From: Dave and Liz Percival <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, Nov 30, 2015 at 10:27 AM
Subject: Weekly Update of UK Marriage News - No 15.46
To: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>
Welcome to this week’s UK Marriage News
· Early divorces at a 40 year low
· Words can deceive, but tone of voice cannot
· Presentation matters
Government and Political
· Early divorces at a 40 year low
I know we reported these facts last week, but the simple explanations from Harry Benson at the Marriage Foundation made up my mind to cover it again!
“It takes 11 days for the excellent Office for National Statistics (ONS) to report deaths, 58 days for conceptions, and 112 days for same sex marriages. Yet somehow it has taken 693 days to get the latest divorce stats. Don't even think about marriages. The 2013 figures won't appear until sometime next year ... and no, ONS don't know why either. Still, the headline news is good. Overall divorces are down 2.9%.
But anyone who has ever heard me talk about divorce rates knows that you only see the real trend when you look at the people who marry in any particular year and then find out how they got on ... which is what we do!
First of all, ignore the media guff about rising divorce among the over 50s - the so-called 'silver splitters'. There have been some marvellous fabricated 'explanations' for this - empty nest syndrome, people living longer, etc. All nonsense.
Older divorces are on the increase and will keep doing so. But this has nothing to do with divorce rates which, in later marriage, have remained virtually unchanged since the 1960s. All that's changed is that couples are older when they marry. If marriages start later, divorces happen later. Everything slides right. It's really that simple.
Second - and key to understanding what's going on - is that the entire rise and fall in divorce rates since the 1960s has taken place within the first decade of married life. These changes are most pronounced in the earliest years of marriage.
The worst two years to get married in UK history were 1986 - my wedding year - and 1991. Some 44% of couples who married in these years will end up divorced. Almost all of this has already happened (so I'm pretty safe now!)
The 1991 couples were worst of all in the early years. In their first five years of marriage, 10.6% of them divorced. Compare that to recent couples who married in 2008 (their lifetime risk is now about 38%). But in their first five years, 6.5% have divorced. That's a fall of more than a third. During their first three years of marriage, divorce is down by half. The result is that early divorce rates are now at the same levels as forty years ago, way back in 1974.
All of this begs the question. Why? Well, the entire fall is also down to one other factor: fewer wives filing for divorce. Filings by husbands have barely changed. So in the early years of marriage, it looks like men are doing a lot better. The most plausible explanation for this very strong gender effect is that men who marry today are more committed. As social pressures to marry have receded, more men are 'deciding' to marry and fewer men are 'sliding' into marriage.”
[And if you want a fascinating insight into how things were shaping up 100 years ago take a look at the Daily Telegraph (page 10) from this day in 1915: “The effect of the war on social conditions is strikingly illustrated in the Registrar General’s latest return on marriages…. It shows that in the second quarter of 1915 marriages were more numerous than any corresponding period since civil registration was established… The marriage rate was 20.9 per 1000 population… (currently it’s 20-23% - though I’m not certain that this is based on the same definition). Ed]
· OCC Inquiry report on child sexual abuse in the family network
The Children’s Commissioner has published a report on child sexual abuse in the family network. Key points include:
· Research shows that 1 in 20 children are sexually abused
· Only 1 in 8 children who are sexually abused are known to the police and children’s services
· Two thirds of cases of sexual abuse happen within the family
· Child sexual abuse in the family is most likely to occur around age 9 although victims are most likely to come to the attention of authorities in adolescence
· BAME victims are underrepresented in the criminal justice system as victims of child sexual abuse in the family environment
· Victims of child sexual abuse in the family with learning / physical disabilities may be less likely to be identified as victims as they face additional communication barriers to disclosure
· Relate responds to Government Spending Review 2015
In response to today’s Spending Review, Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive at Relate said: “During Prime Minister’s Questions, Fiona Bruce MP asked whether the announcements in today’s Spending Review would pass the Government’s family test. The Prime Minister responded by saying families are essential to society and that the Government would take steps to help them through measures like the National Living Wage and increase the amount of free childcare available. Relate would like him to go one step further and publish an impact assessment to ensure the Family Test was robustly applied.
“We welcome several of the Government’s commitments in today’s Spending Review which should benefit families and promote wellbeing. These include the decision to scrap cuts to tax credits and to boost funding for talking therapies for people with mental health issues.
“However, we can’t ignore the fact that in an age of financial constraint and reducing family income, families are facing increasing pressures that can put a strain on relationships. We are therefore disappointed to see no mention of any increase in the funding available for relationship support.
“Current funding for relationship support stands at just £7.5million per year yet relationship breakdown costs the economy an estimated £47billion. Given this clear disparity, Relate, key politicians, academics and charity leaders recently called for relationship support funding to triple to £22million. This would provide much-needed investment for interventions that we know make a difference to the quality of our relationships and ultimately to the life chances of our children and the strength of our economy. Following today’s Spending Review it seems unlikely that this call will be answered.”
· President's practice guidance 'endorses family law arbitration scheme'
The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has issued Practice Guidance concerning arbitration in the family court reports Family Law Week. The Guidance is concerned with the interface between the family court and arbitrations conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Arbitration Act 1996 where the parties to a post-relationship breakdown financial dispute have agreed to submit issues for decision by an arbitrator whose award is to be binding upon them.
Divorce solicitor and family law arbitrator, Tony Roe, of Berkshire-based Tony Roe Solicitors noted: "Back in January last year, 2014, in S v S  EWHC 7 (Fam) the President set the lights at green for family law arbitration when he endorsed the scheme. At the end of the judgment he said: 'Drafts of templates for such orders have been produced for consultation as part of the Family Orders Project being managed by Mostyn J. But alongside these innovations the need for procedural adaptation is becoming increasingly pressing. Whether such topics are most appropriately dealt with by rule changes (for example to the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and/or the Civil Procedure Rules 1998) or by the issue of Practice Directions or Practice Guidance is a matter for consideration."
"Almost two years on, we have that promised follow up. The short but comprehensive practice guidance deals with various issues including the stay of financial remedy proceedings already underway in the family court and how an arbitration award is to be turned in to a consent order. It comes with a suite of template orders. The President repeats what he said in S v S, namely that where the parties are putting the matter before the court by consent, it can only be in the rarest of cases that it will be appropriate for the judge to do other than approve the order.
"He also adds that it may be more appropriate for some arbitration awards, eg relating to the Trusts of Land & Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, to be brought (if necessary) before a court which does not exercise family jurisdiction. This further endorsement of the family law arbitration scheme by the President was deliberately launched by him at the start of Dispute Resolution Week. He stresses that the Family Court has an obligation under FPR 3.3(1)(b) 'where the parties agree, to enable non-court dispute resolution to take place.'
"Family law arbitration offers speed, flexibility and confidentiality. Court delays are increasing, upping the cost of 'traditional' litigation. With the key launch of the practice guidance many more family lawyers will realise that family law arbitration is a very real option."
· Words can deceive, but tone of voice cannot
A new computer algorithm can predict whether you and your spouse will have an improved or worsened relationship based on the tone of voice that you use when speaking to each other with nearly 79 percent accuracy reports Science Daily (also in the Daily Mail).
In fact, the algorithm did a better job of predicting marital success of couples with serious marital issues than descriptions of the therapy sessions provided by relationship experts. The research was published in Proceedings of Interspeech on September 6, 2015.
Researchers recorded hundreds of conversations from over one hundred couples taken during marriage therapy sessions over two years, and then tracked their marital status for five years.
An interdisciplinary team -- led by Shrikanth Narayanan and Panayiotis Georgiou of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering with their doctoral student Md Nasir and collaborator Brian Baucom of University of Utah -- then developed an algorithm that broke the recordings into acoustic features using speech-processing techniques. These included pitch, intensity, "jitter" and "shimmer" among many -- things like tracking warbles in the voice that can indicate moments of high emotion.
"What you say is not the only thing that matters, it's very important how you say it. Our study confirms that it holds for a couple's relationship as well," Nasir said. Taken together, the vocal acoustic features offered the team's program a proxy for the subject's communicative state, and the changes to that state over the course of a single therapy and across therapy sessions.
These features weren't analysed in isolation -- rather, the impact of one partner upon the other over multiple therapy sessions was studied. "It's not just about studying your emotions," Narayanan said. "It's about studying the impact of what your partner says on your emotions."
"Looking at one instance of a couple's behaviour limits our observational power," Georgiou said. "However, looking at multiple points in time and looking at both the individuals and the dynamics of the dyad can help identify trajectories of the their relationship."
Once it was fine-tuned, the program was then tested against behavioural analyses made by human experts who had coded them for positive qualities like "acceptance" or negative qualities like ³blame." The team found that studying voice directly -- rather than the expert-created behavioural codes -- offered a more accurate glimpse at a couple's future.
"Psychological practitioners and researchers have long known that the way that partners talk about and discuss problems has important implications for the health of their relationships. However, the lack of efficient and reliable tools for measuring the important elements in those conversations has been a major impediment in their widespread clinical use. These findings represent a major step forward in making objective measurement of behaviour practical and feasible for couple therapists," Baucom said.
Next, using behavioural signal processing -- a framework developed by Narayanan for computationally understanding human behaviour -- the team plans to use language (e.g., spoken words) and nonverbal information (e.g., body language) to improve the prediction of how effective treatments will be.
· What are the family protective factors for members transitioning from Defence service?
This Australian literature review investigates whether family members can affect how well service personnel transition out of the military. It synthesises and assesses the evidence on whether family characteristics and behaviours act as risk or protective factors for transitioning personnel, and notes gaps and limitations in the available research.
All sounds good until you read the summary which says: “The literature search uncovered very little empirical evidence of family as either a protective or risk factor for transitioning or recently transitioned
Defence members. There was insufficient evidence for firm conclusions to be drawn regarding what family factors, characteristics or behaviours might constitute risk or protective factors.”
· Australian Marriage Rate Up, Divorce Rate Shrinks
The marriage rate is up and the divorce rate decreased slightly in 2014, but we’re making the decision to call it quits on our spouse slightly faster than previous years, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows reports Huffpost Australia. The number of marriages increased by 2,238, or 1.9 percent, to 121,197 in 2014, while the number of divorces fell by 1,140, or 2.4 percent, to 46,498 over the same period.
Put another way, the crude marriage rate increased from 5.1 to 5.2 marriages per 1,000 people in 2014, while the crude divorce rate slipped from 2.1 in 2013 to 2.0 divorces per 1,000 people in 2014. The time between marriage and divorce also tightened slightly in 2014, with the median duration from altar to divorce-court lasting 12 years, down from 12.1 years.
The largest proportion of divorce applications were from joint applicants, accounting for 41.5 per cent of divorces. Female applicants accounted for 32.5 percent of divorce applications while male applicants accounted for 26.0 percent.
The ABS said the proportion of divorces granted after joint applications had been increasing for 20 years. “This has continued in 2014 to the point where joint applicants are the highest applicant type for the fifth year in a row,” the ABS said in a statement. “It basically looks like a plateau," said Australian Institute of Family Studies director Anne Hollonds of the data. "I think that's a sign that that's probably now the rate for the Australian community -- this is what we're living with now."
Hollonds said the divorce rate was high in 1976, when no fault divorce came became the legal. "It rose and rose over the decades, then it plateaued. The other thing that happened was the length of marriage -- between getting married and divorced -- got bigger. The ABS said there were 19,281 divorces granted from joint applications in 2014, compared with 15,127 from female applicants and 12,090 from male applicants.
There’s been a slight increase in the median age of divorcing men and women at 45.2 and 42.5 years respectively, a slight increase of 0.4 years for males and 0.3 years for females.
Divorces involving children represented 47.0 percent of all divorces granted compared with 47.4 percent in 2013, with 40,152 children involved in divorce in 2014.
"People now are much more prepared to try harder, they get married later and, they are more choosy, more people are living together before marriage," Hollonds said. "We're doing everything later now -- we stay at school later, we stay at work later. The 20s now are a period where people aren't even thinking about settling down. There's not that sense of settling down until the age of 30 now. Part of that is staying at school longer. What we're seeing in these latest results is a longer term trend, and it looks more like a plateau than a moving up or down in any particular direction."
Cohabitation rates have grown substantially since the 1980s, when the living together rate was around 22 percent. Now that figure is up near 80 per cent, Hollonds said.
· Child marriages set to soar in Africa: UNICEF
Child marriages in Africa are set to more than double by 2050 unless urgent steps are taken, UNICEF warned Thursday as delegates met in Zambia to discuss how to halt the practice reports the Daily Mail. The two-day meeting in Lusaka is the African Union's first conference on "Ending Child Marriage in Africa", gathering representatives from member states as well as first ladies, UN officials and civil society groups.
"The total number of child brides will rise from 125 million to 310 million by 2050... if we do not do something now," UNICEF deputy executive director Fatoumata Ndiaye told AFP. That means that the face of child marriage will be Africa," eclipsing South Asia, which currently has the highest number of child brides, Ndiaye said in a phone interview from Lusaka.
The huge jump in the number of children being married off will be triggered partly by the continent's rapid population growth. "The child population of Africa is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years putting millions more girls at risk" of early marriage, said UNICEF in a report published as the meeting opened in Zambia.
Africa's population of girls is expected to balloon from the current 275 million to 465 million within 35 years. "By 2050 we will have ... more teenagers marrying in Africa than anywhere else in the world. So it makes it extremely important to do something today and not to wait any more," said Ndiaye. UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said in a statement that the huge numbers of girls affected "underline the urgency of banning the practice of child marriage once and for all."
The African Union estimates that about 14 million under-age girls are married on the continent each year -- almost all of them forced to by their parents, often against laws that are rarely enforced.
"Child marriage is a human rights violation that robs girls of their rights to health, to live in security, and to choose if, when and whom to marry," the AU said ahead of the meeting. "It is a harmful practice which severely affects the rights of a child."
Searing poverty has been one of the driving forces behind early marriages, while traditional customs also play a significant role. Girls married early face a greater risk of domestic violence, contracting HIV and are likely to die or face complications while giving birth, according to the global coalition Girls Not Brides.
Some of the highest rates of under-age marriage in Africa are in Mauritania, Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic while Nigeria, with 23 million, is home to the largest number of child brides.
· Teens’ Attitudes Toward Marriage Vary Widely Across Oklahoma
Emerging adults, approximately ages 18 to 25, navigate a large number of transitions in a small number of years (Arnett, 2004) reports IFS. Policymakers focus on this population as these young people are setting out a life course that can make or break their economic futures individually and society’s future collectively. Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill (2009) note that emerging adults increase their chances for economic and general life success by completing milestones in the following order: (1) graduate from high school, (2) maintain a full-time job or have a partner who does; and (3) have children while married and after age 21, should they choose to become parents.
Recommending that young people prioritize education is commonplace; however, the “marriage” portion of step three is more controversial. The idea of marriage (and delaying parenthood until after this event) clashes with a nationwide trend of “marital deinstitutionalization” (Cherlin, 2004): Americans have begun leaning toward the idea that marriage is more of an option, rather than a milestone on the path to adulthood. Although the mean age at first marriage has increased overall, the timing of marriage still varies by sex, ethnicity (Goodwin, McGill, & Chandra, 2009), and socioeconomic background (Uecker & Stokes, 2008).
Understanding geographic and cultural variability in marriage and family formation is also important for local policy considerations and for designing relevant relationship education programs. Since Oklahoma has one of the nation’s youngest ages of first marriage as well as one of the highest divorce rates,1 our research team set out to gain greater clarity about how cultural niches might impact adolescents’ attitudes about marriage.
Through partnerships with family and consumer sciences (FACS) educators in three counties, our team set up focus groups with high school students, ages 14 to 18. The sample included groups in the following settings: (1) an alternative learning academy with students from low-income and ethnically diverse families, (2) teens in one of the state’s wealthiest suburban areas, and (3) two groups of student leaders from rural areas of south/southeast Oklahoma with elevated poverty rates, but generally from stable, two-parent homes. Each focus group lasted about 1.25 hours, and discussion leaders prompted students with questions related to their beliefs about marriage in general and to the appropriate age for marriage.
When asked about their general attitudes about marriage, most students in all three settings agreed that it “takes work” and that it is “for life.” When asked for details, students were specific about their ideas of daily life and relationship skills needed to keep a marriage healthy (e.g., communication, “not fighting,” learning to cook, getting a job, “it takes commitment,” etc.). However, the learning academy students offered slightly more idealized and “fairytale-like” definitions of a marital relationship. Those who had observed long-term marriages offered more realistic and clear marital attitude frameworks.
Overall, each group seemed to take the notion of marriage seriously, and they had by and large given the topic a great deal of thought.
The students’ experiences with marriage showed more variety. The learning academy group used grandparents as their reference for positive marital examples, while the leadership and suburban groups pointed to their parents or the parents of their peers. An academy student said, “I think it’s just our parents’ generation that messed up. I’ve seen my grandparents, and they’ve stuck together.” A leadership group student mentioned, “My mom’s wedding song was ‘Bridge over Troubled Water,’ and it’s about being there for someone not just when times are good but being able to sacrifice yourself for the other person.”
Other differences were observed related to appropriate marital age, and clarity of their short- and long-term goals. When asked their “ideal age to marry,” students provided the following ranges: (1) suburban group, 25 to 30; (2) rural leadership group, 22 to 28; and (3) alternative school group, 18 to 22. Responding to a prompt about academic or career goals, a leadership student stated, “I’m going to college and playing sports,” whereas a suburban student said more specifically, “I’m majoring in anthropology and hope to become an archaeologist someday.” The academy group differed from the other two in showing a primary focus on survival (short-term) goals rather than career goals. One academy student, for instance, stated, “I plan on working and earning money first before I think about going to tech school or getting married.”
Finally, teens’ general outlook about whether or not they could successfully navigate a marriage varied. When asked about hope and their marital futures, the suburban group’s predictions were more tentatively pensive. One student observed, “Every friend in my group has parents who have been divorced at least once.” Students in this high-income group had even reviewed research on how to make marriages last in hopes of avoiding the divorce troubles they had experienced. The rurally based leadership group expressed the fewest doubts and the highest degrees of optimism about their marriage prospects. Citing faith or belief systems as well as their largely intact, two-parent homes, they dispelled questions about divorce: “My entire family has gone to the same church for 15 years and so they’ve shown me how I’m supposed to live.” Finally, the academy group seemed to offer slightly more idealized aspirations about marriage once again; citing “love” and “determination,” they concurred that they could beat the odds they had seen in the news. One academy stated strongly, “If you’re gonna get married, you’re gonna get married and no one’s going to talk you out of it. But if you think you are ready to make that decision to get married, you better know what you’re getting into. Know how you have to react in certain situations and how to have self-control.”
Because there are many FACS education or health courses containing relationship education components in middle and high schools, we believe it is important to consider just how different students are in classrooms across states who offer this curricula, as well as across the U.S. Reviewing curricula with an eye for diversity is always a good idea, but thinking about ways to build on strengths such as the “grandparent marital model” or recommending grandparents as resources for dating advice could be enriching to both students and their elders. Further, empowering educators to adapt curricula to the background and needs of their students, rather than requiring precise fidelity to curricula, could help both students and their teachers.
Forthcoming conferences and events
· Forthcoming conferences
Details of all forthcoming conferences can always be found under our listing at 2-in-2-1
Consultations and Campaigns
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.
· Britain’s Families: thriving or surviving
Families are at the heart of Britain says 4Children. But too many are held back because they don’t have the support they need to thrive. As we move beyond the economic crisis it is time to rethink our ambitions for children and families. When families do well, Britain does well.
Family life has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. New and different challenges mean we need a fresh understanding what it is like to raise a family in Britain today and a more ambitious approach.
4Children’s Inquiry ‘Britain’s Families: thriving or surviving?’ will run until Dec 2015 and will talk to families across the country to reveal a fresh and comprehensive understanding of modern family life in Britain. Through this Inquiry we aim to uncover the challenges and opportunities families face in modern Britain, and what can be done to better support family life.
If you would like to let us know your experiences, participate in or help set up a focus group, or find out more, please get in touch with the Inquiry team: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Presentation matters
How figures are presented matters!
Take for example the headlines trumpeted by the media that “2/3 of all child sexual abuse happens in the family!”. Based on the OCC figures, and their categorisation of “family”, this is indeed true. However it could also have been portrayed as “Three quarters of child sexual abuse is by people other than a child’s biological parents!” The impression created is very different.
Or take the UNICEF statement that “By 2050 we will have ... more teenagers marrying in Africa than anywhere else in the world.” First of all we have to ask where in the world will there be most teenagers, and secondly we have to ask ‘Is marrying young inherently so bad?’ But the impression is left that in Africa we urgently need to stamp out ideas of marriage!
The problem with both these examples is that they imply that marriage and family is bad and dangerous for many in society. Yet if we look into the academic research we find for example that: “Adolescent girls who have never lived apart from their parents are less likely to report sexual abuse than those who have. The odds of reporting a forced sexual experience were more than seven times greater for white adolescent women who had lived apart from their parents before age 16 when compared to similar white adolescent women who had not lived away from their parents before age 16. The odds of reporting a forced sexual experience were more than twice as great for white adolescent women who had experienced the marital disruption of their parents when compared to similar adolescents who had not experienced the marital disruption of their parents.” So in fact it’s not “family” that is dangerous, but “damaged and broken families” which are most highly associated with danger to the offspring. Sure some of the families in which the abuse occurred may have broken up as a result of the abuse, or indeed because an abusive person probably isn’t an ideal partner. But it remains the case that the vast majority of sexual abuse occurs outside intact natural families which remain a hugely protective factor. Hardly the impression that you’d get from the headlines!
A similar problem exists with the term “Forced Marriage”. By definition, “marriage” is the “voluntary union…” – so the term “Forced marriage” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. The vast majority of “Child marriages” that UNICEF wants to protect young women from are in fact “Forced child sexual unions” - they do not meet the fundamental requirements to be called a “marriage” at all in the true meaning of the word. Indeed there is nothing inherently dangerous or bad in the idea that a young woman who has reached the age and maturity to make an informed choice should choose to commit herself for life to a young man who promises to protect and care for her with his life – in fact such unions are the basis on which society, even simple tribal ones, can flourish. And our definitions of “childhood” are a fairly arbitrary western construct which are culturally driven, not absolute in terms of “n” years old or similar.
To me, what seems to be lacking in all of these discussions is an explicit recognition that two adults who consent to create a child must accept that their actions create lifelong obligations and responsibilities to that child. If society were to stop seeing children as some kind of “right” of adults, and instead take seriously the responsibilities on both parents to love, protect, nourish and nurture the child at least until it is an adult and able to make independent mature individual, then we could reframe a lot of these issues (and statistics) in ways that might point to the right actions and sanctions, rather than to the one place where children remain most protected – in the families of two married natural parents.
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