
families claimed it had a negative effect on their GCSEs. One in eight said they
had used drugs or alcohol and almost a third said they ate more or less as a
The survey – commissioned by Resolution, a group that represents
6,500 family lawyers in England and Wales – looked at the experiences of 500
young people aged 14 to 22. Resolution chairman Jo Edwards told the Times that
the study had revealed just how far-reaching the impact of divorce can be. She
said: ‘The findings underline just how important it is that parents going
through a split manage their separation in a way that minimises the stress and
impact on the entire family.’ Each year, around 100,000 under-16s see their
parents break-up. Many suffer long-term effects associated with the pressure the
divorce process puts on them.
Of those surveyed, a third said that one parent had tried to turn
them against the other parent and more than 25 per cent said they had been
dragged into their parents’ arguments. Schooling is also adversely affected as
children struggle to complete their homework. Around 12 per cent admitted
skipping lessons and 11 per cent found themselves increasingly in trouble with
teachers as a result of a change in family circumstances.
Siôn Humphreys, a senior policy adviser at the National Association
of Head Teachers, said that education was suffering because teachers are not
trained to deal with the problem. She told the Times: ‘Teachers see day in, day
out, the impact separation can have. ‘It would not be unusual for the school to
be the first port of call to support the parent left holding the baby, but it is
not necessarily something teachers are specially trained for.’
Last month, EU statistics for 2012 revealed that British children are
more likely to be from single-parent families than anywhere else in Western
Europe. One in four now live with a lone mother or father, compared with around
one in six across the EU. The only EU country with a higher figure than Britain
was the eastern state of Latvia. We are now ahead of Belgium, Denmark, Ireland
and France, where the number of youngsters living with just one parent is
dropping – or rising more slowly.
Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation, has urged policy-makers to
take ‘essential’ steps in limiting the ‘host of negative social and economic
implications’ of divorce.
According to Harry Benson, Research Director of Marriage Foundation,
the worst effects tend to occur where there was less conflict before the
separation and more transitions afterwards.
“Where marriages are abusive or downright unpleasant, children are
often better off out. But the worst effects of divorce – according to research –
are felt by children whose parents didn’t argue much before the separation.
‘Mummy and daddy don’t love each other’ makes no sense to a child because it
comes out of the blue. Children then internalise the reason as being down to
them or to the unpredictable nature of relationships. This can then go on to
affect their own relationships in adult life.
“The other factor that damages children is the number of transitions
experienced post-divorce. New partners, new homes, new schools, all cause
disruption and confusion. Children not in either of these categories are much
more likely to cope.
Research by Marriage Foundation shows that half of all family
breakdown comes from parents who are not married. “For all the talk of divorce,
it’s vital to remember married for life remains the norm” says Benson. “For
couples who don’t marry, it’s the exception.”
One in thirty divorcees admit to
sleeping with their ex
One in five divorcees in England and Wales wish they had never got
divorced from their ex and 1 in 30 admit to having slept with their ex after the
divorce had been finalised according to a
study of 2,500 users of one of the UK’s largest divorce providers divorce-online.co.uk.
The survey found that many people admitted to sleeping with their ex
after the divorce had been concluded and even more astonishing was that a
significant proportion had been in a new relationship when they decided to roll
back the years and sleep with their ex.
1 in 30 of that then further admitted that they had slept with
their ex after divorcing each other.
1 in 10 of those who had slept with their ex while they were in a
Do you regret splitting up with your ex-spouse?
Have you had sexual relations with your spouse since
Have you had sexual relations with your ex-spouse whilst in a new
Where respondents to the survey had indicated they had slept with
their ex, the 3 most common reasons given, in order were.
Missed having sexual relations
They wanted to get back at their new partner Loneliness and wanting to
get back at a new partner were more common among women whereas men indicated
that they missed having sex.
Could parenting coaching for
expectant couples deliver healthier babies?
Stress and depression in pregnant women are linked to poor birth
outcomes and a variety of long-term medical and developmental problems in
Prevention Action. Typical interventions focus on treating the mother’s
stress, and leave the father out of the picture. But a program that takes a
different approach – aiming to improve the parents’ relationship and
co-parenting abilities – shows encouraging results.
High stress levels during pregnancy pose a risk for babies because
high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are linked to early labour. Early
labour, in turn, can produce other difficulties, such as low birth weight and
complications that require longer hospital stays.
Could a program “designed to prepare couples to enter parenthood
together in a supportive manner” help improve birth outcomes? A recent study of
the Family Foundations program found that the program did not improve average
outcomes among a group of relatively advantaged couples. But women who started
the program with high levels of stress saw better outcomes for their children at
birth than a comparison group – suggesting that couples’ coaching could be an
effective route to healthier births for an important subgroup of
Some other recent studies have found that therapies to improve
pregnant women’s mental health result in better birth outcomes. Most of these
focus exclusively on the women with programs like yoga, massage therapy, and
cognitive behavioural therapy. But, as the program’s designer and co-authors
point out, a major influence on mental health is the relationship with the
partner. The team believed that a program designed to foster long-term positive
parenting relationships between prospective mothers and fathers might also
improve birth outcomes by lowering the mother’s stress levels.
Family Foundations, created by Mark Feinberg from Penn State
University, consists of nine classes teaching co-parenting approaches, starting
before the child’s birth and finishing soon after. Topics included
problem-solving, emotion and conflict management, communication, and joint
parenting support strategies.
This study involved 169 couples, aged over 18, living together and
expecting their first child. Couples were randomly assigned to the intervention
or to a control group. Participants in the control group received information on
developmental stages and selecting quality childcare. Mothers were assessed at
around 22 weeks pregnant. Cortisol saliva levels were taken and mothers were
interviewed about how often they used drugs, tobacco and alcohol. After the
intervention, parents sent back questionnaires and follow-up tests for mothers
took place at six months, one year and three years from the child’s birth
Overall, intervention group participants were found to have more
positive birth outcomes on some measures, although the differences between
groups were mostly not statistically significant. The most notable average
difference between the groups was that women in the intervention group were, on
average, less likely to need a C-section.
The most intriguing results, however, come from comparing the effects
of the program for women with different pre-natal cortisol levels. Among women
with low pre-natal cortisol, there was little difference between control and
intervention groups. But among women with high pre-natal cortisol, the
difference was much more noticeable. Women with higher initial levels of
cortisol who were in the program reported better birth weight, gestational age
at birth, and length of newborn hospital stay than their counterparts in the
This suggests that programs that teach first-time expectant couples
how to parent together may reduce poor birth outcomes by lowering stress levels
in mothers-to-be – at least for mothers who start out with high levels of
By focusing on couples rather than mothers alone, Family Foundations
aims to promote the importance of the roles of both mothers and fathers in
bringing up children. Good relationships between parents are linked to better
child outcomes up to the age of at least six years. The authors also speculate
that co-parenting strategies might help keep fathers engaged in their children’s
life long-term in the event of the relationship with the mother breaking
The authors acknowledge that their research has some limitations.
Most importantly, data on the mothers’ psychological health changes were
collected six months after delivery, and not during pregnancy. As such, it is
unclear if reductions in mothers’ stress occurred during pregnancy as a result
of the intervention. A second limitation is that this study is led by the
program’s founder. In the long term, it will also be useful to see the results
of independent program evaluations.
The Family Environment and
Adolescence is an important developmental phase along the path to
adulthood, years during which youth become increasingly independent from their
Child Trends in the US. Yet parents and other family members still play a
critical role in the promotion of adolescents’ well-being, by providing a
positive support system within which youth can explore their changing
There were 25 million children aged 12 to 17 in the United States in
2013, living in diverse family environments. An estimated 66 percent of
adolescents live with both parents (biological, step, or adoptive), 25 percent
are in single-mother households, while only 5 percent live with a single father.
Just over 40 percent of all adolescents and as many as 60 percent of black and
Hispanic adolescents live in low-income families. Overall, 21 percent of
adolescents are Hispanic, 56 percent are white, non-Hispanic, and 15 percent are
In this brief, we update the findings from the 2006 publication, The
Family Environment and Adolescent Well-being: Exposure to Positive and Negative
Family Influences, and highlight several key areas of interaction between the
family environment and adolescent well-being, using national data
65 percent of adolescents have parents who say they can
communicate very well with their child about things that really
Less than half of adolescents eat meals with their families at
least six nights a week, although it is more common among poor families,
Hispanic families, and first- or second-generation immigrant
Smoking is more common among single parents (26 percent smoke)
than parents in two-parent families (16 percent), particularly among Hispanic
families and those with incomes at or above poverty.
Over 80 percent of adolescents with parents who are married or
partnered have parents who report high levels of happiness in their spousal or
Less than a quarter of adolescents have parents who say they only
know a few or even none of their child’s friends.
Almost all 10th-graders (90 percent) say their parents know where
they are after school. About 65 percent of parents are light drinkers; however,
10 percent of single fathers report being heavy drinkers, compared with less
than 5 percent of mothers or married fathers. Half of parents in two-parent
families and less than 40 percent of single parents exercise vigorously at least
once a week.
Parents who regularly kiss are
'less likely to shout at their children and more attentive' than couples who
Parents who regularly kiss each other and have shared interests are
more likely to praise their children, new research shows reports
the Daily Mail. A study of
5,000 families has shown couples who feel they have a high level of 'bliss' and
kiss each other often are likely to be better parents.
Experts say the study confirms that a fulfilled love life leads to
more successful parenting and helps reveal what makes a 'good' father. When both
men and women consider themselves in a blissful relationship they were seen to
praise their children more often instead of shouting at them. Frequent kissing,
spending time enjoying shared interests and a sense of general satisfaction all
contributed to a blissful relationship.
Unsurprisingly, parents who often considered divorce, got on each
other's nerves, argued frequently and regretted forming their relationship were
more likely to shout at their children.
The study also revealed men were more optimistic about the state of
their relationships than women. Men were more likely to say they were 'very
happy' in the relationship (69 per cent) than women (65 percent). And only 37
per cent of women said their partner 'rarely or never' got on their nerves,
compared to 43 per cent of men.
The research was undertaken by NatCen Social Research, the University
of East Anglia and the Thomas Coram Research Unit as part of broader study on
fatherhood. Dr Svetlana Speight, of NatCen Social Research, told the Daily
Telegraph the research showed 'happy mums and dads' made for better parents. She
said: 'It's really important to understand what makes dads good dads and it's
clear from this analysis that love-life fulfilment is a big part of
And Professor Margaret O'Brien, from the Institute of Education in
London, said: 'Clearly, this research shows that fulfilled individuals within a
loving relationship are more successful at raising their children.'
Social Influence and Teen Sex:
What Matters and What Doesn’t
American parents often worry that their adolescent children are
susceptible to their friends’ influence and will be pressured into having sex
before they are ready to do so. Are these worries justified? asks
Science of Relationships. Past research has found that social influence is
associated with behaviours such as smoking and alcohol use among teenagers. A
recent study extended this work and investigated whether three types of social
influence predict adolescent sexual behaviour:
1. Peer pressure refers to the explicit and direct social pressure to
conform with the demands of a particular group to “fit in.” In this case,
adolescents might be motivated to have sex (or not) because they think they will
be liked better by their friends, or disliked if they don’t conform to the group
(i.e., “C’mon, everyone’s doing it”).
2. Thinking Your Friends Approve: Injunctive norms are reflected in
one’s beliefs about others’ attitudes towards a particular behaviour. For
example, an adolescent may believe that their friends approve or disapprove of
having sex. The friends are not directly telling the teenager to have sex (that
would be peer pressure, see above). Rather, injunctive norms operate indirectly;
friends and classmates may simply make it known that they think having sex is
okay (or not).
3. Thinking Your Friends are Doing It: Descriptive norms refer to
what one believes others themselves are doing. If a teenager believes that their
peers are having sex, then they may be more likely to also engage in sex as
result of role modelling or imitation. Like injunctive norms, it is a less
direct form of social influence than explicit peer pressure.
So, which of these forms of social influence are most strongly
associated with adolescent sex?
The research team combined the results from 58 independent studies
conducted between 1980 and 2012, including almost 70,000 adolescents from 24
countries, using a statistical technique known as meta-analysis. By combining
the results from many studies about a particular topic, the findings generated
by a meta-analysis are powerful because they are relatively uninfluenced by
statistical aberrations from a single study.
Of the three types of social influence, descriptive norms had the
largest association with adolescent sexual behaviour. Injunctive norms were the
next best predictor of teenage sex, and peer pressure was the weakest. In short,
although parents may be worried about the effects of peer pressure on their
teenage children, simply knowing about their friends’ and classmates’ own sexual
behaviour is likely a much more powerful force for adolescents.
Sex will soon be just for fun not
babies, says father of the Pill
Sex could become purely recreational by 2050 with large numbers of
babies in the Western world born through IVF, the professor who invented the
contraceptive pill has claimed reports
the Telegraph. Prof Carl Djerassi, the Austrian-American chemist and author,
said he believes that the Pill will become obsolete because men and women will
choose to freeze their eggs and sperm when young before being sterilised. He
also claims it will end abortions, as no children will be unplanned or
In an interview with The Telegraph, Prof Djerassi said that advances
in fertility treatment made it much safer for parents without fertility problems
to consider IVF. The progress will give rise to a ‘Manana generation’ who are
safe in the knowledge that parenthood can be delayed without repercussions, he
claims. They may even have healthier children because their eggs and sperm would
be younger. “The vast majority of women who will choose IVF in the future will
be fertile women who have frozen their eggs and delayed pregnancy,” he said.
“Women in their twenties will first choose this approach as insurance, providing
them with freedom in the light of professional decisions or the absence of the
right partner or the inexorably ticking of the biological clock. However I
predict that many of these women will in fact decide to be fertilised by IVF
methods because of the advances in genetic screening. And once that happens then
IVF will start to become a normal non-coital method of having children. Over the
next few decades, say by the year 2050, more IVF fertilisations will occur among
fertile women than the current five million fertility-impaired ones. For them
the separation between sex and reproduction will be 100 per
Prof Djerassi, 91, an emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford
University, who now lives between London and Vienna, was crucial in the
development of the oral contraceptive pill in 1951. They originally created the
medication for neurological disorders and to help infertile women. Progesterone,
the active ingredient in the Pill, is produced by pregnant women and helps an
embryo to implant in the womb. It works as a contraceptive because it tricks the
body into thinking it is pregnant, triggering a natural contraceptive response
in the body.
“But in 1950 nobody was asking about birth control,” he said. “It was
just after World War 2 and people needed to have children. However the 60s came
and suddenly there was rock n roll and the hippy movement, and the first real
flowering of the women’s movement and they all had a sense of sexual liberation.
The technology just happened to be around at the right time. If it had taken an
extra 15 years to develop I don’t think we would have a contraceptive pill
He believes that a male contraceptive pill is unlikely because it
would take far too long to prove there would be no impact on sperm quality. Men
are able to father children for much longer than women, so trials would need to
last decades. Similarly, it is still not clear how long frozen sperm can be kept
for. Prof Djerassi believes that the army could take part in a huge experiment
to determine the safety of keeping sperm long term.
“With little difficulty and relatively minor expenditure tens of
thousands of volunteers could collect their own semen to be cryopreserved for
many years,” he said. “This step alone would generate an invaluable resource for
studies on male fertility.”
Fertile male sperm has already been preserved inexpensively for
years. Provided one first demonstrated that such storage is possible for several
decades rather than just years many young men might consider early vasectomy, as
a viable alternative to effective birth control.
Women who stop taking the Pill can
find their partners less attractive
Women may find their partners less attractive if they stop taking the
Pill, new research has said reports
the Telegraph (and the
Guardian). Scientists found that the hormonal contraceptive can unexpectedly
alter the way a woman assesses levels of male attractiveness, as well as
satisfaction with their partner.
The study tested newly married women who were on the Pill when they
met their husbands, and subsequently stopped using it. They were found to be
more or less happy with their relationship after coming off the oral
contraceptive depending on how good-looking their husbands were. So those men
whose faces did not conform to objective measures of traditional attractiveness
(i.e. they weren’t Benedict Cumberbatch), found their new spouse became less
happy with their relationship once they’d come off the Pill.
But, those women married to men who were deemed to be classically
good-looking, felt more satisfied with their spouse once they stopped taking the
Researchers followed the progress of 118 newlywed couples over the
first four years of their marriage. The women were asked to complete regular
surveys to rate their levels of satisfaction with their relationship, and record
their use of the Pill. The scientists, who have published their work in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, also employed ‘trained
observers’ to rate and monitor the men’s facial attractiveness.
The results show that women who were taking the Pill when they met
their spouse – and later stopped – saw a change in how they rated their
Surprisingly, women who altered their use of the Pill during the
first four years of marriage reported that their relationships were subsequently
less sexually satisfying - regardless of their partner’s appearance. This
finding goes against the widely accepted view that a woman’s sex drive falls
while she is regularly taking hormonal contraception. They do, however,
seemingly support research that the Pill can influence a woman’s receptiveness
for male body odour.
And they also back-up a 2012 study that found the Pill subconsciously
influenced how a woman chooses her partner. Those taking it often chose
less-attractive men, who were worse in bed - but the relationships tended to
last two years longer than those women who weren't using the hormonal
Michelle Russell, a psychologist at Florida State University, said:
“Marital satisfaction is strongly associated with mental and physical health and
a host of physical, mental and social outcomes for children. “The fact that
wives’ hormonal contraceptive use was linked to their marital satisfaction
suggests that hormonal contraceptives may have far-reaching implications, both
beneficial and harmful.”
Rabbi Sacks: Family Is Most
Humanizing Institution in History - A Look at 7 Key Moments in the Idea of Love
That Brings New Life
Rabbi Jonathan Sachs is a great supporter of marriage evidenced by
his frequent and welcomed involvement in Marriage Week events. He addressed the
colloquium underway in the Vatican on the complementarity of man and woman. The
rabbi's address was titled "The Family is the Single Most Humanising Institution
in History." It really is too long to include here, but as an exposition of the
Jewish understanding of marriage and family to a Christian audience it is
unparalleled – so make a coffee, click
this link, and enjoy!
Ireland to hold referendum on gay
Ireland is to hold a referendum in mid-2015 on whether to allow
same-sex marriage, the Republic's government has said reports
the Guardian. The decision is a victory for the deputy prime minister, Eamon
Gilmore, who has been lobbying for a national vote. The vote will be held as
part of a special "constitution day", in which a wide-ranging referendum could
result in other changes to the Republic's constitution such as the abolition of
Before Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Gilmore said he hoped the Fine
Gael-Labour government would back moves toward full equality in Ireland.
Gilmore, who is leader of the Irish Labour party, said it would be "important to
win this referendum".
This year the country's constitutional convention – which is charged
with examining changes to the constitution – recommended amendments to allow
same-sex couples to marry and have the same legal rights as the rest of the
The minister for public expenditure and reform, Brendan Howlin, said
that view was shared by the majority in cabinet, adding: "The Irish people in
opinion polls had indicated their support for this issue and should be given the
opportunity when practicable to express their views."
Two Fine Gael ministers back the referendum. Alan Shatter, the
justice minister, brought a memo to cabinet on civil marriage for same-sex
couples, while Michael Noonan, the finance minister, said he had no personal
objection to legalising gay marriage. But there is concern within Fine Gael that
its backbenchers from rural, Catholic constituencies might oppose such moves.
The taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has yet to state publicly whether he would back the
The Catholic church has not announced whether it intends to run a
campaign for a no vote. The church hierarchy's temporal power in Ireland has
been dramatically diluted during the past decade owing to a series of paedophile
priest scandals. Church of Ireland's pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
group, Changing Attitude Ireland, welcomed the referendum and challenged the
churches not to oppose it.
Dr Richard O'Leary, the chairman of CAI, said: "The government's
intention to hold a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples will
facilitate discussion and challenge the ignorance, especially in the churches,
of the positive experiences of same-sex relationships. We hope that the Irish
churches will embrace the message of inclusion, which is shared by many
Christians, and will not oppose the extension of full civil rights to gay and
lesbian persons. In particular, we hope that the minority Protestant churches in
Ireland will empathise with the minority gay community and support legal
equality for all the people of Ireland."
Recent opinion polls have shown a consistent majority of the
Republic's electorate are in favour of full equality in law for same-sex
Nicolas Sarkozy calls for repeal
of France’s same-sex marriage law
The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has told supporters that
the country’s same-sex marriage law should be scrapped reports
the Guardian. Sarkozy, who is campaigning to lead the opposition
centre-right UMP party and is expected to run again for president in 2017, was
speaking at a debate organised by the conservative Common Sense (Sens Commun)
group on Saturday. Referring to the “mariage pour tous” or “marriage for all”
legislation passed by France’s Socialist government last year, he said it needed
“rewriting from top to bottom”.
His comments, two weeks before the UMP’s hotly contested leadership
election, prompted catcalls from the 3,000-strong audience and cries of “Repeal!
Repeal!”. Sarkozy, appearing rattled, responded: “If you’d rather one says
repeal the law and make another one … in French, that’s saying the same thing.
It comes to the same result. But hey, if that makes you happy, then frankly, it
doesn’t cost much.”
Sarkozy explained he was in favour of some form of marriage for
same-sex couples, but something different from that for heterosexuals. He said
he opposed surrogate parenthood for same-sex couples.
The same-sex marriage legislation is known officially as the Taubira
law, named after the justice minister Christiane Taubira who oversaw its
introduction. “It’s no use being against surrogacy if you don’t repeal the
Taubira law,” Sarkozy said to cheers and applause.
The former president, who has been married three times, has
previously criticised the legislation, saying it was “humiliating families and
humiliating people who love the family”, but it is the first time he has called
for its repeal.
An Ifop poll published on Saturday found that 68% of respondents
supported same-sex unions and 53% supported adoption by same-sex couples.
Sarkozy’s comment and apparent policy-making on the hoof brought angry reactions
from the governing Socialist party, which accused him of “appealing to the most
reactionary instincts of his core supporters”. A spokesperson said Sarkozy
wanted to create “a new form of segregation” with his two-tier marriage
proposal. The anti-gay marriage group La Manif Pour Tous (Demonstrations for
All) cautioned that Sarkozy’s “conversion” to its cause was still only a
“declaration of intent”.
Books, Resources and materials
Here is a marriage documentary, Happily Ever After, that you can watch
online for free. It features John Gottman and Stephanie Koontz among others and
is under 60 minutes. Whenever/wherever you can get a Gottman refresher I suggest
you take it -- his salt shaker metaphor, alone, is worth the time - for Marriage
Educators or for couples. [With thanks to Diane at Smartmarriages]
Bringing Fathers In: helping
global activists embrace ‘dad power’
Institute and MenCare are launching a package of practical resources for
health, education and social care professionals, policy makers, programme
managers and designers, researchers and evaluators.
Bringing Fathers In is designed to help professionals from a range of
disciplines work in ways that embrace and build on dads’ vital role in improving
children’s outcomes. The resources include factsheets on making the most of
fathers to support their children’s early learning, support maternal and infant
health, and reduce violence in their children’s lives, along with 10 research
summaries and evidence-based best practice advice.
A strong body of international research suggests that positively
involved fathers can have a huge impact on their children in all sorts of ways,
better friendships with better-adjusted children
fewer behaviour problems
lower criminality and substance abuse
higher educational achievement
greater capacity for empathy
higher self-esteem and life-satisfaction.
Fatherhood Institute joint chief executive Adrienne Burgess, who led
the resources’ development, said efforts to improve children’s outcomes can be
boosted significantly by harnessing father-involvement: “Fathers’ impact on
health, education and other aspects of wellbeing is enormous, across countries
and cultures. Whether a mother has a professionally-attended childbirth, a
child’s likelihood of being vaccinated and of making good progress in language
development, can depend hugely on fathers’ attitudes and behaviour. By working
creatively with men we can harness ‘dad power’ for the good of
Gary Barker, International Director of Promundo, which leads the Men
Care global fatherhood initiative, added: “There is a slow but very real
revolution going on in many parts of the world in terms of men’s participation
as involved fathers. These
resources are a tremendous asset to the program staff and governments around the
world who are working to make equitable caregiving and father involvement a
conferences and events
Details of all forthcoming conferences can always be found under our listing at
Below is our running list of current and recent consultations and
campaigns. New items or those requiring action are highlighted. The Reference
numbers are to the newsletter where we covered the subject.
Commission consultation on
offences against the person
The Law Commission is conducting a
scoping consultation, exploring the options for reforming the Offences
Against the Person Act 1861. It asks whether a new statute should include a new
offence of minor injury and a dedicated offence to tackle domestic
In respect of domestic violence the scoping paper asks (at para 5.144
et seq) whether consultees consider that there is benefit in examining whether
reform of offences against the person should include specific offences of
domestic violence. The paper sets out arguments for and against the
establishment of new offences.
Closing date 11th February 2015
The next 35
First of all, many thanks to those who sent messages of sympathy at
our lack of internet access last week – we did eventually manage to download
And so this week you have a bumper edition, filled if I’m honest,
with more bad news than good I think. And for me I think the saddest article is
the one from Prof Carl Djerassi, father of the contraceptive pill, who is
predicting that many (presumably well off) couples will, by 2050, prefer to
freeze their eggs and sperm at a young age, and have children solely by IVF
later in life. The
industrialisation of the conception of children will be complete, and the
concept of a child being the ultimate act of creativity of the love of a man and
a woman will finally be completely subverted.
Of course there will be many ‘benefits’ (sic) of such a system –
proper career and family planning and integration; ready genetic screening to
remove most inherited diseases; complete flexibility for women in particular to
select a suitable genetic male as the father; etc.
Perhaps even more terrifying is the timescale he envisages – 2050
sounds a long way off, but in reality it’s only 35 years – I may still be around
then! (Though possibly not still producing this newsletter). Our young
grandchildren, both the four already around and any new ones who follow in the
next few years, will be at the age of making these decisions about how to
continue their line.
There is an alternative of course, but it’s one that it seems fewer
and fewer young people will actually achieve. The sad demographic fact is that
the proportion of young people actually fulfilling their dream of finding a life
partner, forming a lifelong bond, and having children is steadily and inexorably
falling. It is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy – the fewer
young people actually believing that marriage is possible, the fewer who will
invest the time and energy in finding, and being, lifelong mates.
Those working in the field of innovation often speak of the concept
of “disruptive technologies” – inventions and ideas that completely change the
market or a particular field. Fire gave man the ability to survive in harsher
climates, and to eat a wider range of food; trains and cars opened up the
opportunity for people to pursue employment over much greater distances,
breaking the geographic constraints that had held the bonds of kinship to a
relatively defined locus; changes in reproductive technology have already
distanced the act of love-making from reproduction, and these latest predictions
are just the logical extension of this particular technology.
‘Industrialisation’ is a threat on so many fronts – our climate, our
approach to food and farming, our built environment, and now it seems to our
very means of keeping the species reproducing. In every area, the freedom and
power gently slips from the individual man or woman to the “system”. How long
before we have demands to ensure that those using the “reproductive
technologies” are vetted to ensure they are appropriate people, with the
necessary wealth, skills, values etc to be the parent to our next
Marriage, the right of two people to assert their long term
commitment to an intimate lifelong union, and with it the responsibility to
bring new life into this world, stands as one of the very few institutions that
embody a natural, non-industrialised, philosophy of life.
Once we lose the vital linkage between love, pro-creation and the
next generation we will lose the any vestige of hope for a “natural future”.
And that thought just might keep me going with the newsletter for the
next 35 years!
The 2-in-2-1 Team
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